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What is our level of disaster preparedness?

What is our level of disaster preparedness?

To my memory and certainly the memory of most people who have been around in the last three decades or more, this disaster is almost incomparable. We have had floods in the past, but surely not of this severity.

The ones that come immediately to memory are the ones that have before swept away our railway lines and damaged our transport infrastructure. But now, we have had to contend with floods that have caused loss of dwellings and the implications that goes with a human person hanging around homeless.

Those following international news, the severity of these floods that have hit this country have not been unique to Tanzania. Before Christmas last fall, Thailand was under water. Severe floods hit not only Thailand, but major chunks of Asia as well.

But what does things like floods mean? They are, of course, natural disasters like drought. These things are not man-made. They are what they are - natural disasters. Because such things come unexpected and all of a sudden, it does, naturally, imply that those living in an organised life have to expect them. They have to prepare and get ready for them when they hit.

Such preparedness is exactly like in normal life where ordinarily people have what they call savings to fall back to in the event of the unexpected. Now in the aftermath of this disaster that has just hit us so severely as a nation, the questions to address are: Have we taken our lesson in the aftermath of this disaster? What is the level of our disaster preparedness?

Certainly these are serious and pertinent questions. An alternative to these questions is living is the world of pretence, wishy-washy world, that all is well and because today has been good, tomorrow will be the same too!  If we have to assume this posture, then we are in real trouble - our future is even bleaker! Unfortunately for us, the spirit of self-reliance is not there even in declarations of words if we have to remember our past.

We all seem to think that we have an uncle waiting somewhere to help us - namely the 'donor community' - or 'wafadhili' as the Kiswahili idiom would read. For instance, did we take our lesson from those 'accidental' bomb explosions that rocked Dar es Salaam intermittently in the recent past?

What have we done to ensure that there is no repeat of such foolhardy 'accidents' again? There is a similarity of the scenes following those bomb explosions and the floods last month isn't it? Both disasters produced displaced people or 'internal refugees' some of whom were sheltered at the National Stadium, isn't it?

Now the major question to address here is whether we have taken the lesson of these disasters seriously. I am afraid, as an ordinary citizen, I will say I do not know to what extent we have taken our lesson and what is the level of our disaster preparedness today. I am afraid I will not be in a position to defend the charge that we have no culture of fending for a tomorrow. All we seem to fend for is today and even then as things come!

If this is our set of mind, then we need to change pretty urgently. We have all watched helplessly as those of our own have been through - living in the open, in what is otherwise meant for classrooms. They are now living in a place which sound too mouthful for people to repeat here!

I understand we have been running a fund named - Disaster Relief Fund -, which has been placed under the office of the Prime Minister for a considerable period of time. To what extent has this Fund been helpful to cushion off disasters, which have hit us?

Is this Fund there or it is there in name only? How is the Fund replenished from time to time? I urge via these lines that we should take this Fund seriously and in the spirit of self-help and very transparently. I believe nobody level headed will complain if he/she is to be taxed to replenish this Fund.

People will understand in the same way they understand and appreciate the need to have a fixed deposit personal account in a Bank to fall back to in the event of emergency. What people will be interested to hear is how much their joint fixed Bank account in the name of national relief fund is worth; and the time to hear this would be when the Prime Minister gives his annual Budget speech. And we should do away with our tendency to rely on donors all the time. We can manage savings on our own, can't we?

E-mail: makwaia@makwaia.com

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Author: Makwaia Wa Kuhenga

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