Author Topic: GREATER HORN OF AFRICA: Preparing to mitigate negative impact of El Niño  (Read 1217 times)

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NAIROBI, 19 October 2009 (IRIN) - As countries across East Africa and the Horn of Africa begin to receive El Niño-related enhanced rainfall, disaster risk reduction experts from 10 countries in the region are meeting in Nairobi to develop strategies for reducing the negative impact of the evolving El Niño phenomenon.

"Africa, and in particular the Horn of Africa, suffers more and more the impact of climate-induced hazards," Pedro Basabe, the Africa programme representative of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), said on 19 October at the beginning of the three-day conference, organized by the InterGovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and World Bank. "Drought and floods affect directly or indirectly millions of people each year, in particular the poor who are the most vulnerable."

According to the IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), which produces monthly and seasonal climate outlooks, the Greater Horn of Africa is prone to extreme climate events such as drought and floods, which often have severe negative effects on the region’s key socio-economic sectors.

Experts from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan and Somalia are attending the conference, of which the second and third day will be held in the western town of Kisumu, with participants making field trips to nearby flood-prone areas.

In a keynote speech, Moses Gitari, a senior deputy secretary in the Kenyan Ministry of State for Special Programmes, said memories of the negative impacts of the 1997-1998 El Niño and awareness efforts by climate experts had helped the country develop several disaster preparedness strategies.

"These include education, awareness and information sharing, risks and vulnerability analysis, people-centred early warning, adaptation to climate change, environmental protection, vulnerability reduction through development and social programmes and community coping mechanisms," Gitari said.

He added that community level intervention was pivotal to any disaster risk reduction strategy.

Gitari said the meeting was timely since some of the intervention efforts could require support beyond individual countries' borders.

Abbas Gullet, secretary-general of the Kenya Red Cross Society, said the government, UN agencies and NGOs had, in September, developed a National Contingency Plan for El Niño, "which is being [put into operation] currently".

"We have pre-positioned relief items, human and material resources countrywide in all the eight regions we work in and have conducted drills in some of the regions with a view to putting preparedness capacity on alert status," Gullet said. "It is our hope that this workshop will provide opportunities to explore the various ways and means of entrenching disaster risk reduction in communities we work with and provide a way forward for building safer and resilient communities countrywide."

Source http://www.irinnews.org


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