THE revelation in Parliament of the huge cost of disaster management in Zambia entails that the country must join the rest of the world and adopt the practice of conducting post-disaster site analysis (PDSA), which involves revisiting the disaster site long after a disaster when the emotions of the loss of life and the finger-pointing of who was to blame has calmed down.
Then come up with cost-effective and implementable recommendations that should help to avert another disaster of a similar nature at the same site or some other place because, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), disasters tend to recur at the same location when risks, vulnerabilities and hazard(s) are not eliminated.
The PDSA project practice has gained ground in many countries because it is an assessment process of collecting, reviewing and using data, for the purpose of improvement in the current performance of disaster reduction and prevention and also tries to give answers to not just how, but why a disaster happened.
Based on observation of positive and negative points at the site, it provides information on prevention and areas of improvement because a natural or man-made disaster or event is only a disaster when life is lost or property related to people’s livelihood is destroyed.
Loss of life from a disaster has a negative social and economic effect at all levels because most of the time, breadwinners lose their lives and any responsible government has to react and mitigate the disaster and this disturbs the national budgetary allocation.
Disaster management experts testify that in many cases, man-made or natural hazards that lead to disasters such as food and waterborne diseases, fire, floods, mining, and road traffic accidents are as a result of human activities and failure to heed professional and expert advice, and in practice, and proportionally tend to affect and hurt the poor.
Most of all, because the poor outnumber the rich, and for economic reasons, the poor live in greater density, more poorly built housing, travel more and take part in more risky economic activities. People who have to struggle every day just to survive do not have the time or the strength to worry about more distant environmental and natural or man-made hazards.
And this is where the authority and power of the government of the day begins to manifest, to worry on behalf of these poor and vulnerable people and to ensure that communities and society continue to develop a culture of prevention of both natural and man-made hazards, which lead to disasters. Prevention of hazards and disasters cannot happen without serious public debate and education at every level of society.
Government’s authority must in many cases try to prevent those greedy and selfish individuals that put the lives of others at risk.
Secure nations, communities and societies are those that have learned to live in moderation and consideration of other people’s lives and earn a living from their resources while taking all necessary preventive and safety measures.
Disaster prevention and reduction strategies can only succeed when the government of the day and the citizens understand that a natural or man-made disaster from food and waterborne diseases, fire, floods, mining and road traffic accidents is a failure of foresight and evidence of their own neglected responsibility rather than an act of God.
Therefore, the government of the day bears the primary responsibility for protecting its people, infrastructure, and other national assets from the impact by sometimes making necessary and unpopular decisions.
The opposition political parties must also understand that governments of the day all over the world have to make such decisions to protect the people, make efficient use of existing resources, safe food and water, living locations and road use and trading facilities.
Every Zambian must, therefore, co-operate with Government and work towards the total reduction and elimination of hazards.
A hazard, by definition, is a potentially damaging physical event, phenomenon or human activity that may cause loss of life or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation. Hazards can include latent conditions or induced by human activities and processes (environmental degradation and total disregard of laws and order).
Hazards can be single, sequential or combined in their origin and can, therefore, with concerted effort by everyone, be totally eliminated from communities, society and the nation at large.
Government, in its tireless effort and well-known desire for socio-economic development of the nation since 2011, must constantly increase the capability to reduce hazards and disasters from waterborne diseases, fires, floods, mining and road traffic accidents and, therefore, conducting PDSA and acting on recommendations, can reduce the level of risks, hazards and disasters.
The capacity to conduct such assessment is readily available in the country in form of physical, institutional, as well as skilled personnel and collective leadership and management from the government administration.
The author is an international associate at the African Centre for Disaster Studies.