Number of ‘Disaster displaced’ people on the rise

Deputy Secretary General for the East African Community, in charge of Finance and Administration, Ms Jesca Eriyo

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THE number of internally displaced people has escalated to 382 in the East African region, with South Sudan leading with 281,000 victims, Kenya 40,000, Tanzania 38,000 and Uganda 23,000.

It has been reported here that floods, landslides, drought and conflicts are some of the major factors that trigger disasters that cause people to flee from their homes in the countries that form the East African Community.

Deputy Secretary General for the East African Community, in charge of Finance and Administration, Ms Jesca Eriyo, said that people in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan also have the tendency of moving into areas prone to natural hazards, particularly urban centres on floodplains, rivers exposed to floods and along coastlines exposed to cyclones and storms.

“These people remain vulnerable to natural hazards due to factors associated with poverty, including lack of knowledge and technology to adapt or to be adequately prepared for disasters,” she said.

Ms Eriyo cited the ongoing drought in the Greater Horn of Africa region, the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that hit North West Tanzania, and the Mount Elgon landslide as some of the recent disasters whose impacts were still being felt in the region.

The DSG was speaking when she presided over an occasion to mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR) in Arusha. “Environmental degradation, growing human populations, unsustainable exploitation of environmental resources and poor land use planning are the other predisposing factors.

The region is equally predisposed to man made disasters such as urban fires, water pollution, HIV and AIDS and outbreaks of disease epidemics,” said the DSG. The official added that most of the affected populations were generally poor and unable to pay for more secure pieces of land and build stronger houses.

The DSG disclosed that data on displacement in the EAC region indicates that internally displaced populations were on the rise with South Sudan leading with 281,000 people, Kenya 40,000, Tanzania 38,000 and Uganda 23,000, adding that there were no statistics for Burundi and Rwanda.

“Research shows that the impact of climate change on the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and environmental degradation will increase displacement risk further.

All these occurrences continue to remind us of the potentially harmful effects of global warming and the need to adopt an ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction Approach,” said Eriyo.

She said EAC Partner States had switched emphasis from managing disasters to managing disaster risks as outlined in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) – a global instrument adopted in Sendai, Japan in 2015.

The SFDRR framework is a disaster response mechanism with a two-pronged strategy to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR): reducing disaster mortality and reducing the numbers of people affected by disasters.

“The EAC has established Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Unit that will be supervised directly by the Secretary General. The Unit will play a key role in the implementation of the EAC Disaster Risk Reduction Act and the implementation of the Sendai Framework in the region,” said Ms Eriyo.

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