Disaster Preparedness, a prerequisite for North Kivu Province

Project: Learning Project 22nd December 2017

North Kivu, or Nord Kivu as popularly known by the French speakers of DRC, is home to the Virunga National Park, a World Heritage Site containing the endangered mountain gorillas. It borders the famous Lake Kivu in the east of DRC and has a total population of approximately 5.7million people. The region is politically unstable, and has been one of the flashpoints in military conflicts in the region since the 1990s.

On the 7th November, the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) Learning project brought together 60 humanitarian and development actors and government representatives in Goma to gather experiences of the partners of DEPP and non‐DEPP actors on disaster preparedness and response to emergencies. One of the conference aims was to connect DEPP to non‐DEPP partners in order to improve country‐level collaboration among humanitarian actors. The conference also create awareness about the DEPP and the commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016, especially in regards to improving the involvement of local actors in the local humanitarian system.

The one-day event was characterised by presentations from various practitioners, and panel discussions where participants sought a deeper understanding of ongoing work around disaster preparedness. The participants indicated that the event came at an opportune moment due to the peculiarity of the North Kivu province in terms of disasters. It is at risk of volcanic eruption from the Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira volcanoes, as well as having a very high risk of eventual explosion of methane gas that abounds in Lake Kivu, which could affect more than 1 million people.

Key emerging issues and rich discussions revolved around:

– There is a need to strengthening localisation by acknowledging and integrating traditional early warning systems to scientific methods. This would ensure that the communities own the early warning information being disseminated, and enables them to act upon it. A gap identified during the workshop was that communities never took the information seriously.

– The local media have a key role in disaster preparedness in terms of dissemination of information. Hence, there is a need from all stakeholders to work with them and provide them with credible early warning information, and strengthen their capacity and understanding of disaster preparedness issues.

– There was a call for all stakeholders to invest in preparedness and not just wait for disasters to strike for them to respond. Preparedness is more cost effective compared to response.

– It came out clearly that coordination of stakeholders within the region was very weak. The stakeholders urged the government to take the lead in this and not leave it to non‐state actors.

– A need was recognised to strengthen the capacity of Observatoire de Volcanologie who have the mandate of monitoring volcanos. It was evident from the meeting that lack of resources, specifically monetary, posed a major obstacle for effective delivery of their mandate, and they are not well equipped with effective Early Warning Systems. The sirens that are meant to be used to send out information in the event of a volcanic eruption only covers 200m, which does not meet the need of North Kivu.

Disaster Risk Management requires coordinated efforts

As the workshop came to a close, it was clear that preparedness in disaster risk management is fundamental and can be even more effective when integrated with local capacity and a lot of resources can be saved if stakeholders invested in preparedness. This also gives a layered kind of response in the event of a disaster with the affected communities being the first responders, utilising locally available resources to mitigate the effects of the disaster. This also strengthens their capacity and builds their resilience over time. Disaster Risk Management cannot be undertaken by a single stakeholder due to the complexities each hazard presents. There is therefore a need by the government to lead in to coordinating efforts and resources for a cost effective, holistic and efficient response; and facilitate learning amongst the different practitioners.

You can read the full conference report in English here, and in French here.

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