The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has launched a project in 20 districts in Uganda to strengthen the national and local governments’ capacity to respond to natural disasters.

The project, “Strengthening National and Local Disaster Preparedness and Response Capacities in Uganda”, funded by the European Union Humanitarian Aid, will be implemented over 15 months in these districts, identified as most at-risk of experiencing all types of disasters.

It will bolster the government’s capacity at national, district and local levels to collect, analyze and report data on disasters, as well as disaster response planning and management.

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The intervention comes against a backdrop of a rising tide of extreme weather events, including floods, waterlogging, landslides/mudslides, and prolonged periods of drought, combined with epidemics and forced displacement experienced in Uganda.

Recent disasters caused by natural hazards have claimed lives and destroyed livelihoods as well as family, community, and public assets. According to the latest figures published jointly by the Office of the Prime Minister and IOM Uganda, at least 222,930 people (36,404 households) were affected by weather-related disasters between January and August 2021.

Yet existing mechanisms for preparedness and response coordination remain inadequate; national and local coordination groups lack tools for timely collection and exchange of information and identification of the needs of affected populations. Moreover, several disaster-prone districts lack effective disaster preparedness and response plans to effectively mitigate and cope with the devastating effects of disasters in the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation and has had an impact on the government’s capacity to respond to disasters.

Through the project, an estimated 1.7 million people are expected to benefit from the improvements in the availability of reliable data and heightened preparedness in case of disasters.

The project will directly train national, district and local technical staff on data and information management, ensuring effective tracking of disasters and prompt dissemination of information to all concerned stakeholders. This will result in informed decision-making and timely and effective assistance to the most vulnerable disaster-affected populations.

Sanusi Tejan Savage, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Uganda, described the new project as timely.

“It is beyond human beings to totally prevent natural weather events; but if technocrats can collect and make available more reliable data on these disasters, the country can mitigate the most adverse impact of what we cannot prevent,” he said.

The Head of the European Union’s Humanitarian Aid office in Uganda, Bruno Rotival, said, “Uganda is a highly disaster-prone country exposed to all types of natural hazards, such as floods, droughts, landslides and hailstorms in addition to epidemics and sudden refugee influxes. Enhancing the information management capacity of the National Disaster Risk Management System in the country is essential for effective action to prevent and mitigate in advance the negative effects of disasters, and to ensure the prompt provision of most needed humanitarian assistance to those in need”.

Gerald Menhya, the Acting Commissioner of Disaster Preparedness and Management, said the project would enhance the technical officers’ confidence in gathering information and evidence creation for robust planning, decision-making, and programming.

“The advent of this project in capacity building is a welcome idea because it is going to increase the effectiveness in our operations as far as disaster preparedness and response is concerned,” Mr Menhya said.

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