State House, Freetown, Thursday 19 November 2020 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has launched the National Disaster Management Agency, NDMA, and expressed hope that the agency will use science, innovation and data to predict, anticipate, plan for, and report on the full disaster management cycle.
“I have already identified new technologies that can be used to great effect. I am also challenging this agency to work with the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation to develop a robust, Sierra Leone made disaster management digital system.
“I also believe that mitigation and climate change resilience must be done in close collaboration with communities. Communities must have a vested interest in and must participate in dialogues on disaster preparedness and management. Youth and women must be accorded a central role in your work. Close collaboration with local government and the private sector will be particularly useful to your work. So I expect you to develop strategies and structure well-defined and sustainable relationships,” he said.
He noted that the UN Resident Coordinator and World Bank Representative have suggested opportunities for global partnerships, adding that he expected the agency to leverage bilateral and multilateral cooperation in that area.
“Innovative partnerships with other disaster management agencies are possible. As a country, I also believe that we can identify innovative ways of funding disaster management that will be less onerous on our limited budget. I expect this agency to develop those forward-looking and effective policies and also guide the Government on how to plan investments in disaster management,” the President said.
In his welcome address earlier, Chief Minister Prof. David John Francis, credited for the establishment of the agency, said the occasion was in fulfillment of commitments in the New Direction manifesto to set up the agency and in the Medium-Term National Development Plan, with cluster 7 addressing vulnerabilities and building resilience.
“First, the Office of National Security (ONS) has an existing Directorate for Disaster Management, so the new National Disaster Management Agency will hit the ground running because ONS will provide the institutional home for core expertise to help the operationalisation of the Agency.
“Second, we have indication of committed and enthusiastic bilateral and multilateral donors who are on standby, I understand, to support the operationalisation of the Agency,” he said.
World Bank Country Manager, Gayle Martin, said the role of any disaster management agency was multi-disciplinary and cross-cutting in nature, adding that it was, therefore, relevant to all sectors of the economy.
“Managing disaster risk requires a high level of coordination and convening power to work across a variety of stakeholders and sectors. The NDMA, therefore, requires the authority and ability to activate, or cause to activate, national emergency measures at the time of a disaster. It is also required to convene MDAs across sectors at the highest level— both during times of emergency, as well as in disaster prevention and preparedness.
“In the roll-out of the NDMA we are supporting the government to develop two key timely activities: Firstly, the National Disaster Risk Management Policy is being updated to reflect new institutional arrangements and realities on the ground. Secondly, an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan will be developed to ensure operational procedures and standards are in place in advance of future disasters,” she said.
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr. Babatunde Ahonsi, said the Sierra Leone office was ready to build the capacities and capabilities of the agency to rapidly and robustly respond to disasters, build skills in information management, coordination, operational readiness and response.
“The 2017 landslide response was a testimony of the strong partnership between Government and the United Nations and we look forward to continued partnerships with the National Disaster Management Agency and the Office of National Security,” he said.
Director-General of the National Disaster Management Agency, Lt. General (Rtd.) Brima Bureh Sesay, said their approach would be scientific, especially in the development of assessment tools, risk identification, analysis, indexing and interpretation, hazard mapping, vulnerability and capacity assessment, coordination, building knowledge.
“The Agency will strive towards accomplishing various targets and indicators encapsulated in the Sendai Framework agreed by the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction, ensure implementation of the African strategy for disaster risk reduction and work towards effective enforcement of the National Disaster Management Act 2020,” he assured.