With leading scientists predicting unstable weather patterns triggered by climate change and the increase in disasters in the world, the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) says it is not organizationally ready for a major disaster like an earthquake

The Agency reasons that among many reasons they are not ready is that earthquakes are rare on this side of the globe. However the organization claims to have all the infrastructure necessary to respond, timely too, to national disasters.

The Agency is mandated by the 2006 Disaster Management Act of Swaziland to lead, coordinate and manage a comprehensive and lead, and manage a comprehensive and systematic disaster risk management function of the country through mainstreaming of Disaster Risk.

The organization has operated below the radar and most of its work is underreported yet the country, like others in the continent, stands at the precipice of dangerous natural disasters caused by global warming. With the recent deaths in various parts of the continent caused by floods, earthquakes or even Tsunamis Africa has not been short of stories of the dangers caused by Mother Nature.

The worst disaster was recently witnessed in the recent floods in Libya which has wiped off the map a quarter of Derna city's neighbourhoods. We caught up with Wandile Mavuso, the Communications Manager for the NDMA to ask a few important questions.

The Bridge (TB): How much is budgeted for disaster relief in the country and what are the priority areas that are largely spent on? Wandile Mavuso (WM): The government through the Ministry of Finance normally budgets about E120 million as contingency for disaster management. The funds however are not transferred or made available to NDMA, or the DPMO until a National Emergency or disaster is declared. If no emergency is declared, the funds are either returned to the consolidated fund or reallocated for other uses.

Wandile Mavuso, the NDMA Communications Manager

TB: How prepared is the institution for major disasters?

WM: The country’s preparedness for major disasters from drought hazards is high. This is because of the experience gathered from the previous droughts especially in 2015/2016. The country has also put in place institutional frameworks for coordination of disaster risk management. The capacity to manage disaster risk has also increased in the past five years due to the increased capacity of the National Disaster Management Agency and Other DRR stakeholders. For example, The National Early Warning System has improved, the National Emergency Operations Centre was established, NDMA has Offices in all four Regions and is part of the Regional Development Teams led by the Regional Administrators.

TB: What are the institutional frameworks, financial viability and organisational capacity that can be equal to the task.

WM: There are policies that have been developed to address drought hazards. These are the National Drought Management Plan prepared jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture and NDMA. The NDMA is presently developing A national drought policy in collaboration with the DPMO, ESWSC and The World Bank. The National Water Management Policy was developed around 2018/19 and has drought management streamlined across the policy which strengthens preparedness.

TB: What if we were to be hit by a major disaster like an earthquake are you ready?

WM: Regarding earthquakes, the country is less prepared. This is because Earthquakes are not common in Eswatini and generally Southern Africa. There is a system in place to detect seismic movements which acts as part of Eswatini Early warning and would ensure responsiveness in the event an earthquake occurs. However, the country is not adequately prepared for the response with adequate equipment and training needed for this kind of hazard.

TB: Where are the bottlenecks?

WM: The major setback factor is that funds are not released for preventive activities but for response. The country is oriented towards crisis management rather than prevention. NDMA and the Ministry of Finance are currently working on developing a disaster risk Financing strategy which will ultimately result in the establishment of a disaster risk management fund. Once the fund is established, it should ensure timely release of funds during emergencies.