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news | October 12, 2010 | Uganda |

Early warning and community based disaster management: ACTED’s answer to changing disaster risks

Communities are increasingly vulnerable to unpredictable weather patterns

ACTED has been operational in Karamoja since 2007, focusing its interventions on reducing communities’ vulnerability to drought. Indeed, although, scientific evidence of climate change in Karamoja is scant, it is undeniable that the population has become less resilient to drought as traditional coping patterns have been eroded by insecurity, inadequate policies and high population growth. Insecurity and demographic change in particular have led to reduced access to and overexploitation of already limited and fragile resources.

Although this year’s rains have brought a much needed respite, the region’s remains extremely vulnerable to droughts as the past years have shown.  Beyond drought response, ACTED is focusing its action in Karamoja on building community and local authorities’ capacity to establish drought preparedness strategies and thus, in fine, reduce the population’s vulnerability to drought when they do occur.  As part of a consortium of European and Ugandan NGOs funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department, ACTED focuses on the establishment of a Karamoja wide Drought Early Warning System (DEWS) and on community based mechanisms for disaster preparedness and management in Nakapiripirit district.

An Early Warning System to determine the appropriate responses 

In order for authorities and communities to be able to adequately manage drought risks in Karamoja, it is essential for them to have access to information on the basis of which decisions can be made. It is with this aim that ACTED, in partnership with the Office of the Prime Minister and district authorities, is setting up a Drought Early Warning System which generates monthly district Drought Bulletins according to a set of key drought and drought vulnerability indicators. These Drought Bulletins allow actors to anticipate drought risks and assess the population’s relative drought vulnerability thus providing a basis on which communities and authorities can take appropriate preparedness and response measures. The DEWS is operated by local authorities while ACTED provides technical support to, over time, improve the system’s reliability, relevance and efficiency.

Community based solutions to manage disaster risks

Although access to relevant information is essential for adequate drought preparedness, it is not sufficient. Communities themselves must prepare and initiate adequate drought risk reduction strategies in a timely way. To achieve this objective, ACTED is building the capacity of communities in Nakapiripirit and Amudat districts to develop community level drought management plans. These plans will provide a road map according to which communities will be able to implement key drought preparedness and response actions. Some of the key components of the community disaster preparedness plans will be: sustainable land and resource use planning (communities will be able to assess their own vulnerability, determine how resources are affected by weather patterns and thus develop relevant initiatives that can reduce the potential negative impact of drought on their lives and livelihoods), livelihood Diversification strategies using the Pastoralist Field School approach, social Services mapping (e.g. animal and human health services) as well as conflict prevention. Indeed, as insecurity and conflict are important causes of the increased vulnerability to drought ACTED will facilitate inter-community meetings between Karimojong and Pokot communities from both Uganda and neighboring Kenya.