District disaster management committees trained to mitigate impact of disasters
When twenty- two-year-old Fatmata Sawyer was asked to identify potential hazards affecting her small village of under 300 residents, she took the microphone and boldly mentioned flash floods, thunderbolts, wildfires, teenage pregnancy and environmental degradation.
Fatmata is among 6 female participants in a three-day training workshop on Disaster Risk Management from M’bokie village, Sittia chiefdom- Bonthe District south of Sierra Leone. Sittia is predominantly a fishing community along the coastlines of Sierra Leone.
When wildfire hit Sittia chiefdom last year, Fatmata was badly affected. “The fire almost wiped out the entire village,” she said.
The norm at the Sittia village has been the smoking of fish on large scale for sale in other parts of Sierra Leone. The fish smoking process is normally done through a barbeque over a very large fire. On a hot afternoon in late 2015, the sea and the land breeze clashed with a temperature above the normal average of 27.3 Degree Celsius. Within few hours, the fire ravaged the entire village and gutted down almost 50 houses. All that remained were ashes and thick smoke.
“All we did that day was to run for our lives,” she said, “The scars of those disasters have still not healed for many”.
The proximity of the Sittia to the Atlantic Ocean leaves the village susceptible to wildfires and flooding.
“I’m happy to have been a participant of the training. At least I can communicate clearly to members of my community about potential hazards and how to forewarn of these dangers to help lessened the suffering of people,” Fatmata said.
In Bo District Council, just 67. 43 kilometre from her district, Fatmata and 45 members of the District Disaster Management Committee drawn from Bonthe and Moyamba districts were undergoing training on disaster management to help their communities with a new and innovative approach to disaster preparedness, mitigation and response.
The participants were drawn from the National Fire Force, Sierra Leone Maritime Administration, the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, Ministries of Education Science and Technology, Health and Sanitation and Gender Women and Children’s Affairs, cross sections of civil societies, and the media. These trainees would closely monitor and act as focal persons in monitoring hazards in their various communities. This approach ensures local engagement and long-term sustainability of the DDMCs.
The three- day training workshop seeks to place locals at the center of disaster management.
It is part of a series of nation-wide training in all fourteen districts jointly organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the government of Sierra Leone’s Office of National Security (ONS). The 46 participants join the 355 members already trained in 2016, completing the seventh nation-wide training since the formation of the DDMCs in 2013.