Disaster response needs attention

Editorial

THERE is a need to consolidate a culture of providing immediate response when disaster occurs in the country.
Most times, it turns out to be a blame game between the provincial and national disaster office and to some extent the respective local MPs also.
Everyone knows that communities in PNG experience more disaster risk because of so many factors – climate change and we should all admit population expansion also contributes.
Most disasters share common patterns – both in their challenges and in their opportunities.
Individuals under stress – and a disaster will be stressful – will exhibit their unvarnished selves. People will be tired, and they will need physical and emotional support.
Chaos can ensue if there has not been effective planning for disasters. Last December, a destructive weather phenomenon – a hailstorm that ravaged for about 45 minutes in Western Highlands’ Central Hagen with more than 3,000 villagers affected destroying gardens, root crops, and houses and killing domesticated livestock.
One month after Dec 27, the National Disaster and Emergency Centre (NDEC) responded with a K50,000 relief.
Earlier this month, floodwaters swept through a village in Western Highlands and claimed the lives of six children when a river burst its banks.
Climate change is becoming a major issue right now around the world and PNG is no exception.
The truth is with rain and winds predicted by the weather office, do not be surprised if more lives are lost in such disasters.
Disasters differ markedly in their speed of manifestation, which in turn greatly affects how authorities interpret and respond to them.
Some disasters, such as earthquakes or some types of industrial accidents occur in a matter of seconds.
Other types of disasters are more gradual or creeping in their manifestation, such as droughts or El Niño.
Disaster assessments reveal that elusive and slow-onset disasters affect more people on aggregate than sudden-onset disasters do.
With the Defence Minister confirming the appointment of Col Carl Wrakonei as the state-appointed head of the National Disaster Centre (NDC) gives some relief.
With the military background, we trust he will have a good understanding and what is required when responding to disasters.
It is also good news that functions of the NDC is now transferred under the Ministry and Department of Defence, which is long overdue.
And to actually have the other two agencies of PNG Fire Services and National Volunteer Services under the Ministry of Defence makes sense.
The most important thing in disaster management and co-ordination is to save lives.
The NDCs mandated function to manage the effects of disaster and co-ordinate the response and relief efforts.
With all that, sufficient funding should be allocated to equip the relevant entities in preparation for disasters. The NDC especially should be financially supported to be able to respond to our national reality and be able to provide disaster response support to all national citizens and foreigners who, in case of a disaster, require assistance.
If the Government deems these agencies as essential when it comes to disasters, then there is need to promote studies of the identification of risks zones; create early warning systems, particularly relating to rains and droughts; and conduct training and capacity building of human resources in the area of disaster risk management.
While we appreciate the process involved in verifying the extent of the damage and other necessary checks, providing basic relief supplies to those affected should be the first step.

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