‘Comesa countries ill-prepared for disasters’

By Phyllis Mbanje

THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) climate change co-ordinator Mclay Kanyangarara has said most member States have a fragmented and haphazard approach to managing risks, shocks and stresses following disasters, which has proved to be ineffective as the magnitude of loss and damage continues to escalate in the region.

Speaking ahead of a two-day meeting to discuss climate change in Zambia, Kanyangarara said most Comesa countries are vulnerable and face similar threats of climate change and droughts, flooding, industrial shocks, extreme rainfall and disease outbreaks, wars and civil unrest among others.

“Governments find themselves diverting resources allocated to much-needed developmental projects and programmes to deal with the effects of the disasters, thereby trapping many in a vicious cycle of poverty and underdevelopment,” he said.

Recently, the region experienced devastating cyclones Idai and Kenneth that affected Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe causing more than 1 000 deaths, infrastructure and property damage running into billions of dollars, with 90% of Mozambique’s key port city of Beira submerged for weeks.

At the same time, the worst drought in decades has led to a significant reduction in water levels at Lake Kariba, severely curtailing hydroelectric power generation leading to massive power cuts in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

A natural disaster can inflict terrible hardships and cyclones like Idai are becoming more common as climate change increases the risk of weather extremes.

Local media practitioners have been challenged to increase coverage on climate change issues in line with global dictates.

Meanwhile, more than 48 senior government officials from ministries responsible for planning, agriculture, environment, health, disaster management and mitigation units from 17 Comesa member countries are attending the climate change meeting to discuss the Regional Resilience Initiative on climate change, which was launched in 2017.

The meeting aims to support member States to strengthen their policy and co-ordination mechanisms and develop national resilience policies and implementation frameworks.

These will serve as national guiding documents to resilience building and project implementation at member State level.

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