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Sunday, December 5, 2021

The boon and bane of rains: Are we better prepared this year?

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The first rains of this year’s season have touched the ground and, even though rains are generally believed to be blessings, there is an ugly and disastrous side.

The rainy season in The Gambia, which usually starts in June up to October, is synonymous with disasters. Over the years, thousands of families have been rendered homeless by windstorms and floods which heightened food shortage in the country. 

The alarming increase in the scale and incidence of disasters around the world has been largely attributed to global climate change. Africa like other continents has also experienced its share of disaster, though not on the same scale as countries in Asia. While the scale of disasters in Africa is smaller, the effects on the population is devastating due in large part to the high level of vulnerability in African countries.

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The Gambia is no exception and is also prone to numerous hazardous events that are exacerbated by lack of capacity in implementing disaster risk reduction measures.

Every year when rains start, from floods to windstorms, disaster strikes Gambian homes and livelihoods get destroyed within a blink. The suffering then continues for the whole season, with little or no help to ease their pain.

During last year’s rains, at least 60,000 persons from 3,391 households have been affected by natural disaster in The Gambia, National Disaster Management Agency report showed. The report said 22% of the affected population are internally displaced, 28% are infants, 8% are pregnant and lactating mothers and 3% are differently able.

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The report also said a total of 3,391 households are affected nationwide. 59% of the affected household population is in the western part of the country and the remaining 38% are in the eastern part of the country.  Most households in the Western part of the country are affected by floods and in the eastern part; most households are affected by windstorm.

Here we are again. The rains have started. And despite the excitement it brings to the farming community, those living in slums or in disaster prone areas will soon begin to have sleepless nights. While we commend the NDMA for the efforts to prevent disaster and help victims, we urge them to redouble their efforts as the rains begin dropping.

Within the National Development Plan—the new government’s development blueprint—disaster risk management is identified as one of seven “critical enablers” that will facilitate the achievement of the nation’s strategic priorities.

There is a strong need to promote environmental sustainability, climate resilient communities and appropriate land use. With these plus strengthening emergency and disaster risk reduction and response at all governmental levels, The Gambia will be more prepared and will prevent disasters. May this year’s rains bring boon and not bane to all of us, especially the farming community.

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