The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in Uganda organized and engaged Makerere University School of Public Health ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) to host the Uganda Resilience Dialogue 2015 on Thursday November 26, 2015 at Protea Hotel, Kampala Uganda. This half day (9:00 am to 1:00 pm EAT ) dialogue, first of its kind brought together various high level policy makers from Government bodies, United Nations Agencies, Donors, Bilateral organizations and Community Service organizations (CSOs). These included; Food and Agriculture Organization, European Union, Kampala Capital City Authority, Ministry of Local Government in Uganda, NEMA, UN Women, Ministry of Health in Uganda, Ministry of Health, International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Ministry of Local Government, World Vision, Save the Children among others. Dr. Roy William Mayega, RAN Deputy Chief of Party moderated the dialogue on behalf of United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Prof. William Bazeyo, Dean MakSPH. RAN CoP and Lab Director sharing experiences during the Uganda Resilience Dialogue

Prof. William Bazeyo, Dean MakSPH. RAN CoP and Lab Director sharing experiences during the Uganda Resilience Dialogue

Mr. Martin Owor, Commissioner in the OPM was the convener of the dialogue and in his opening remarks he noted that what had brought all the dialogue participants together was the dire need to reduce vulnerability to community disasters. That the key Priority is Agriculture which is most affected by climate change, natural disasters and infrastructure coupled with exploitation of minerals-oil and Gas. He also noted that all stakeholders have a different understanding of resilience and we were all correct, but the key question remained how we coordinate all our understandings to build or strengthen resilience. There are always big losses after disasters and thus the need to quickly get into action because the impact on human beings and investment is reducing compared to the impact in 1997. Awareness is high and thus happy to note that we are getting somewhere now. Once we mention Elnino, then people will run for their lives, the community sensitization exercises has yielded fruits and we are grateful to Uganda Communications Commission among other partners who have consistently shared related and impactful messages over the radio. However, if we have done very well and minimized the damage and losses, “how do we measure the efforts and performance of the resilience makers? How do we nurture the leave of the resilience tree to keep them on the tree, fresh and healthy looking”?

At the dialogue, Ms. Sharan Rusu, UNISDR Nairobi, Head Regional Office for Africa delivered a key note presentation. The note was on resilience in the context of the 2030 Development Agenda (including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Sendai Framework). In her presentation, she emphasized the need for people to know what their roles are now, inclusiveness of the resilience strengthening process which evolves with time and knowledge. That for us to achieve sustainable development, peace, security and a strengthened disaster risk reduction framework and policy were key and the local communities need to be given the opportunity to fight and conquer the disasters. Development partners need to understand and appreciate communities’ adaptive capacities and transformative capacities in order to build on the existing. She added that “Prevention, reduction, hazard exposure, vulnerability will culminate into resilience. Development that does not take risks is not sustainable and can neither be sustained, risk informs development.

A brief from the discussions

It was strengthening to note that mortality as a result of disaster had gone down although extensive risk was still on the rise. Participants re-echoed the prime responsiveness of the state which had gone to the lower community levels to effectively engage the communities in strengthening resilience. It was therefore important that the communities too were brought and encouraged to actively participate in such meetings so that they can share about what is happening but also propose solutions real time. It was also noted that 43% of Ugandans would regress to poverty as a result of disasters if we do not strengthen resilience. We need to work towards fighting environmental degradation but most importantly, leadership is paramount in taking us through building/strengthening resilience. The dialogue participants further deliberated around the importance of educating the communities about knowing their risks, what is the risk in your area of operation or residence and encourage/teach them to focus on that. Mend and work on how you mitigate that particular disaster and a lot would be achieved.

The dialogue aided better understanding about how we can come together as development partners to understand and address resilience. It is also in this meeting that the concern about how we can make others appreciate our efforts was addressed given the fact that a lot has been done and now we anticipate a situation when a disaster passes without much impact. This being the first of its kind, the dialogue is anticipated to be convened annually to track progress towards strengthening/building resilience in the communities.

Key take home messages included the following;

  • Know your risk and focus on that
  • Need for coordination to know where the main disasters take place since the government had zoned out risk prone areas to ease response
  • Can the development partners working closely with Governments ensure that we build the capacity of community committees to detect, mitigate and respond to disasters?
  • Knowledge in relation to resilience building/strengthening exists, could we build on the existing other than re-inventing the wheel?
  • We all need to support the locally developed technologies including the community driven innovations to strengthen resilience
  • Ensure and promote flexible funding that is adaptable to situations
  • As we go through the Elnino season in Uganda, how do we pick out the key lessons moving forward? These would inform future planning and response.
  • How do we quantify our capabilities to respond to disasters and strengthen resilience?
  • Where these disasters happen, how can we ensure knowledge transfer so that we learn from the communities affected?
  • Behavior change in the communities we are dealing with is paramount
  • Packaging of the messages to the target audience is important to critically look at
  • There is dire need to develop and put into use an excellent Communications Strategy to effectively communicate resilience issues
  • Let us all learn from what we have done well so far and rally the public to the same
Participants at the Uganda Resilience Dialogue 2015-2

Participants at the Uganda Resilience Dialogue 2015