Today October 13 is International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR). I want to take this opportunity to express my concerns about the effect of climate change, flooding, mudslides and other natural disasters killing hundreds of Sierra Leoneans and destroying property every year, and to share with you my vision for addressing these issues.
Disasters induced by climate change and technological hazards affect millions of people every year worldwide, but much of their impact can be reduced through proactive measures and planning.
Locally, everyone knows that our country, especially Freetown, has been badly affected by natural disasters. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate disaster risk, countries that design policy and legislative frameworks and that prepare their institutions in line with the goal, targets and priorities for action of the Sendai Framework, have greater capacity to manage disaster risk and therefore to reduce the impact of disasters when they occur. However, I understand that a successful strategy for disaster risk reduction is complex and requires effective multi-stakeholder coordination mechanisms, an overarching national policy, transdisciplinary and multisector collaboration and input, amongst other requisites.
With that in mind, and maintaining the focus of the Day on the impact disasters have on our communities, individuals and infrastructures, deeply affecting our wellbeing, this year’s theme “Disaster Risk Governance” is focused on conveying the message that many disasters can be avoided or prevented if there are disaster risk reduction strategies in place to manage and reduce existing levels of risk and to avoid the creation of new risk. In short, “good disaster risk governance.”
These deforestation, mudslides, flooding and water pollution killing our people and destroying property every year are preventable disasters. My team and I will create strategies that address not just single hazards like floods and storms, but those that respond to systemic risk generated by zoonotic diseases, climate shocks and environmental breakdown. I believe in empowering local municipalities like the Freetown City Council to enable us to put together good national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction, linking policies in areas such as land use, building codes, public health, education, agriculture, environmental protection, energy, water resources, poverty reduction and climate change adaptation.
Improving the management of Sierra Leone’s environment and natural resources is vital to the country’s development, especially given the close links between the country’s resources and its continued peace and stability, economic development, rural integration and governance capacity.
It’s time to raise our game if we want to make our nation more resilient for our future generations.