National Disaster Management Deserves Autonomous Status


Following the Lynch Street flood arguably as Liberia first disaster in 1979 that damaged more than hundreds persons properties, the William R. Tolbert Jr. government issued as executive order that established the National Disaster Relief Commission to operate under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Since then, the Commission besides being in obscurity has not been able to effectively or efficiently perform its reactive mandate due to major challenges such as human and financial capacities.

Due to the devastating impacts of the 2007 and 2008 flash flood that doubtlessly affected and displaced more than 22,000 persons in Fanti Town in Buchanan, New Kru town in Robersport, Grand Cape Mount County, King Gray community in Paynesville and Fish Market in Sinkor, the government through former Information Ministry, Rev. Dr. Laurence Bropleh announced the need to resuscitate the NDRC so as to comply with the global call for every nation proactive approach aimed at reducing disaster risk. As expected, this pronouncement did not translate into action.

In 2009, a joint capacity assessment by the UNDP, the government of Liberia and the Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery recommended a draft national disaster risk management policy and establishment of the autonomy of the National Disaster Relief Commission to function as National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA).  The Disaster Management Policy drafted since 2012 has not been passed into law.

Despite Liberia was among the 168 countries that adopted the Hyogo Framework for Action in 2005 January in Japan, party to the Africa Regional Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction endorsed July 2004 by the African Union Assembly and ECOWAS Policy for Disaster Risk Reduction sanctioned in 2006 that mandates national government to develop national platform and legislate Institutional frameworks for disaster risk reduction, nothing has been done.

Other Countries in Africa such as Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Madagascar, etc. have demonstrated the political will by the legislation of Institutional frameworks, national platform for disaster management as well as national policy for disaster risk reduction.  No wonder why Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal and even Côte d’Ivoire have success story kicking out and preventing the Ebola virus completely regardless of how people may think that none of these Countries were strategically epicenter for the virus.

The same way our national legislature unanimously passed a law that granted autonomous status to the Center Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) significant to improving productivity, economic and food security in post conflict Liberia, so it must also see reason to do the same for the National Disaster Management Agency significant for building a culture of resilience and safety for disaster management or risk reduction in Liberia.

In as much as CARI was under the Ministry of Agriculture, so it is with the NDMA under the Ministry of Internal Affairs that deserve autonomous status.  When pass into law, the NDMA according to the global best practices for disaster management will be a research Institution that will help to initiate a national platform for disaster risk reduction, Use knowledge, innovation, and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels, Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels, ensure disaster risk reduction as a national and a local priority and work with relevant government ministries and humanitarian organizations so as   to be able to identify, assess, and monitor disaster risks  and enhance early warning.

In our candid opinion, had our national legislature granted the autonomous status of the NDMA, the inception of the current Ebola outbreak wouldn’t have probably overwhelmed our capacity on grounds that the NDMA as a research Institution, would have utilized the early warning of the Ebola that came from neighbouring Guinea to educate and sensitize Liberians about how the virus spread, the preventive approaches and advise the government about what to do.

Moreover, the NDMA would have had research based knowledge about how the virus was contained when it first surfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  It can be argued that most of the people that died from Ebola in Liberia were due to complete ignorance. This is the reason why experts of disaster management or disaster risk reduction assert that as far as early warning is concerned, substantial reduction can influence success when people are well informed and motivated toward a culture of disaster prevention and resilience.  

This is probably why many people never knew about anti -Ebola material (chlorine water, hand sanitizers, soap etc.) introduced after the virus spread rapidly.  It must interest our national legislature that continuous reliance on the Liberia National Red Cross Society which is an auxiliary to government for emergency preparedness and response will never be enough or exhaustive for building a culture of disaster resilience as a nation and people.

It is about time that the autonomy of the NDMA be one of the top priorities for 2015. Liberia must not among Countries behind with the full implementation of all of the disaster risk reduction frameworks adopted.

Finally, let me remind our national legislature that that people’s rights to life, education, health or survival can unequivocally be affected by the occurrence of disaster as in the case of Ebola as such; any country that has failed to utilize its political will intended to strengthen and build national and local capacity or resilience to prepare and respond to emergency has compromised the protection of these fundamental rights guarantee by the Constitution of Liberia.

About the Author:
Mr. Ambrues M. Nebo holds MSc in the top 5% of the graduating Class in Peace and Conflict studies with specialty in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies form University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Post Graduate Certificate with distinction in Public Administration from Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration Ghana, BA Hon (Magna Cum Laude) in Sociology from African Methodist Episcopal Zion University College  in Liberia and various International Certificates in peacekeeping operations from the Kofi Anna International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana. Currently, he is an instructor/lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the A.M.E. Zion University. Besides this article, he has authored a dozen of articles dealing with contemporary issues in Africa and Liberia in which some of his articles (Stop Pointing Fingers at the West for Political Problems in Africa, Is Prolonged Regime, a Recipe for Potential Problems in Africa? and Instead of the International Criminal Court, blame our Leaders) can be accessed online at google search.