Evaluation of disaster risk reduction initiatives at eThekwini Municipality’s Disaster Management Unit.
Mabaso, Nompumelelo Theodorah.
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In recent times eThekwini Municipality has experienced various kinds of disasters such as storms, fires and floods or heavy rains. This exposes communities’ especially vulnerable communities to extreme risks including death, loss of property, loss of income and environmental degradation. Policy-makers, disaster management experts, specialists or practitioners, authorities, societies and other relevant partners in the disaster management field under these circumstances need to take precautionary and responsive measures to protect, prevent, detect, mitigate and minimize the threat of disasters to its communities and people and its surroundings. The locus for the study was to determine, appraise and evaluate the Disaster Risk Reduction initiatives, approaches and methods that are employed at eThekwini Municipality. It was conducted within the Disaster Management Department, which assisted the researcher to evaluate the skill and capacity of the Unit and its partners to respond to emergencies, and curb and reduce hazards. The research used a qualitative approach in the form of face-to-face interviews as the primary data collection instrument as well as analysis of documents and articles as secondary data. Probability and non-probability sampling was done by means of expert and purposive sampling. Although the study targeted fifteen participants, the number of the final sample constituted eleven interviewees. These were made up of five eThekwini Municipality Disaster Management officials, two donor agencies and four councillors. Therefore, sampling was based on their seniority, expertise, knowledgeability and political exposure in the field under study. These instruments gave the researcher an understanding of the study and allowed triangulation of the outcomes with the key questions and objectives. The findings revealed that there are several DRR strategies and actions currently employed by the Municipality’s Disaster Management Unit such as the utilisation of a fully-fledged ‘state-of-the-art’ operational centre; ward-based volunteer programmes, public awareness, education and training, compliance with planning regulations and early warning systems (EWS). These also include the use of science and technology initiatives. Moreover there is a need for more DRR strategies and for early warnings to meaningfully reduce the susceptibility of societies to risks. The study revealed that there are a few notable challenges with some of these programmes, particularly where divergence in opinions exist between the Municipality and other stakeholders, especially in respect of prevention and response. It emerged from the study that: There is a need for the improvement, strengthening and activation of the existing EMDMU volunteer programme across the eThekwini Municipal area; More funding should be allocated for financing and filling of the 84 vacant posts as an urgent matter for the effective and efficiency delivery of disaster risk reduction strategies; Collaboration of relevant departments should be intensified and the interdepartmental committee should consider permanent solutions that reduce the level of disaster and vulnerability; and Science and technology and the utilisation of experts and professionals would assist in the creation of other mitigation.