Beira city – First steps towards improved disaster prevention

In August 2012, an early flood warning project in the city of Beira, Mozambique, was honoured as the winner of our RISK Award. The technical basis of the system are small sensors floating in a tube and covered with a metal coating. They trip a switch when waters rise and thus sound the alarm.

It was important to integrate the local authorities during project implementation so that an awareness of project responsibility was created at community level from the very beginning. The winners of the RISK Award went into action immediately after receiving the award. Just six months later, the project was able to surpass pivotal milestones. The flooding risk in the poor districts of Beira has now been reduced with simple but effective measures.

Integrating regional decision makers
At the start, the project team informed the city council of Beira and the National Institute for Disaster Management of Mozambique (INGC) about its goals and procedure plans. Success can only be secured in the long term if local authorities and political decision makers are integrated. At joint coordination meetings, project planning was pushed ahead step for step. All the partners, including the people living in the flood risk zones, were given the opportunity of tailoring procedures to the local conditions.

Disaster prevention in Beira – taking stock of the situation
Back in 2010 and 2011 already, aid resources and equipment in the form of so-called emergency kits had been distributed to local committees. Among other things, these kits contain tools, torches, megaphones, two-way radio sets and other material that is important for an evacuation. Functional tools in good working order can quickly mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. In the slums of Chipangara and Chota, the two project areas, the project leaders took exact stock of the situation at hand to identify which components and communication media for efficient disaster management were lacking and therefore still needed to be organised.

Raising the awareness of the local water committees
The INGC is currently working at establishing local water committees as strategic units throughout the country. Some of these committees (Task Forces) exist in Beira already. In the course of the project, the volunteers have been able to deepen their knowledge, further practise activities have been planned and existing action plans revised. During field inspections, the project team and local sponsors defined evacuation paths and checked the accessibility of places in which people could take refuge. All active participants were instructed on the technical elements of the early warning system and were able to refresh existing knowledge.

Practice drills in Beira in October
On 20 October 2012, a comprehensive disaster simulation was conducted with the participation of the entire city. Six of the local disaster prevention committees contributed by steering the processes. The municipal emergency centre and 30 further institutes relevant to a real emergency situation were involved. Schools and radio stations also took part. On the whole, more than 500 people participated in the drill. Evacuation routines were practised and the functionality of the emergency kits was tested for the real case. Because of the detailed and intensive drills, people were able to easily commit the processes they had learned to memory. In a real emergency situation, these automated routines are intended help save life and allow objects of value to be brought to safety.

We are pleased to have been able to contribute to improved disaster management in the city of Beira together with our RISK Award partners, the UN Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and the Global Risk Forum Davos (GRF). The first steps of the project taken so far are very promising.

CB, 18 December 2012

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RISK Award 2012

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RISK Award 2012 awardees

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