PARLIAMENT’S unanimous approval of a K54.5 million 2018 budgetary allocation for the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) is indeed welcome news, as it will go a long way in enhancing the unit’s capacity to deal with disasters.
The budget allocation is a huge leap from the K13 million which was approved last year by the House.
The budget approval is certainly an important step in mitigating people’s suffering in times of disasters.
It is a known fact that the role of DMMU has in the recent past come under intense pressure due to the escalating number of disasters the country has been experiencing.
For instance, the country has this year witnessed a rise in the number fire incidents, some of which have been attributed to suspected arson.
Just a week ago, the Lusaka City Market was gutted for the second time after a similar but much bigger incident in June, which destroyed property worth thousands of Kwacha at the trading facility.
Our memories are also still fresh about the fires that devastated traders at Kapalala market in Ndola, Chisokone in Kitwe, Kamwala in Lusaka, among other public infrastructure across the country.
We also remember how heavy rains in the last rainy season caused havoc on both infrastructure and human life.
Due to torrential rains, infrastructure such as houses, schools, churches, roads and bridges, among others, were destroyed. In the process, hundreds of people were also displaced and many lives were lost.
During the presentation of a policy statement on the 2018 budget estimates for the DMMU in Parliament on Wednesday, Vice-President Inonge Wina said 307 schools had their roofs blown off in the last four years.
Mrs Wina also said 167 roads and 170 culverts were damaged and needed the DMMU’s attention.
In the recent past, the country has also had to deal with the outbreak of crop pests such as Fall armyworms and in other instances drought, thereby threatening food security.
The demand on DMMU to attend to many foreseen and unforeseen disasters is enormous and calls for more funding.
We are concerned that even before we fully get into the rainy season, damages have already been recorded in Luapula Province where early rains were experienced last Friday.
Over 18 families in Samfya’s Chinkuli ward have been left homeless after their houses collapsed due to heavy rains.
Samfya district commissioner Nason Bwalya said a church, health centre and a secondary school also had their roofs blown off by the heavy rains.
This incident is a timely warning of what is expected during the coming rainy season.
As a country which has gone through these disasters for a number of years, we have no excuse for not planning ahead on how to mitigate the impact.
Allocating adequate funding to attend to unforeseen disasters is certainly a step in the right direction.
We know Zambia has so many pressing and competing needs which require a share from the national budget.
It is therefore commendable that Government has shown political will to mitigate the suffering of its people through an increased budget allocation for DMMU.
It is now up to other stakeholders like the corporate world, international agencies and the church to come on board and supplement Government’s efforts.
This is because the task of dealing with disasters is too enormous to be left to one stakeholder.
It is only through concerted efforts that greater impact will be achieved in mitigating the effects of disasters.
In view of the budget approval, it is also hoped that the technocrats at DMMU will ensure that appropriate preparedness measures are put in place to manage disasters effectively and efficiently.
It is also hoped that any failures and lapses experienced in the past will be used as learning points for better handling of similar disasters in future.
While we cannot stop natural disasters, it is important to master better and effective ways of responding to them.
This is the only way we can reduce the impact of disasters and subsequently save lives.