As the world makes a significant progress in development through industrialization and modernization, several disasters occur. The increasing populations also put pressure on food production. These issues of the modern era have caused increased demand for water, food, energy and raw materials for industries. The processes of production and consumption in the current world have led to various consequences to the health and ecosystems of the earth (American Red Cross, 2015). As the earth’s population increases, the need for shelter, food, nourishment and mobility increases, causing significant effects on the environment. Economic and industrial processes have caused pressure on the earth through the extraction of raw materials and energy, and disposal of wastes from industries (Government of Kenya, 2009). One of the effects of these activities is climate change. The disasters associated with climate change include droughts, fires, floods, earthquakes, Tsunamis, Hurricanes, etc. In the progress of carrying out these economic and industrial activities, disasters may occur which require people to respond very fast in order to minimize injuries and deaths. It is important for individuals, organisations and institutions to be prepared for any disaster.
Disaster Management and Climate Change
National Policy for Disaster Management in Kenya defines a disaster as a serious disruption of the normal functioning of people or the community leading to widespread losses of resources, human lives, and the environment (Government of Kenya, 2009). Disaster management refers to the systematic process of implementing strategies and policies using administrative power, operational skills, institutional directives, and organisational involvement in order to minimize the negative effects of hazards and disaster. Disaster risk reduction is also another term in the field of risk preparedness which refers to the process of reducing the risks associated with disaster using systematic efforts of analysis and management which involve analysis of factors causing disaster and trying to manage such causes to avoid future impacts (Government of Kenya, 2009). Climate change is the identifiable change of climate caused by natural internal processes or external forces which change the compositions of the atmosphere and land use. Policies on climate change attempt to develop strategies that enhance adaptations to climate change. They attempt to adjust the human activities or natural forces that affect climate. Disaster preparedness and management are therefore essential for the adaptation of the earth to climate change. Countries like Kenya should develop policies of disaster preparedness that will enable the government, organisations and communities to adapt to climate change and enhance sustainable development.
Preparedness and climate change are therefore related because the effects of climate change need preparedness while preparedness enables people to solve overcome the challenges of climate change. Disaster preparedness and climate change also affect sustainable development. Disaster preparedness and management enables people to handle the effects of climate change. This has significant effects on the environment. Creation of a sustainable environment enables people to meet their economic and industrial needs with the least negative effects on the environment, leading to sustainable development for the future generations (American Red Cross, 2015). Countries of the world including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have continually faced an increase in disasters due to increased populations, diversity and frequency of occurrence. Disasters affect communities to the extent that their lives and livelihoods are significantly disrupted such that they are not able to cope with the available resources. Disaster preparedness ensures that there are enough resources for such communities to cope with disasters as they come, and continue normally with their economic, social and political activities in order to enhance sustainable development.
Examples of Disaster Preparedness in Kenya
There are many examples of disaster preparedness activities and organisations which ensure that disasters are managed effectively in order to protect people and the environment from health and environmental hazards that may cause health problems and climate change. When disaster preparedness is handled successfully to minimize the negative effects of disasters, people will remain healthy and fit to perform economic activities effectively in a sustainable environment to achieve sustainable development (Commission on Climate Change and Development, 2008). One of the organisations concerned with disaster preparedness is Red Cross Kenya. The Kenya Red Cross has recently been involved with evacuation activities that save people from disasters such as terrorism, road accidents, fires, floods, etc. The Kenya Red Cross also collects blood from donors as a way of preparing for disasters. They store the donated blood in their blood banks so that they are always ready when accidents or other disasters occur and people lose a lot of blood through injuries. Whenever there are fights which are usually experienced in Kenya due to cattle rustling, the Kenya Red Cross is always the first to arrive at the affected areas to evacuate residents in order to avoid more deaths caused by the fights between neighbouring communities. In the process, they take food, makeshift shelters and clothing to the affected areas in order to give them normal life and avoid hunger and diseases as a result of the disasters affecting them. The Red Cross collects food stuff and money from donors who contribute significantly to disaster management and preparedness.
Role of Communities in Disaster Management
According to the American Red Cross (2015), disasters affect more than 200 million people around the world annually. Support organisations and activities in the community help in promoting disaster preparedness and risk reduction in several ways. First, such organisations work with the local communities in order to understand the risks they face better. They also educate the members of the community about risk reduction and disaster preparedness mechanisms so that people can avoid health and environmental hazards in their localities, utilize their resources efficiently, reduce the impact of climate change, and enhance sustainable development. Another mechanism of enabling preparedness and risk reduction in the community is by identifying the cost-effective systems that can be used to predict and handle threats. Lastly, risk reduction and disaster management requires the development of community action plans including emergency shelters and evacuation strategies to minimize the effects of disasters and risk occurrences. The communities can participate in risk and disaster management by identifying projects that can help in the reduction of risks and disasters, including tree planting, improving drainage systems, building dams to minimize floods, and building strong houses to minimize hazards. These activities not only reduce negative impacts of disasters, but also minimize the effects of climate change and enhance sustainable development because they improve health and environment.
Risk reduction and disaster preparedness requires the participation of the entire community (Nederlandse and Kruis, 2003). Preparedness at homes, schools and the workplace is important to ensure that disaster is minimized in all areas of the community where economic activities take place or people live. Policy issues are also essential in disaster preparedness because they give people the power and mandate to help in the community disaster preparedness activities. Policies regarding environmental protection, climate change and disaster preparedness also ensures that the people involved in disaster management get enough resources to deal with disasters whenever they occur. For example, national policy for disaster management in Kenya is written and implemented by the government through the ministry of State for Special Programmes in the office of the President.
Challenges of Disaster Management in Kenya
Disaster management policies in Kenya and other developing countries are affected by pitfalls which cause lack of preparedness. Some factors such as aridity, poverty, and settlement in flood-prone areas predispose communities and the environment to disasters (Government of Kenya, 2009). Therefore, the government and other responsible bodies should consider such factors when developing the policies to address disaster preparedness. Lack of resources also causes a significant challenge to policy making in relation to disaster preparedness because the above factors can only be addressed by using significant amount of resources. For example, droughts in Northern Kenya cause hunger, deaths and malnutrition among the residents of those areas (Government of Kenya, 2009). To address this challenge, the government needs a lot of resources to implement policies such as irrigation, food supply, and provision of water in order to overcome the disasters caused by lack of rain in those arid lands. These areas also lack sufficient infrastructure needed to distribute food and water to the affected residents. As a result, it becomes even more difficult to enhance disaster preparedness. Lack of human resources and equipment also affects disaster preparedness. The amount of money and human resources allocated to Disaster management in Kenya and other developing countries are less than the actual amount that are realistically needed to manage disasters.
Insufficient information and data also causes negative effects on disaster management and preparedness. Inadequacy of information needed for analysis in disaster management causes poor planning and poor disaster preparedness practices. Without enough information, it is also difficult to monitor and evaluate disaster trends and its effects successfully. This leads to difficulties in terms of forecasting disasters and becoming prepared for them. Communities and institutions also lack the required disaster management capabilities. The communities are not sensitized enough to be able to handle disasters successfully. They therefore depend on the government and non-governmental organisations to cope with any disaster that occurs. This makes the populations even more vulnerable to disasters. Lack of integration and coordination in various sectors of the economy also limits the effectiveness of disaster preparedness and management.
How to Mitigate Disasters in Kenya
Policy makers need to address these pitfalls effectively by engaging local communities, non-governmental organisations and international community to improve the state of disaster preparedness in the country. For example, the Government of Kenya may collaborate with the Kenya Red Cross to supply food and water to areas prone to floods using helicopters due to poor infrastructure. Other long term solutions can also be provided through serious policies such as construction of railways and roads to improve accessibility of those areas.
Apart from drought, northern Kenya also experiences frequent fights among communities exacerbated by cattle rustling and conflicts over resources such as water points and grazing grounds. These fights lead to deaths and injuries. Without effective disaster preparedness policies, people may die for lack of treatment. However, if the government and other stakeholders work together and implement good policies they can be ready to evacuate people easily and take those who have been injured to hospitals and other health facilities (Smith, 1992). For example, the Red Cross frequently airlifts injured people (such as those injured through terrorism in Garissa on 2nd April 2015) to health care centers in Nairobi, Nakuru and other big towns to save the lives of injured people.
One of the major policy issues that need to be addressed is coordination and integration in all sectors of the economy. Governments need to develop an integration strategy to enhance coordination between ministries, NGOs, communities, agencies, businesses, civil society organisations and local communities. All responsive strategies developed by any of these stakeholders needs to be supported and coordinated to enhance consistency in disaster management. Harmony should be promoted within the disaster management departments and across various disaster management groups including the agencies and organisations mentioned above. Disaster management policy initiatives should reflect the government’s commitment to promote integrated strategy that can handle disasters in a more proactive manner, and should focus on risk reduction and minimization of vulnerabilities of local communities.
Effective disaster preparedness is characterized by strategic planning from the government. If the government’s strategic approach to disaster preparedness is effective, then the number of victims affected by disasters can be minimized. Disasters can be avoided if the government ensures that there is an effective coordination and collaboration with the community. For example, a fire fighting vehicle belonging to Nakuru County Government in Kenya was burned by rioting citizens who were dissatisfied with government’s service delivery. If a fire could occur in such areas there could be serious problems because there was no more vehicle and equipment needed to fight fires. In 2009, the number of people who died of fire was more than (120 Government of Kenya, 2009). This shows that fire is a serious disaster in Kenya. Therefore, the government should take care of essential resources and equipment needed to fight fires in all parts of the country.
The government should also collaborate with local communities and create awareness concerning disaster preparedness. In 2009, several people died of fire following an oil tanker accident in Sachangwan, Nakuru County (Government of Kenya, 2009). As the people rushed to fetch oil for their economic commercial purposes, they were caught up in a fire outbreak which burned many to death and injured several others. The people need to understand the risks involved in such issues, so the government should develop a training and awareness programme to educate members of the public about such disasters and how they can prepare themselves for any risk occurrence. In other words, all members of the community should understand the risks involved in any situation. Non-governmental organisations and other agencies may also play a significant role in educating the public about disaster preparedness. However, the government plays a central role in coordinating and integrating all stakeholders to enhance successful education, training and awareness creation in the public.
Policy making should also involve the linkage between disaster preparedness, climate change and sustainable development. Development policy makers should understand the issue of climate change and disaster preparedness in order to develop policies that integrate climate change and disaster management into development strategies. For example, funding arrangements should be coordinated with the triple bottom line – protecting the people, the planet and profits. Development policy makers should also address goals of vulnerability and poverty minimization, adaptation to disasters, and reduction of disaster risks. These policies will ensure that the environment and the people are protected from disasters so that they can work together to improve economic profits and enhance sustainable development. For instance, manufacturing companies should be encouraged to minimize pollution so that the environment becomes sustainable and habitable by all members of the society and animal life. Environmental sustainability ensures that the planet is safe for economic production for the current and future generation so that sustainable development is enhanced.
Disasters and economic development are related because a hazard does not become a disaster without human vulnerability. When a hazard affects a vulnerable group, that group will not be able to carry out their economic activities effectively (Commission on Climate Change and Development, 2008). For example, floods occurring in some areas of Kenya such as Nairobi, Western and Nyanza regions cause delayed travels and people are not able to reach their workplaces on time, causing reduced performance and productivity. Political issues also can also affect policies related to climate change and sustainable development. Political tools and players can be used to create discussions and methods of adaptation to climate change and disasters in order to enhance sustainable development.
Innovation can play a crucial role in enhancing discussions and adaptations to climate change and disaster preparedness. For example, the government may develop an internet platform where people may engage and share ideas and opinions regarding disaster preparedness and risk reduction. This reduces the amount of time and resources needed to create awareness and provide education about disaster preparedness. Vehicles and equipment that use small amount of energy can also be developed in order to decrease the amount of gas emission and environmental pollution. This reduces climate change effects and increases disaster preparedness and sustainable development in the country.
In conclusion, disaster preparedness, climate change and sustainable development are interrelated concepts which can be addressed through effective policies. The government plays a central role in planning and coordinating disaster management and preparedness practices between different stakeholders and departments. Effects of disasters such as hunger, floods, fire, earthquakes, civil conflicts and disease outbreaks can be minimized if people are prepared to handle them. Certain problems such as droughts, poverty and lack of resources can affect the effectiveness of disaster preparedness. However, if the right policies are developed disasters and climate change can be minimized, leading to improved sustainable development.
American Red Cross (2015). Disaster Preparedness. Accessed July 4, 2015 from http://www.redcross.org/what-we-do/international-services/disaster-preparedness.
Commission on Climate Change and Development (2008). Links between Disaster Risk Reduction, Development and Climate Change. Geneva: United Nations.
Government of Kenya (2009). National Policy for Disaster Management in Kenya. Ministry of State for Special Programmes: Nairobi.
Nederlandse, H. and Kruis, R. (2003). Preparedness for Climate Change. The Hague: The Red Cross Climate Center.
Smith, R.D. (1992). Disaster Recovery: Problems and Procedures. IFLA Journal, 18(1), 13-24.
UNESCO (2010). Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development. Paris: UNESCO.