Pretoria: The way in which disasters are dealt with on the continent needs to be improved, Deputy International Relations Minister Marius Fransman said on Tuesday.
“We have to respond differently… We need to reconfigure. As South Africa, we don’t have a proper disaster management approach when disaster happens on the continent,” said the deputy minister, who was addressing a session on development and humanitarian assistance, hosted by the Department of International Relations in Pretoria.
He questioned if Africa could continue to respond to disasters in a structural way.
Bottlenecks to dealing with disasters needed to be addressed and the best response to them also needed to be achieved.
Referring to South Africa’s Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), the deputy minister said that often the money for assistance was available but that the paperwork became a stumbling block in quickly releasing funds for aid.
“But then if we don’t follow the book it can be seen as misappropriation of funds and corruption,” he said at the session where South African-based relief organisations delivered presentations on how their work has benefitted countries in Africa.
The session also provided an opportunity for participants to engage one another on issues of humanitarian and development assistance.
Fransman urged further collaboration between government and the aid organisations.
He highlighted the costs involved in bringing in supplies to countries needing assistance, saying it should to be more efficient. “We do want to affirm local products or regional products,” he said, adding that countries sometimes attached conditions to this.
As the continent grows its democratic processes it was possible that there would be fewer conflicts which would be replaced with natural disasters. “How do we better coordinate intervention on the continent,” he wanted to know.
Although the African continent was the next frontier, challenges existed. “We have a continent of great opportunities as risk. The reality is that we don’t have proper infrastructure, proper ways of communication.”
Also, the consequences of climate change needed to be addressed and the issue of skills needed to be strengthened.
“All of you have a critical role to play, we ask you for support and thank you for support given to the nations on the continent on disaster management,” Fransman told delegates.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) head of delegation Jurg Eglin said the ICRC welcomed the initiative taken by the department. “We are very pleased about this forum,” he said, adding that the ICRC, which is present in 80 countries globally, was ready to share its knowledge.
Goodman Chiloane of the National Disaster Management Committee said that there had been problems with human capacity but that this is being addressed. National disaster management is also in the process of reviewing the Disaster Management Act.