On Tuesday, the world woke up to the devastating news of a deadly mudslide in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown where a massive hillside collapsed, burying dozens of homes in regent area.
So far, close to 400 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds are still missing. Rescue operations have proved difficult due to the ongoing heavy downpour and floods in the area.
It’s an overwhelming experience for Sierra Leone, which is yet to recover from many years of civil war and the Ebola epidemic.
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But although the landslide was a natural tragedy that nobody foresaw, it should serve as a lesson to all Africans on how to combat similar tragedies in the future and ensure they do not cause such a colossal number of fatalities.
Aside from mudslides, there are many other natural disasters that continue to wreak havoc on the African continent year in year out. Such calamities include drought, storms, and floods. The question that Africans, especially those in positions of authority, must ask themselves is: How can we combat these disasters in the future?
Luckily, there are several ways in which the continent can mitigate the effects of Mother Nature.
Use of Technology
For starters, the continent should take advantage of emerging technologies to inform and empower its population. In advanced economies, governments invest heavily in technologies that can alert them whenever there is an impending disaster and offer advice on how to react to it.
Remarkably, some African countries are already making attempts to adopt these technologies. In Egypt for instance, the government is using a mobile phone service called “Blue Line” to send information about water rationing and supply. This technology helps Egyptians to know where to access water for domestic use and farming.
African governments can liaise with their respective meteorological departments to obtain and disseminate information about weather patterns to their citizens.
Common natural disasters such as hunger can easily be prevented by ensuring poor families have access to regular income. Instead of relying on international donors for food relief, African governments must move with speed to create environments that promote income generating activities for their communities.
They can do so by creating investment opportunities for local and international investors, who will in turn offer employment opportunities to locals. Agriculture is another major income generating activity in most parts of Africa. By investing in localized farming initiatives, Africa can easily tackle the problem of repetitive droughts and enable farmers to produce enough food for their domestic use and the market.
With sophisticated weather monitoring systems, it is quite easy to predict when the next rain will come. It is also possible to see signs of impending famine and floods ahead of time. But these signs can only be useful if appropriate actions are taken early enough.
Timely interventions can help save lives and reduce the cost of dealing with a massive calamity such as the mudslide in Sierra Leone.
Disaster Preparedness and Prompt Response
African governments also need to come up with sustainable disaster preparedness and control policies such as relocating people to safer areas and adoption of innovative farming practices like terracing.
The speed with which emergency response teams respond to natural disasters matters a lot in as far as mitigating the damage is concerned. This also means that governments must invest in the right emergency response equipment and personnel.
Studies have shown that the poor disaster preparedness witnessed in many parts of Africa is largely due to poverty and low literacy levels. Most people, especially those living in poverty stricken areas, have a resigned view of life that has resulted in a race to the bottom in as far as financial stability is concerned.
It is therefore the work of respective governments to ensure that their populations are aware of different weather patterns and the most effective ways to respond to them. Such education programs should start right from primary schools all the way to the university to ensure maximum impact.
Investing in these simple solutions in a well-coordinated way can go a long way in breaking the vicious cycle of perennial droughts and other natural calamities in Africa.