The formation of the Somali National Disaster Management Policy
Published February 15, 2018 by Muna Ali
Somalia is no stranger to disasters, both natural and man-made. One disaster sometimes coming on the heels of a previous one. Putting unprepared and often vulnerable communities on the brink of catastrophe. While the onset of a natural hazard cannot be avoided, a lot can be done to mitigate the adversity of the natural and human induced disasters with enough preparedness and disaster management strategies in place.
Only six years after the tragic famine that claimed the lives of 260,000 people and decimated over 70% of the pastoral livestock particularly in the southern regions of Somalia (2011/2012), more than half of the Somali population-6.7million- out of 12 million, people are at risk of famine and in need of immediate humanitarian assistance (2017). According to the May 2017 estimations by the FAO managed Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), 3.2 million out of the 6.7 million people are in ‘crisis’ and ‘emergency’ humanitarian situation.
The continuous failure of the rains in 2016 through 2017 has led to the loss of livelihoods, scarcity of water and pasture and the displacement of many people (766,000 people-UN report July 2017). Acute watery diarrhea and cholera have claimed over 1,000 life. The frequency of disasters occurrence in Somalia is coming one after the other, with shorter intervals of periods.
The formulation of the National Disaster Management Policy offers a glimmer of hope in preserving lives and properties and protecting the local economies. A consultative process led by the Somalia Disaster Management Agency (SODMA) that started in 2016 has resulted in a draft National Disaster Management Policy that was approved by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management in Mogadishu with representations from all the relevant authorities at Regional and Federal level and experts from UN, NGOs Private Sector and CSOs in Mogadishu. The meeting was an opportunity to deeply review and discuss the policy before it’s presented to the federal council of ministers for further deliberation and hopefully endorsement.
As the first national disaster management initiative, this policy aims to improve community resilience and preparedness in the face of disaster and emergencies to significantly reduce the loss of lives and property. It also provides the legislative framework for disaster management within relevant government institutions, improving disaster risk governance at federal and regional state levels, incorporating disaster risk reduction into the national development plan and investing in disaster preparedness, early warning system and better mitigation strategies and recovery measures.
“The point of the policy is to act before it’s too late. The Policy will help preserve life and reduce the disruption that potential disaster might cause to development. Preparedness and improved coordination at all levels of the government, and providing early warning information will reduce the human suffering and asset losses. It will also act as a guideline on appropriate and timely humanitarian response to relieve the suffering of the disaster affected population.” Said the Permanent Secretary from the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Mohamed Moalim.
The policy aims to clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of different government institutions on various aspects of disaster management cycle and to facilitate the planning for disaster risk management and establish a mechanism that will minimize the negative impact of both natural and man-made disasters.
For this policy to come to fruition it will require political commitment and adequate resources at the federal and regional level to carry it forward through endorsement to full operationalization. The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management will take the policy to the council of ministers for final deliberation and endorsement. The hope is that in the light of the current humanitarian crisis the need for this kind of policy will be met with positive reception from the Somali government as a whole.
“While this policy is very imperative in averting human loss and destruction of assets and economy only when all the relevant stakeholders work together as a team it will be a possibility to realize its objective to save lives and property and reduce the risk of disaster”, explained Dr. Maryan Qasim - the Federal Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management.
The formation of this policy is supported by USAID/OFDA through Adeso and spearheaded by the Somalia Disaster Management Agency (SODMA) -the national government agency responsible for the coordination and management of disasters in the country. The agency which was established in 2011 has come a long way ever since. With technical support from Adeso, SODMA has established a Strategic framework which has the development of national disaster management policy at the top of its priorities in line with the National development plan.
To ensure that the policy is effective in realizing its objective SODMA with the support of the federal government and in collaboration with the regional authorities, will establish disaster management centers in districts and regions nationwide for data collection, early warning information and capacity building and preparation.
"Though the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and disaster management, SODMA and by extension the Somalia government has a strong commitment to taking forward the full implementation of the policy, the meager government resources limit the expected progress. We, hope that Somalia will get support from the international communities and donors in the implementation of this important policy” said Abdikhafar Yakob Abubakar, Chief Operating Officer of SODMA.