School: Carl Sandburg High School
Delegate: Youssef El-Hakim
Topic Area 2: Encouraging disaster risk preparation and the broader fight against climate change
Most of Mali's 12 million inhabitants are living with serious natural disaster hazards, including floods, droughts, and crop or livestock diseases. Poverty increases the toll of such disasters. A new government program is now to limit the consequences when disasters occur. The Niger and Senegal rivers that flow more than 2,200 kilometers through Mali offer vital resources for development, but heavy rains often trigger floods, such as those during the last two years, that take a toll on lives and property. The country also faces threats such as droughts, livestock diseases and infestations of locusts. One of the world's poorest countries, Mali is all the more vulnerable because it lacks a disaster prevention planning and management framework, the UN development agency UNDP says.
To remedy this, the Malian government, UNDP and other partners are now helping the General Directorate of Public Safety and local authorities to meet nature's challenges. The initiative was launched recently in Koulikoro, an industrial center that is vulnerable to flood damage. It is a hub for rail, road and water transport on the Niger, north-east of Bamako, the Malian capital. Support for the two-year, US$ 650,000 project comes from the Bamako government, local authorities, UNDP and other partners. They will coordinate with civil society organizations, the Ministry of the Interior, local communities and the UN country team "to strengthen national rapid reaction capabilities," UNDP says. Abdallah Fascoye, President of the Special Delegation of Koulikoro, welcomed the initiative, pointing out that the whole town would benefit from regional natural disaster management. The project comes out of the consensus reached at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and the work of the regional bureau of the secretariat of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, said Anatole Sangaré, Secretary-General of Mali's Ministry of Internal Security and Public Safety. The government was therefore including public safety as a dimension of public policy, "particularly within the framework of its anti-poverty strategy," Mr. Sangaré added. UNDP representative Kalfa Sanogo said that his UN agency was pleased to cooperate with the Malian government on the project, "which will put in place tools for local, regional and national planning to manage disaster risks effectively and reduce communities' vulnerability significantly."
The initiative is to set up a legal framework for managing disaster risks and strengthen the staff skills and organization of the General Directorate of Public Safety and some of its offices, UNDP says. Communities are to get information and training on how to prevent and respond to disasters, and local and regional authorities are to get help in disaster response planning. The project further is said to promote the exchange of information between national and regional authorities and work with civil society, community organizations and local authorities to help them prepare disaster prevention plans, according to UNDP. The UN agency alone is providing US$ 350,000 for national and international experts, training and equipment, and is set to work closely on the project with other UN partners, including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the UN Institute for Training and Research, and the World Food Programme.