As the rains threaten, more should be done

A FEW days ago Dar es Salaam residents were left reeling from the effects of floods which were a result of several hours of heavy rains.

With more rains being predicted in the coming days and weeks, it is interesting information to learn that about 80 per cent of the city’s residents live in settlements that are not surveyed and these are the areas that suffer most when it rains heavily.

The downpour in Dar es Salaam recently once again proved beyond doubt that the government needs to do more to improve the city’s drainage systems.

It is worth noting that when the heavens opened up and left several parts of the country nursing heavy losses in terms of hundreds of wreaked homes and towns, crippled transport, and catching Dar es Salaam off guard, that it exposed the country’s frail disaster management mechanisms.

Despite repeated assurances by the government that Tanzania was well equipped to deal with disasters, rescuers labored to get people to safety, treating casualties, preventing further damage and managing panic — the key elements of disaster management. Tanzania now faces a huge relief and reconstruction effort, even as more damage looms large as the rains pound.

Dar es Salaam is prone to flooding even in the event of light rains due to poor drainage systems in the city. Available statistics indicate that in 2001, four people were killed in floods in Dar es Salaam caused by a four-hour constant downpour.

Dar es Salaam is one of the largest and fasted growing cities in eastern Africa, with a population of well over 4.4 million. As such and apart from the effects of heavy rains and floods, faces a myriad of other challenges.

The rapid pace of urbansation has resulted in large infrastructure deficits. Close to 80 per cent of Dar es Salaam’s residents live in informal settlements without adequate access to clean water, proper drainage system and waste collection, which becomes a health risk during heavy rains.

According to World Bank 2017, only 37 per cent of solid waste is properly collected and only 50 per cent of residents have access to improved sanitation. Dar es Salaam’s geography and coastal location make it vulnerable to climatic hazards.

In particular, floods are a significant economic and health risk, exposing residents to hazards like vector-borne diseases such as malaria and cholera that thrive in stagnant water.

Tanzania is becoming increasingly vulnerable to floods, droughts and tropical storms that have affected lives and livelihoods and destroyed infrastructure while causing food insecurity and health problems and unless the government puts strategic efforts to curb this problem, the frequency of such disasters, according to the United Nations, will continue to inflict huge losses on communities while straining the country’s humanitarian response capacity.

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