Urgent Action Needed – District Level Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Still Low

‘Uganda is spending the bulk of its budget managing and responding to disasters instead of managing and reducing risks’ Sophie Nampewo, CSBAG, Learning Event Mbale 2018.

Globally, disasters are on the increase as a result of natural hazards, political unrest and economic hardships. Subsequently, this has greatly contributed to increased poverty, food insecurity, and social disintegration especially in drought and flood prone areas. In the recent past, a number of global frameworks have been developed for disaster risk reduction. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted in Japan in March 2015, provides general guidance for reducing risks from natural hazards.

The Agenda 2030 further recognizes and reaffirms   the urgent need to reduce the risk of disasters. At national level, The Government of Uganda has demonstrated a commitment towards disaster risk reduction as indicated in its various legal, policy and planning and institutional frameworks like the Second National Development Plan, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Policy. There are bills in the pipeline for approval such as the Disaster Management Bill Climate Change Policy, Wetland Bill for sustainable Ecosystem. However, amidst all these policies, how have the victims or communities in disaster prone areas been involved? Is their need for a 50 page wordy document with the language they can hardly articulate?

“With the inevitable continued population growth rate, Uganda and the entire world will continuously be prone to disasters…” Johnson Kagugube, DRT, Learning Event, Mbale 2018.

On 25th September 2018, the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations in Uganda held a Learning Event focusing on Strengthening Disaster Risk Reduction and Management at district level, in Mbale District. The event was timely and located strategically – Eastern Uganda is recognised as the most disaster prone region. The Learning Event attracted humanitarian actors in the region such as the Uganda Red Cross Society, the District Disaster Management Technical Committee heads & other Local Government leaders, Community Based Organisations, media and Civil Society Organisations who hailed from the districts of Manafwa, Bududa, Sironko, Bulambuli, Butalleja and Mbale.

There are no funds to facilitate and capacitate the District Disaster Management Technical Committees to integrate DRR into the district plans, as a result they event don’t meet, they are dormant…” Local Government respondent, Learning Event, Mbale 2018.

From the discussions, it was found out that actually the government is financing relief for victims way more than prevention or preparedness, according to the study carried out by CSBAG. The Outturns overshot the budgeted allocations in FY2016/17 with a supplementary budget of UGX 25bn directed to the provision of relief to disaster victims. This raised concern among participants most especially the Local Government leadership who just hear but never get hold of any funds to facilitate contingency planning at the district level. Issues around political sabotage kept rising as the reason improper practices persist affecting several interventions from progressing.

However, this does not mean that the Government is not doing a great job. The problem is failure to diversify different target groups for different interventions. As Uganda realigns it’s spending towards risk management and reduction, Local Governments are best placed to spearhead this under the auspices of the OPM. Funding should therefore be directed to them to fulfil this mandate through a Forecast Based Financing Mechanism of disaster risk management and reduction. This therefore calls out for coordination between the state and other non-state actors to collectively focus on addressing these underlying issues together for benefit of the citizens.

Story by Clare Kyasiimire