UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
AFRICA: Calls for regional disaster prevention centre
NAIROBI, 18 May (IRIN) - The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on Tuesday called for the establishment of a major regional coordinating centre to help build the continent's capacity to prevent natural disasters and mitigate their effects when they do occur.
Speaking at a regional meeting in Nairobi, "Africa: Towards Disaster Reduction in the 21st Century", Dr Edward Howard-Clinton of the OAU emphasised the need for "a single coordinating centre for disaster issues in Africa" in order to ensure a well-considered and timely response to emergencies.
The meeting, hosted by the secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is aimed at assessing achievements in natural disaster reduction in Africa during the 1990s and charting the direction and means for sustaining prevention and mitigation efforts into the next millennium.
"Even though natural hazards will continue to occur, [the related] social and economic disasters can be mitigated," said Philippe Boulle, Director of IDNDR. "Appropriate human behaviour and proper use of scientific and technological knowledge can help reduced populations' vulnerability to natural hazards, and contribute to protect social resources and economic assets."
Emphasising the particular dangers of drought, desertification and land degradation, a statement by UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said the humanitarian and environmental consequences of disasters were inter-related, and demanded a coordinated approach to ensuring national and regional preparedness for natural and climatic hazards.
"Relief continues to be the primary form of disaster management in many countries," said Kenyan Minister of State Dr Amukowa Anange. "We have to change this approach and be more proactive if we want to reduce risk to humans and the environment."
The Natural Disaster Prevention meeting finishes in Nairobi on Friday, when a joint declaration - complete with action points specific to Africa - is expected to be released.
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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