The Malawi Government has called upon the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states to enhance mindset change if the region were to make strides in reducing disaster risks and building resilience of the most vulnerable communities.
Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs Charles Kalemba made the call on Tuesday (26th October, 2022) in Blantyre when he presided over the official opening ceremony for the 5th Biennial Southern Africa Society for Disaster Reduction (SASDiR).
Kalemba said it was high time the SADC region and Africa as a whole thought through ways of addressing disaster-induced challenges for meaningful socio-economic development.
“This far; we have not done very well as a region and a continent. This is why we continue experiencing the same hazards; with no solutions in place. this is not the way humans are supposed to live, we need to look at hazards and come up with solutions. We need to shift from that standpoint to a system where we are going to look at each and every hazard and see how we can navigate around it and turn it into an opportunity. We need to start mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and resilience building across all sectors.
“We also need to take mindset change seriously, all of us must change the way we think, most of the times we think the world will dance around us, which is not the case. We need to wake up from the slumber, and come up with tangible solutions to the challenges we are facing as individuals, communities, councils, nations, regions and Africa; we cannot continue to be hit by disasters left and right and continue to use the same old methods or approaches to protect ourselves,” said Kalemba.
In his remarks, SASDiR Chairperson and Head of the African Centre for Disaster Studies at South Africa’s North West University Prof. Dewald van Niekerk said the region needs to address disaster risk reduction as a complex issue.
“The major challenge is that we have very much limited capacity within the right environment, we also tend to focus on disaster risk not as a complex issue which needs to be addressed by multiple sectors. There is an underlying text that disaster risk is the responsibility of the government, which is not the case. We need multiple role plays and multiple focus to minimize disaster risks.
“We need to understand issues we sit with; we have enough scientific knowledge on multiple hazards that affect us, we know the seasonality and the context of natural hazards. We need to bring communities into the fold and address their needs first,” said Niekerk.
On the other hand, the Executive Director for Sustainable Development Initiative (SDI) Maynard Nyirenda said there was need for the region to focus on disaster preparedness and mitigation interventions.
“What we are noting as disaster risk management practitioners is that we have been responding to disasters, issuing out relief packages, but it’s high time we focused on reducing disaster risks. This [conference] has come at a very critical time because as a country; we are implementing the Malawi 2063 development blueprint, but as we are doing that, we need to ensure that we have mainstreamed disaster risk reduction and resilience building in the development agenda,” said Nyirenda.
The conference, which runs from 26th to 28th October, and has brought together academics, researchers and disaster practitioners among others; has been organized to review progress in the implementation of continental and global disaster risk reduction frameworks, share good practices and lessons learnt with a view to enhance coordination, increasing awareness and mobilizing commitments to disaster risk reduction in the SADC region and across Africa.
The North West University has been central in organizing the hosting of the event with partnership from SDI, the Malawi University of Science and Technology and the Department of Disaster Management Affairs.
SASDiR was established in 2010 as a community of practice for disaster risk reduction within the SADC regional context.