Contingency or Disaster Preparedness Fund; What strategy should Uganda Adopt?

“We cannot resurrect people with money; financing should be before and not after the disaster…” Hon. Martin Owor, Commissioner Department of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Management Office of the Prime Minister during the dialogue

Defining the word contingency will direct you to a common understanding as a future event or circumstance which is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty. The topic of having a contingency fund to respond to emergencies, most especially disasters, has been the same talk year in year, out landing on seemingly deaf ears.

The 2016 World Disasters Report indicates that a total of 1,244 people were killed by disasters between the period 2006 and 2015 in Uganda. Over the same period, 4,345,797 people were affected by disasters, representing an 11% increase from the number of those affected in the preceding reference period of 1993 – 2005.

Supported by OXFAM, on 24th October 2018, the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) in partnership with the Humanitarian platform for Local and National Organizations in Uganda held a dialogue that sought to create space to have an in-depth discussion on the issue of Disaster Preparedness, Mitigation and Prevention in Uganda. Who is not playing their role and what is the way forward, is it lack of political will or coordination issue amongst government Ministries, Agencies and Departments, Should the government empower the Uganda Red Cross Society to coordinate disaster related interventions. This dialogue attracted over 50 participants who included Members of Parliament, OPM, Local Government officials, Civil Society Organizations, Academia and Media

“If we agree and are on the same page at level of identifying the problem, we will get to the solution and implement it on the same page, George Francis Iwa, Chairperson Humanitarian Platform in his remarks during the dialogue”

The Commissioner, Hon. Martin Owor, informed participants that much as the government is mandated to finance these disasters, citizens at the individual level should take precautionary measures, report any unusual signs or risks in their areas. He however decried the manner in which the government responds to disaster issues. He said that the Office of the Prime Minister has done their part, the team has carried out hazard mapping and profiling and completed the resettlement plan together with experts, however the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development is not releasing funds to implement this plan,

this year we have had 66 landslides in Uganda and next year in June, we will have more landslides in Bududa according to the meteorologists, so the government should be working out this financing issue today, Deputy CAO Bududa district, at the dialogue”.

Is it absence of frameworks or lack of harmonization which has created a gap in the implementation?

The National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management designates the Department of disaster Preparedness and Management under the Office of Prime Minister as the lead agency responsible for disaster preparedness and management. However, while the department coordinates all the MDAs in the DRR sector, mitigation and prevention is primarily undertaken by other MDAs in the DRR sector which has implications on the financing of disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation.

The limited funding or lack thereof at Local Government level directed towards disaster management, preparedness and prevention renders the implementation of the District Contingency Plans highly improbable.

The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) establishes a Contingencies Fund in section 26. The Contingencies Fund make provision for the allocation of funds where urgent and unforeseen needs have arisen and it is in the public interest that funds should be provided to meet the need. From the above it can thus be argued that the PFMA, through the Contingencies Fund makes ample provision for funds in the event of a disaster occurring. Section 26, however, is silent on the use of the Fund for disaster risk reduction purposes. This is one area which might need more attention in a new disaster risk reduction and management bill.

What are the recommendations participants raised

“The government must be at the centre of this process, then other stakeholders complement. Hon. Lyandro Komakech, Parliamentary Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction, in his closing remarks”

As the discussions heated up raising emotions, a number of suggestions were brought to table for all stakeholders as mentioned in the Sendai Framework to which the government of Uganda is signatory, to rise and walk the talk. The government to ensure that the contingency fund is visible, tangible and accessible to mitigate disaster risks; the private sector to get involved because at the end of the day these disasters affect the economic performance of the country, Civil Society Organisations to contribute to the knowledge base, support public awareness and lead on advocacy, put pressure on decision makers to play their role , the government to domesticate the Kampala Convention formerly the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa and lastly citizens to respect the laws that govern nature.

“If you don’t belong to the river then don’t be in the river; if you don’t belong to the swamp then don’t live in the swamp”.

Story by Clare Kyasiimire