Authorities inspect rubble at a collapsed building in Dakar (Photo: DPC)
By Awa Diedhiou
DAKAR, 19 September 2016 - The government of Senegal is harnessing cutting-edge information and communications technology to manage and reduce disaster risk, with the aim of curbing deaths and economic losses caused by natural and man-made hazards in the West African nation.
The “civil protection and new information technologies” initiative was launched earlier this year by the Director of Senegal’s Civil Protection Department (DPC), Mr. Abdoulaye Noba .
Senegal is vulnerable to a multitude of hazards including floods, drought, land degradation, locust infestation, landslides and fires as well as rising sea levels, which are predicted to increase by one meter towards the end of the century.
Under the initiative, the government established an inter-ministerial operational crisis management center (COGIC) to help anticipate and provide appropriate responses to disasters, which claim hundreds of lives in Senegal each year. The center, currently under construction in the capital Dakar, is part of wider modernization of the country’s disaster risk management.
“The center is one of the major disaster risk reduction innovations planned. It will enable Senegal to have a modern and effective civil protection system. The DPC and the national fire brigade will use the center to increase their capacity to prevent, anticipate and monitor disaster risks in order to strengthen their preparedness and response in the event of a disaster,” said Mr. Noba.
The center will be equipped according to international standards with facilities such as a video surveillance system of risk areas and a national multi-hazard early warning system. The initiative is in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted by the international community last year, which prioritizes enhanced disaster preparedness for effective response and investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience.
Disasters in Senegal killed 609 people and affected the lives of another 21,503 persons in 2015. They spanned fires, traffic accidents, collapsed buildings, landslides and swimming accidents, as well as lightning strikes and industrial disasters.
The 2016 annual report of the DPC indicates that in 2015 alone there were 372 derelict buildings in Dakar municipality. Over 2,000 fire incidents and 80 collapsed buildings were reported in the regions of Dakar, Thies, Diourbel, Kaolack, Fatick, Kafrine, Ziguinchor, Saint-Louis, Louga, Matam, Tambacounda and Kédougou. Eighty buildings collapsed in the same regions in 2015.
The report disclosed that established standards of safety and construction set by authorities were not met during construction, notably due to the use of below-par materials, thus placing inhabitants at risk. The use of architects during construction is very rare and construction materials may be unable to withstand heavy rains.
Inadequate and poor distribution of fire extinguishers, lack of qualified personnel to use emergency equipment, lack of alarm systems and absence of signage indicating the presence of dangerous and harmful products were the main cause of industrial fires and disasters.
Reducing mortality is the theme of this year’s edition of International Day for Disaster Reduction on 13 October. The aim is to encourage implementation of the Sendai Framework, which sees natural and man-made hazards as part of a whole picture of risk.
Priority 4 of the Sendai Framework specifically seeks to enhance disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. This recovery phase of a disaster is a critical opportunity to build back better, including through integrating disaster risk reduction into development measures.
UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient campaign supports cities and local governments to reduce risk and become resilient to disasters. Local governments in Senegal that are among the more than 3,000 members of the campaign include Dakar, Dalifort-Foirail, Medina Counass, Nioro Du Rip, Touga and Saint Louis, which is a role model in the campaign.
Dakar is also a member of the 100 Resilient Cities project, spearheaded by The Rockefeller Foundation and dedicated to helping cities around the world to become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st Century. The Senegalese capital is plagued by poor planning oversight and management, rapid urbanization, and inadequate public services and facilities such as frequent water shortages and energy disruptions.