Media Statements

Minister Dlamini Zuma’s Statement on the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction

Today, 13 October 2020, marks the global commemoration of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDR) as designated by the United Nations General Assembly. The IDDR is meant to promote a global culture of disaster reduction, including prevention, mitigation and preparedness.

The commemoration of the IDDR provides an opportunity for disaster risk reduction practitioners and policy makers to acknowledge progress being made towards reducing disaster risk and loss of lives, livelihoods and health in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) 2015-2030. It further provides a platform to advocate for political commitment and support before, during and after a disaster. The day also serves to avail possible measures to encourage individuals, communities, government, and civil society to contribute and become agents of change in building disaster resilient communities, countries, and regions.

It must be acknowledged that countries world-wide, including South Africa continue to experience a variety of disasters of different typologies and varying magnitude, which according to the American Journal of Disaster Risk Management totalled 207 between January to June 2020. These included geological hazards, meteorological or climate hazards, hydrological hazards and biological hazards. In addition to these natural and human-induced threats; large numbers of people live in conditions of chronic disaster vulnerability – in underserved, ecological fragile or marginal areas – where they face recurrent natural and other threats that range from drought to repeated informal settlements fires.

The 2020 IDDR is commemorated as countries worldwide are experiencing the effects of COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected all sectors of life, socially and economically. As was the case with Spanish flu pandemic, educational facilities, churches, industries, cinemas, hotels and lodges, airports were closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has truly tested the country’s ability to manage large-scale disasters. Compared to countries of the world, South Africa managed to achieve 90% recovery rate.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 outlines seven clear targets and four priorities for action to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risks: (i) Understanding disaster risk; (ii) Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk; (iii) Investing in disaster reduction for resilience and; (iv) Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response, and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The 2020 IDDR is commemorated under Target E of the Sendai Framework of Action: “Substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020”. This target puts more emphasis on strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk. Disaster risk governance includes policy, legislative frameworks, institutional structures, human resources and funding.

South Africa has an enabling legislation that governs the disaster management, the Disaster Management Act, Act No. 57 of 2002 and the National Disaster Management Framework, which serve as the National Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy. The main objective of the Disaster Management Act and the National Disaster Management Framework is the creation of appropriate institutional arrangements for disaster risk management.

The Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002) in sections 25, 38, 39, 52 and 53 places an explicit responsibility on organs of state in the national provincial and local sphere to develop and implement disaster management plans and submit such to the National Disaster Management Centre (amongst others). These plans and their implementation should encompass strategies to prevent and reduce the risk of disasters; mitigate the severity or consequences of disasters; facilitate emergency preparedness; ensure rapid and effective response to disasters and post disaster recovery and rehabilitation.

Apart from putting measures in place to deal with the above, a disaster management plan provides important considerations for development planning in a municipality. These include conducting a disaster risk assessment, identifying and mapping risks, areas, ecosystems, communities and households that are exposed or vulnerable to physical and human induced threats and providing measures and indicate how organs of state will invest in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, including ecosystem and community based adaptation approaches.

As the country is dealing with Covid, appropriate structures were established and this ensured seamless coordination of activities throughout all spheres of government through the National Joint Committees. Similar structures were established at Provincial level and served as conduits of and a platform for sharing information about activities within their respective provinces with the national structure and from national to the local structures.

Addressing disasters requires strong Political Leadership at all levels of government providing guidance and direction and this was done by our government at the height of Coronavirus.

Disaster Management Grants were provided to the different sectors to alleviate the impact of COVID-19, for example – Provision of water through construction of bore-hole and provision of water tanks to communities and schools that did not have access to water. Temporary shelters were erected in areas that were congested to minimise the risk.

South Africa with a population of 59,438,768 has moved from being nineth (9th) to tenth (10th) globally in terms of COVID-19 cumulative cases while Mexico with a population of 129,236,306 moved to 10th position.

Government alone cannot reduce disaster risks, public awareness as such public education play a vital part in disaster risk reduction. Informed communities will be able to manage disaster risks.

Communication between the government and the communities is key to ensuring educated citizens who are aware of the dangers of any disaster.

The Department of Cooperative Governance continues to provide resources and augment available resources within organs of state to address the effects of disasters within communities. Funding has been made available from the Disaster Grants within the department with primary objective being to promote Disaster Risk Reduction Measures and building resilience within communities.

All provinces benefitted from the Disaster Grants and positive impacts have been realised within various communities from implementation of disaster intervention measures.

Minister called on all South Africans to use the IDDR 2020 to re-commit themselves to ensure that they engage in preparedness planning on an individual, organisational, and institutional levels in South Africa. “We call on Local Government, especially, to ensure that they are engaging in preparedness activities for the summer rains and localized flooding”, said Minister. Simple activities such as the clearing of drains, ensuring the repair of roads and potholes, and creating disaster risk awareness within wards should be prioritized.
Minister encouraged development of sound partnerships between citizens, government and the private sector for better disaster risk preparedness.

All the multi sectoral work on disaster Risk Reduction should be done within the framework of the District Development Model (DDM).

Lungi Mtshali