Director General of the National Disaster Management Agency, Lt. General (Rtd) BrimaBurehSesay says community engagement is key in preventing disasters across the country.
He was speaking on Monday during AYV TV’s Wake Up Salone Programme where he highlighted plans to populate the Agency’s organogram and implement the institution’s mandate as prescribed in the Act.
“It has been interesting, though challenging as well because setting up a new agency is not an easy task. There are so many things that are new. We were faced with so many challenges but we are overcoming them gradually, and I must commend the office of the Chief Minister, the Office of National Security for having been able to provide us the necessary support throughout this period”, the DG said.
He continued: “In fact, as recently as a little above a month, we were still housed at the ONS. Indeed, the National Disaster Management Agency was their baby; they went through all the processes to get us where we are now. We now have our own location at No. 64 Sir Samuel Lewis Road. We are trying to set up, the Organogram is being populated gradually especially at the top. I am now in office, there is a Deputy Director General now. We have two Chiefs: the Chief of Policy and Programmes and the Chief of Cooperate Affairs; those appointments have also been made. We have directors in position now in the Agency; the organogram is building up gradually”
“That notwithstanding, we have been able to crisscross the country responding to various disasters. I must say these disasters border on fires, especially for Freetown and windstorms for the provincial areas. We have done a lot within these 8 months. We’ve responded to so many of these fires. We’ve impacted a total population of around 12,249…it’s quite a task but we have been living up to expectation and confidence reposed in us”.
Speaking on the Agency’s mandate, Lt. General (Rtd) Brima Sesay said as stated in the National Disaster Management Act signed by His Excellency the President on the 8th of June 2020 and the Agency launched on the 19th of November-the month he was appointed-NDMA manages disasters and related emergencies in Sierra Leone as well as develop the capacity of community to respond to disasters when they do occur. He added that they are also mandated to implement government’s policy on disaster prevention, disaster risk reduction and climate risk management. “We are also mandated to implement the National, Regional, District and Chiefdom Disaster Plans”, he noted.
“So when disasters occur, the primary body or the legislated body that is responsible to ensure we coordinate the response of that disaster is the National Disaster Management Agency. It was a department under the Office of National Security but HE President Julius Maada Bio thought it fit to separate it from ONS so that the latter will focus purely on security issues whilst the former will project government’s response to vulnerable communities as and when disasters occur”
“For Freetown alone we have over 60 disaster risk communities, when you think of Big Wharf, Kroo Bay, Susan’s Bay (where we had the massive fire recently), and even some hilltop areas in Wellington, Kissy, Oloshoroh and the rest. These areas are vulnerable to risk. We are doing community engagement just to reduce the risk and vulnerability. We engage people referred to as ‘volunteers’ across these communities. We give them some training and in some instances we provide some implements for some of those volunteer groups so that they assist in undertaking some activities that would reduce the effects especially of heavy rains”
“You’ll find out that most of the problems we face in Freetown is because the gutters are not cleared, water passages are blocked due to either selfish construction habits by individuals or people naturally dumping their trash and garbage into drainages when it rains. We do a lot of community engagement and education through the media. We are also going to popularize the National Disaster Management Act 2020 because there are loads of things in that Act people need to know so that they control their behaviors and actions”.
He maintained that they are also liaising with the Meteorological Agency because they give them the weather forecast on daily and weekly basis, adding that they are able to predict where likely floods, landslide, mudslide or rock fall would happen.
The DG said they also coordinate with their partners as well, “because when it comes to disaster you cannot do it alone that is the fact”, pointing out that they have national and international partners that are very instrumental to their efforts in addressing issues of disasters.
Speaking on the preparation phase, Lt. General (Rtd) Brima Sesay said: “If we look mostly at the logistics aspect, how we preposition supplies in various regions, districts and chiefdoms, when we would have established properly and we are fully running, we will establish logistics base across the country to respond swiftly to disasters”
“For the response itself, we’ve been responding to a lot of disasters across the country since the inception of the Agency in November 2020. We’ve responded to 2,817 households (totality of the affected population). We have responded or got support for 727 houses and about 17 other structures like schools, barrays and other platforms across the country. We have responded to a total population of 12,249. In all of these we are supported by our partners”
“We are mandated by the Act to ensure we rollout the National, Regional, District and Chiefdom Plans. We don’t have those plans rolled out yet but we are using the ONS structure to assist us with coordinators who will send to us disaster assessment reports when disasters occur”.
“One of the key short term plans is to improve response time. There are times when disasters occur, that’s the moment people need assistance. We are also planning to capacitate ourselves, get more resources, and establish all the necessary outfits we need, including an Emergency Operation Center (EOC). We are also going to have an Inter-Agency meeting wherein all the Pillars including Security, Health and Shelter will come up with plans to deal with response and prevention”.
The DG ended by calling on Sierra Leoneans to protect themselves first by moving away from disaster prone areas.