The Meeting of Committee of Ministers Responsible for Disaster Risk Management from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was held on the 26th May 2021. The meeting was virtually hosted by the Government of the Republic of Mozambique, and was attended by representatives from 14 SADC Member States, namely Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Ministers’ meeting was aimed to review progress on regional Disaster Risk Management programmes and to guide the Secretariat in ensuring effective coordination of Disaster Risk Management in the Region. This is in view of the increasing number of disasters that the Region continues to face. In the 2020/2021 period, the SADC Region saw a surge in the occurrence of multiple disasters, including cyclones and storms that led to heavy rains and flooding across the Region leading to loss of lives, damage to assets and destruction of infrastructure.
Other challenges included locust infestations, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the volcano eruption on Mount Nyiragongo in the city of Goma in the DRC. These disasters and hazards have been compounded by the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, which deepened socio-economic setbacks globally and in the region.
The meeting was officially opened by Honourable Lusia Celma Meque, Chairperson of the SADC Ministerial Committee Responsible for Disaster Risk Management and President of the National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) in the Republic of Mozambique. Hon. Meque applauded the SADC Member States forcontinuing to strengthen regional cooperation and integration while stepping up existing efforts and interventions aimed at minimising the impacts of disasters. In highlighting the impacts from disaster risks, Hon. Meque said that the meeting came at an opportune time to critically look at solutions to address the issues on the ground. She also highlighted the need to develop regional institutional mechanisms for preparedness and response as well as capabilities to address the challenges at hand, including those caused by climate change.
The Executive Secretary of SADC, Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, highighted that the Region continues to be confronted by a number of significant and devastation disasters that claimed many lives. She expressed the Region’s solidarity with the DRC over the volcano eruption on Mount Nyiragongo on the 23rd April 2021 which resulted in the loss of lives, displacement of people and damage to infrastructure. She commended the Government of the DRC for the efforts made to support those affected by the disaster. She also highlighted the devastating impacts of COVID-19 that has led to critical economic chellenges that have affected all development sectors and led loss of many lives. Dr Tax expressed hope that efforts made by Member States to find solutions, including the administration of vaccines, would reduce the impact of the pandemic.
Dr Tax assured the Region of the Secretariat’s commitment to support Member States and said SADC was working on a number of initiatives to enhance disaster risk management. In line with the SADC Council’s decisions and the Committee of Ministers responsible for Disaster Risk Management Meeting held in the United Republic of Tanzania in February 2020, Dr Tax said the Secretariat was working with Member States in putting in place mechanisms to ensure swift responses to the quick onset of disasters through the activation of the SADC Standby Force in humanitarian support operations during disasters, and the operationalisation of the SADC Humanitarian Operations Centre and Emergency response teams to assist Member Staes affected by disasters.
During the meeting, Ministers noted with appreciation the efforts being made by the Secretariat in working with other international cooperating partners to develop the African Migratory Locusts Appeal launched in November 2020 by Honourable Celso Ismael Correia, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Republic of Mozambique and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Food Security to support the affected Member States implement interventions to curb the locusts infestations that also threaten food security and ecosystem sustainability.
Ministers reviewed key instruments to facilitate regional approaches to disaster preparedness and response, including the SADC Region Disaster Fund to provide timely support to those affected by disasters, disaster risk management peer reviews and the DRR information Management System to support information sharing among Member States, and Disaster Risk Reduction Mainstreaming Guidelines to facilitate mainstreaming of DRR across economic sectors. The Ministers also acknowledged the establishment of the Emergency Response Team comprised of experts from different SADC Member States with different expertise to assist those affected by disasters.
Acknowledging the multiple disaters that affect the Region, such as droughts, floods, locusts infestations and COVID-19, Ministers emphasised the need to enhance capacity development for disaster risk preparedness and response and in building resilience in line with the provisions of the Sendai Framework and the Regional Resilience Strategy and SADC Disaster Risk Preparedness and Response Strategy and Fund. They also emphasised the need to undertake climate change adaptation and mitigation actions and programmes in order to reduce the impacts of disasters in the Region.
During the meeting, the Ministers among others:
noted the volcanic eruption at Mount Nyiragongo in Goma, DRC, resulting in the displacement of thousands of residents, putting lives in danger and further commended the government of the DRC, local and international organisations for measures taken; noted transboundary risks being faced by the Region, including epidemics and disease outbreaks such as foot and mouth, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and anthrax which contribute to the deteriorating food security situation and threatens regional integration and development targets, as well efforts being undertaken by Region to mitigate them; noted the threat of the ongoing health food and nutrition crisis in the SADC posd by several disease outbreaks including the COVID-19 which continues to claim lives and disrupt livelihoods across the globe; noted progress made through the Regional Vulnerability Assessment & Analysis Programme (RVAA)Programme in collaborating with the World Food Programme (WFP) which supports the Food and Nutrition Security Assessments and Monitoring Innovation initiative to scale up near real-time monitoring capacities to support the COVID-19 response in southern Africa; noted and appreciated the progress made on the development of the structural and operational modalities for the SADC Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre (SHOC) to be hosted by Mozambique and develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and a Regional Emergency Response Team to coordinate disaster response efforts, as well as the regional disaster profile and the mapping of disaster hotspots, and illustrative materials (maps) to facilitate the effective coordination of disaster preparedness and response; noted that during the just-ended rainy season, the Region received above average rainfall during October 2020 to March 2021 period, mostly in central and southern parts with normal to above-normal rainfall, which is likely to result in improved crop production outlook for the 2020/2021; provided guidance to ensure the effective coordination of Disaster Risk Management in view of the unprecedented number of disasters facing the region, which include droughts, cyclones, torrential rains, wildfires and floods which have led to the loss of lives, livelihoods, damage to property and destruction of infrastructure; urged the Member States affected by the African Migratory Locust to utilise the resources mobilised through the Regional Appeal launched in November 2020; called for provision of timely and accurate weather and climate information to ensure preparedness and facilitate effectiveness in response and recovery efforts and generate credible meteorological and climate information to support planning for socio economic development, weather related disaster risk management and the rational use, conservation and protection of natural resources; commended the International Cooperating Partners (ICPs) for continued cooperation at both the regional and national levels. Done in Gaborone, Botswana, 26th May 2021