Emergency preparedness training gives Serere leaders renewed zeal in disaster response
“This training has made me understand my roles in disaster preparedness and response."
Sarah Inyaru is the Sub-County Chief of Pingire in Serere District. Among her duties is to protect nearly 40,000 people in her jurisdiction from the hazards and disasters her sub-county is exposed to.
In 2021, Inyaru helplessly watched as hailstorms destroyed over 48 gardens of cassava and sim-sim, displacing more 250 households.
After completing a four-day training on emergency preparedness and response to disasters, Inyaru says she will no longer look idly by as her constituents’ lives and property are destroyed.
“This training has made me understand my roles in disaster preparedness and response. I will immediately set up a sub-country Disaster Management Committee and share with them some of the lessons I have learnt here. These will include early warning signs, data collection and reporting, threat assessment and coordination with the district committee,”
The training implemented by World Vision and the Office of the Prime Minister with support from UNICEF targeted members of the District Disaster Management Committee (DDMC) and Town Council and sub-county leaders in Serere District.
Serere is one of the districts with the highest annual loss of major crops due to droughts and other hazards. According to the National Risks and Vulnerability Atlas (2019), the district loses more than 300 million Ugandan Shillings - the equivalent of US$84,200 annually to natural disasters and man-made hazards such as wildfires.
The district has suffered from various disaster-related challenges that have affected its development. Flooding, land conflicts, hailstorms and drought hazards are the most frequent.
Most of the bridges in Pingire Sub-County are exposed to moderate or high levels of flood hazards hence threatening access to schools, hospitals, and markets.
Inyaru’s task now is to increase the sub-county’s capacity in emergency response and work with the DDMC to map up red zones in the area, get drought-resistant seedlings for the population, and further sensitize the population community to increase their vigilance to early warning signs.
“Before hailstorms come, we see birds flying away in numbers. This is an early warning sign that we often ignore. The other challenge is that the people are too attached to their homes and crops. Even when their homes are flooded, they refuse to move to safer areas,” Inyaru said.
Similar sentiments were shared by her compatriot Stella Atuko, Atira Sub-County Chief, where Asilang Parish is located.
In June 2021, Asilang Parish was hit by hailstorms destroying crops, animals and basic infrastructure. Two Primary Schools, including Jelel Primary School, were left roofless and are still closed. At the same time, the Mugarama Water Pumping station that supplied clean water to over 3,000 households was also destroyed. Despite relief support from the Office of the Prime Minister, Atira Sub-County is still struggling to recover.
Atuko says that she will rally her community to embrace food storage to increase their security, rely on technology for weather prediction and forecasting and shun activities that are detrimental to the environment.
These activities include charcoal burning, sand mining, stone quarrying, overgrazing, bush burning among others.
Atuko also commended the trainers for including the aspect of sexual exploitation and abuse in the training curriculum.
“I have heard stories of caregivers asking to sleep with women and girls before giving them food items. We have been trained to account not just for the resources we are given but also for vulnerable people we preside over. That is a major takeaway for me,” she said.
Mary Hellen Akol, World Vision’s Regional Director, challenged the trainees to implement the lessons they have learnt in their respective dockets. The training is an opportunity to connect the emergency interventions at district and national levels and create synergies with partners such as UNICEF for support.
“Disaster preparedness is widely misunderstood. Most of us could not differentiate between a hazard and disaster or drought and a dry spell. This knowledge will aid data collection that can support the disaster mitigation plans in the district,”
Akol thanked UNICEF for the one-year partnership to build capacities of disaster-prone district local governments to respond timely to disasters. The target districts are Serere, Amolatar, Kagadi and Nakasongola.