By Isata Fofanah
The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) on the 3rd November 2022 launched the School Disaster Risk Reduction and the Climate Information Disaster Management Early Warning System (CIDMEWS) Project in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary School Education and the Sierra Leone Meteorological Agency at the Bank Complex Kingtom in Freetown.
The objective of the event was geared towards enlightening school pupils as well as citizens in the country on how best to mitigate and respond to disasters whether they occur in both the school and the environment.
During the event, the Deputy Director General of NDMA, John Vandy Rogers, stated that children are to be highly secure in communities as they are the leaders of tomorrow. He continued that against such a backdrop, the Agency decided to launch a project which contains teaching guidelines for teachers, pupils, and stakeholders.
He maintained that they, as an agency, have full confidence in launching the project because of the great support derived from the Ministry of Education and other agencies over the years.
The Deputy Director furthered that prior to now when the idea came up of establishing the Agency, the then Minister reluctantly down played the whole idea until numerous incidents started occurring such the outbreak of Ebola, Mudslide, as well as Corona virus which led to the loss of many lives not excluding students as well as distracting the normal school curriculum.
He underscored that any Government that strives to focus and respond to disasters especially those affecting school going children who are most times vulnerable is proactive.
The Director General of the NDMA, Lieutenant General (Rtd) Brima B. Sesay, started that the Agency was established in 2018 when the country began to face numerous disasters making the work of the Agency very vital especially when it is working in line with the security apparatus of the country and also building standard knowledge among school pupils on disaster risk reductions.
He added that the project is prioritized and highly supported by the international disaster program for NDMA and the Ministry of Basic Secondary School to incorporate it in the school curriculum for students to fully understand certain circumstances related to disasters.
The Director General maintained that basic education is a universal and inevitable right and such right should not be disrupted by disasters and that whenever education is distracted, pupils definitely suffer which sometimes will have permanent negative effects on them as well as on their families.
He continued that as they are in the process of launching the project, there should be a reminder that every child has the right to safety and survival in both the school and outside of it as well the right to have quality and sustainable elementary education.
According to him, dissemination of knowledge in a safe learning environment is important and to ensure that school buildings are prevented from hazards and ensure that the lives of students, teachers and other concerned parties are highly protected at all times.
According to him, disaster education is a broad goal that tends to reach the children and the community for the preparedness of disaster occurrences.
He concluded by commending the United National Development Program for supporting the NDMA in the development of an App for climate change adding that the Climate Information Disaster Management Early Warning System (CIDMEWS) is one of the world’s changer products used for the forecasting of extreme weather conditions especially for communities that are prone to disaster occurrences.
He stated that the launching of the project will go a long way to examine challenges in the environment particularly when it has to do with enlightening people of the risks involved in living within the circle of disaster prone areas and also provide valid information that informs about exact weather conditions.
Representing the Resident Representative of the UNDP, Tanzila Sankoh, who is the Team Lead- Sustainability and Local Economic Development stated that the launching of the projects was as a result of the collaboration with the NDMA and other relevant agencies across the country maintaining how the two projects are very key to disaster reduction, mitigation, response and recovery. She added that UNDP has, over the years, provided various capacity supports to the NDMA through the development of a strategic document such as the national hazard profile, the establishment of regional and district disaster Management Agencies in order to enhance disaster management.
She further stated that, over the years, the frequent disaster occurrences led to the loss of both human and material resources, posed community hazards, which have seriously destroyed and undermined the growth of the nation.
According to her, natural disaster mostly occur because of the reluctant nature of community residents stating that whenever such occurs children are mostly affected because they lack the skills and knowledge to protect themselves from such situations.
She maintained that in Sierra Leone the frequent occurrence of disasters and the level of sustaining dangers are becoming very high and it is now more urgent to work towards rectifying such challenges especially in schools.
Tanzila Sankoh added that the school plays an important role in every nation as well as make significant contributions stressing that the guidelines will serve as a vital tool in providing relevant information on hazards, natural disaster management and the reduction of associated risks among students as well as their families.
She disclosed that the UNDP, through their various funding projects, hired the INTEGEMS to establish the Climate Information Disaster Management Early Warning System (CIDMEWS) in order to serve as a response for the hectic disaster weather condition and also providing data which includes temperature, humidity.
According to her, the purpose of such a move is to be able to provide continuous sustainable generation and dissemination of all weather information including adequate forecasting for the enhancement of early warning. She added that they are trying to ensure that several agencies like the NDMA can be able to use that platform to provide early warning to various communities where disasters are meant to be occurred.
She revealed that the essence of the CIDMEWS launching is to enhance adequate weather information to prevent the re-occurrence of devastating situations that have been occurring in the country such as the August 17 mudslide, and could be crucial in serving as a way to help the country in preparing for further disasters that might occur.