Rwanda’s disaster profile is dominated by events such as famine, droughts,landslides, traffic accidents, diseases and epidemics which disrupt people’s lives and livelihoods, destroy the infrastructure and interrupt economic activities and retard development.
Recurrent drought incidents over the past decade, between 1998 and 2000 and annually from 2002 to 2005, have caused crop failure and severe food deficits, threatening the most vulnerable with malnutrition and famine.
Drought has an adverse impact on other key sectors. Currently, the government has begun supplying food aid in areas where residents have been adversely affected by prolonged drought.
In the face of climate change, humanitarian needs and the scope of food crises are set to expand in the coming months. This is because after the prolonged drought, come the risk of heavy rains that may be catastrophic.
However, the capacity to respond effectively remains limited as the lead government agency for coordination response – the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs remains under- resourced.
For example, while food aid has been made available to families facing the immediate risk of starvation, it is not sufficient.
As the rainy season begins, there should be sufficient assistance for unexpected and urgent food needs should the country experience flooding.
There is a need to ensure that the existing food aid program is reformed to flexibly respond to hunger needs around the country, reaching more people with more efficient programming.
Reform will enable robust emergency and development programmewithin current budget constraints.
Rather than limit food aid to commodities-only approach, it is important to explore other means or tools that can help to efficiently meet the needs of hungry and vulnerable people.
But perhaps more importantly, there is a need to strengthen disaster risk management in order to preserve life and to minimise suffering by providing sufficient and timely early warning and relevant information to the population on hazards that may result in disasters.
For some reason, a lot of awareness and warnings are issued during the rain reason but not the dry season yet both severely disrupt livelihoods.
While floods are common and have increased in frequency over the past decade, we are yet to see a more co-ordinated response.
Therefore, as the government provides food aid for vulnerable families affected by the prolonged drought, it is important that greater attention is paid to addressing the effectiveness of disaster management since the risks are increasing due to climate change.
The ultimate goal of disaster management should be to effectively alleviate suffering by providing timely and appropriate responses to populations affected by disaster.