How to prevent preventable disasters

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On Monday, a fire outbreak ravaged the Basse central market leaving a trail of destruction. Some people estimate that millions of dalasis worth of goods were destroyed and many shops were gutted.

These types of disasters are almost becoming a daily occurrence with markets, homes and even government ministries engulfed in flames. Not long ago, a gas explosion in the Kanifing Industrial Area caused untold damage and incinerated a hundred motor vehicles.

In addition to the fire, floods and other natural disasters have caused loss of lives and destruction of properties in the country. Economically, the country loses a lot of resources when disasters like these happen. Accidents will always happen but some of these disasters are preventable if we pay heed to basic health and safety requirements.

It is high time that the Government of The Gambia came up with a comprehensive plan to mitigate these disasters. It is true that the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) is doing a good job but the emphasis must remain on prevention rather than providing relief after the disaster struck. Emphasis must be placed on being proactive instead of being reactive.

The NDMA should ensure that this is factored in its national strategies. The government must also ensure that a robust dedicated department or agency on health and safety is set up and well-resourced and modelled along the lines of the Food Safety & Quality Authority.

The simple term “disaster management” should be viewed holistically to cover a whole bunch of disaster-related activities. Some people think it just as a means of helping people after the disaster. However, disaster management is beyond the post-disaster activities. It not only covers the post-disaster activities but is also linked to the pre-disaster activities.