Making Cities Resilient - Cape Town is Getting Ready
As the minister responsible for Local Government and Environmental Affairs in the Western Cape Province, I am also responsible for the oversight of the effective implementation of the Disaster Management Act in the Province.
The Disaster Management Act makes it compulsory for the Provincial Government, the five District Municipalities, as well as the City of Cape Town to have Disaster Risk Management Centres.
Each of these centres has an official who serves as the Head of the Disaster Risk Management Centre as well as ensuring the development and implementation of Disaster Risk Management planning in their area of responsibility.
I am proud to confirm that the Western Cape Provincial Government has an excellent track record in this regard.
We launched the Provincial Disaster Management Centre in 2005 and it is located at the Tygerberg Hospital.
Yesterday, we had the opportunity to witness the official launching of the City of Cape Town's Disaster Risk Management Centre.
Since 2005, the Western Cape has had to endure ten declared disasters, which resulted in more than R2.5 billion being provided for in disaster recovery funding.
This has been primarily for the repair of infrastructure due to flooding events.
Other disasters have included several droughts as well as the social conflict disaster that occurred in 2008.
The Western Cape is also very prone to fires in our informal settlements and there is a very high risk of fire in the mountainous areas.
Recent research has confirmed that more than 40% of the natural disaster events in South Africa have occurred in the Western Cape over the past century.
As a testimony to our commitment in the Western Cape in complying with the requirements of the Disaster Management Act (2002) is the fact that the City of Cape Town has been awarded "Role Model City" status by the United Nations.
It is also my privilege to announce that the Overstrand Municipality has been granted "Resilient City Participant" status by the UN.
The National Disaster Management Centre, in collaboration with my department, has both pledged financial and logistical support towards the City of Cape Town in the endeavour to showcase how they have met the criteria to obtain and maintain this prestigious status.
The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction's Secretariat in Geneva has decided to launch the 2010-2011 World Disaster Campaign under the theme "Making Cities Resilient: My City is Getting Ready!".
The overall campaign goal is to achieve resilient, sustainable urban communities, with a growing number of local governments that are taking decisive actions to reduce and mitigate against the risk of disasters.
This UN "Making Cities Resilient" campaign also incorporates the previous year's campaign recommendations for safer schools and hospitals. This year, on Thursday the 13 October 2011, we will again celebrate the "International Disaster Risk Reduction" Day.
It will be preceded by the National Government launching its National "Resilient City" Campaign tomorrow in the Council Chambers of the City of Cape Town.
It will be a seminar where the City of Cape Town will have the opportunity to showcase exactly how it is meeting the UN essentials that contribute towards resilience.
This collaboration again demonstrates and bears testimony to how the National Disaster Management Centre supports and acknowledges the progress of the Disaster Risk Reduction programmes that the City of Cape Town as well as the Western Cape Province has implemented thus far.
In obtaining the "Role Model" status, the City of Cape Town has met eight out of the ten essentials, as listed by the UN as criteria to qualify for the award (municipalities have to comply with only five essentials to qualify for "Resilient City" status).
One of those essentials is "Essential 7", which focuses on the need to ensure that education programmes and training on disaster risk reduction are in place in schools and local communities.
This has over the past few years been a very high priority for the City of Cape Town, District Disaster Management Centres as well as the Provincial Government.
Two such examples of the progress in this regard as follows.
The City of Cape Town's Disaster Risk Management Centre contracted an industrial theatre company to convey key messages regarding climate change and how to reduce one's impact on the environment.
The programme engages schools in an interactive and hands-on learning experience, which provides for real life risk assessments by school age learners and positive behavioural changes in their families' daily lives.
During the 2010/2011 financial year, the Provincial Disaster Management Centre had its own extensive campaign in the rural areas of the Western Cape, where 52 theatre shows were conducted in schools and communities that educated and created awareness on how to deal with fires and floods. Approximately 15 000 people were reached in the province. A truly fantastic achievement.
Public awareness in disaster risk reduction is and continues to be one of the most effective disaster risk reduction enhancing measures.
It enables "at risk" communities to prepare themselves to overcome the consequences from prevalent disaster risks, prepare actions and requirements for responses to warnings and support recovery operations.
It has been internationally recognised that this especially applies to school children and students.
Our combined efforts in this regard are reflected in Section 15 of the Disaster Management Act and state: "disaster risk management capacity building, training and education must be promoted throughout the Republic, including schools".
In the National Disaster Management Framework, it states that "Disaster Risk Reduction education must be integrated in primary and secondary schools curricula".
Schools should be regarded as focal points for raising awareness about disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction. By introducing and piloting this toolkit, and by continuing with awareness campaigns in schools, we are one step closer towards such integration.
The Western Cape Provincial Government has through its support of the "Resilient City" campaign continued its ongoing commitment with regard to disaster risk reduction activities in schools.
These are, however, only the initial stages of this process, and the pilot toolkit programme that three of our selected schools are going to receive will be closely evaluated during the 2012 school year in order to fully determine the extent of its impact.
The schools that have been chosen to receive the Basic Education Toolkit are:
Observatory Junior - City of Cape Town
Helderkruin Primary - City of Cape Town
Hawston Primary - Overstrand Municipality
These schools were chosen primarily for their demonstrated commitment to educating their learners about climate change, smart and sustainable living, energy saving, emergency planning in the form of exercises that test their readiness and setting up school safety committees.
In closing, it's important for me to mention that the Disaster Management Act is enabling legislation and that each sector department has to take responsibility for disaster risk reduction in its own area of responsibility.
An example of this was the recent outbreak of animal diseases, which was coordinated by the Provincial Department of Agriculture as one of its disaster hazards, as well as communicable diseases, which in turn was dealt with by the Department of Health.
The same principle should be followed by other sector departments regarding their line function responsibility towards disaster risk reduction.
Remember that "Disaster Management is every one's business". Let's take joint ownership of this challenge and make our province a safer place for all our communities and schools.