The Meeting of Committee of Ministers Responsible for Disaster Risk Management from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was held on the 26th May 2021. The meeting was virtually hosted by the Government of the Republic of Mozambique, and was attended by representatives from 14 SADC Member States, namely Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Ministers’ meeting was aimed to review progress on regional Disaster Risk Management programmes and to guide the Secretariat in ensuring effective coordination of Disaster Risk Management in the Region. This is in view of the increasing number of disasters that the Region continues to face. In the 2020/2021 period, the SADC Region saw a surge in the occurrence of multiple disasters, including cyclones and storms that led to heavy rains and flooding across the Region leading to loss of lives, damage to assets and destruction of infrastructure.
Other challenges included locust infestations, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the volcano eruption on Mount Nyiragongo in the city of Goma in the DRC. These disasters and hazards have been compounded by the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, which deepened socio-economic setbacks globally and in the region.
The meeting was officially opened by Honourable Lusia Celma Meque, Chairperson of the SADC Ministerial Committee Responsible for Disaster Risk Management and President of the National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) in the Republic of Mozambique. Hon. Meque applauded the SADC Member States forcontinuing to strengthen regional cooperation and integration while stepping up existing efforts and interventions aimed at minimising the impacts of disasters. In highlighting the impacts from disaster risks, Hon. Meque said that the meeting came at an opportune time to critically look at solutions to address the issues on the ground. She also highlighted the need to develop regional institutional mechanisms for preparedness and response as well as capabilities to address the challenges at hand, including those caused by climate change.
The Executive Secretary of SADC, Her Excellency Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax, highighted that the Region continues to be confronted by a number of significant and devastation disasters that claimed many lives. She expressed the Region’s solidarity with the DRC over the volcano eruption on Mount Nyiragongo on the 23rd April 2021 which resulted in the loss of lives, displacement of people and damage to infrastructure. She commended the Government of the DRC for the efforts made to support those affected by the disaster. She also highlighted the devastating impacts of COVID-19 that has led to critical economic chellenges that have affected all development sectors and led loss of many lives. Dr Tax expressed hope that efforts made by Member States to find solutions, including the administration of vaccines, would reduce the impact of the pandemic.
Dr Tax assured the Region of the Secretariat’s commitment to support Member States and said SADC was working on a number of initiatives to enhance disaster risk management. In line with the SADC Council’s decisions and the Committee of Ministers responsible for Disaster Risk Management Meeting held in the United Republic of Tanzania in February 2020, Dr Tax said the Secretariat was working with Member States in putting in place mechanisms to ensure swift responses to the quick onset of disasters through the activation of the SADC Standby Force in humanitarian support operations during disasters, and the operationalisation of the SADC Humanitarian Operations Centre and Emergency response teams to assist Member Staes affected by disasters.
During the meeting, Ministers noted with appreciation the efforts being made by the Secretariat in working with other international cooperating partners to develop the African Migratory Locusts Appeal launched in November 2020 by Honourable Celso Ismael Correia, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Republic of Mozambique and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Food Security to support the affected Member States implement interventions to curb the locusts infestations that also threaten food security and ecosystem sustainability.
Ministers reviewed key instruments to facilitate regional approaches to disaster preparedness and response, including the SADC Region Disaster Fund to provide timely support to those affected by disasters, disaster risk management peer reviews and the DRR information Management System to support information sharing among Member States, and Disaster Risk Reduction Mainstreaming Guidelines to facilitate mainstreaming of DRR across economic sectors. The Ministers also acknowledged the establishment of the Emergency Response Team comprised of experts from different SADC Member States with different expertise to assist those affected by disasters.
Acknowledging the multiple disaters that affect the Region, such as droughts, floods, locusts infestations and COVID-19, Ministers emphasised the need to enhance capacity development for disaster risk preparedness and response and in building resilience in line with the provisions of the Sendai Framework and the Regional Resilience Strategy and SADC Disaster Risk Preparedness and Response Strategy and Fund. They also emphasised the need to undertake climate change adaptation and mitigation actions and programmes in order to reduce the impacts of disasters in the Region.
During the meeting, the Ministers among others:
Done in Gaborone, Botswana, 26th May 2021