New EU fund aims to help Africa prepare for natural disasters

The European Union has teamed up with African governments to fund local climate research centres and help the continent prepare for natural disasters

Funding for climate monitoring and data collection is on offer from the EU as part of an €88m (£62m) pot over the next five years to implement a programme called Building Disaster Resilience to Natural Hazards in Sub-Saharan African Regions, Countries and Communities.

“Over the last decade, Africa lost about 700,000 lives to natural disasters such as floods and droughts,” said Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, the African Union’s commissioner for rural economy and agriculture. “Addressing this requires predictable financial resources,” she said, adding that the EU programme could help make countries in the region more resilient.

Launched at the third Financing for Development conference in Ethiopia last week, the programme focuses on five priority areas, including climate research and data centres, in which Africa needs to make progress to reduce the impact of natural disasters, say the programme’s developers.

Hartwig Schafer, the World Bank’s vice-president for operations policy and country services, told the conference how countries’ lack of information about impending extreme weather events can put their development back years. For example, in January many people in Malawi saw their farms devastated by floods. Schafer told SciDev that early-warning systems and weather forecasts would help reduce the impact of such disasters.

“If you could make data available across the continent, you’d get better preparations and better response to disasters.”

“It’s clear that the institutional capacity is not there: there is no data, no financing and no monitoring,” said Schafer. “If you could make data available across the continent, you’d get better preparations and better response [to disasters]. But you must spend money on science and technology. We cannot do resilience without research.”

The programme’s other four focuses are: increasing regional coordination and disaster risk reduction monitoring; improving national capacity for disaster preparation; sharing knowledge on disaster risks to improve modelling; and developing better financial strategies to deal with disasters when they strike.

At the conference, the programme’s developers underlined this last point, saying they were keen to get as much national and regional support as possible to ensure countries have money saved for emergencies.

“This is a partnership, but we should not resort to international funding if we can do it nationally,” said Roberto Ridolfi, the director for sustainable growth and development at EuropeAid, the European Commission’s aid administration body.

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Of the programme’s budget, €8m (£5.6m) will come from African countries, with the EU providing €80m (£56m). It is an initiative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, an organisation that aims to reduce poverty and promote peace and sustainable development in 79 member countries.

The programme comes in the wake of the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction, which was agreed in March in Japan. Under this agreement, countries around the world are required to become better prepared for disasters, and there are specific targets on reducing the impact of floods, droughts, storms and earthquakes.

First published by SciDev

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