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ACODE Asks Gov't to Fast Track Disaster Management Law

The report notes that there is need for a law to govern disaster risk reduction and management. It says Uganda does not have a national law governing disaster risk reduction and management, and its alignment with international thinking.
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A new report has urged the government to fast-track the Uganda National Disaster Preparedness and Management Act, draft Bill.

The report compiled by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) analyses the performance of District COVID-19 Task forces in Uganda.

As part of the response mechanism to contain and manage the COVID-19 pandemic, the government instituted national and sub-national COVID-19 task forces to implement and manage the COVID-19 pandemic containment and recovery measures.

District Task forces were put in place to support Central Government’s implementation of the Government COVID-19 containment strategies.

Among the key findings of the report however was the fact that in terms of preparedness by DTFs, most districts did not have response plans and budgets in place. Even when most of the districts had a resource mobilization committee in place, they lacked any mechanism or a clear strategy for resource mobilization.

The report says that the measures to respond to COVID-19 seemed to be ad hoc and in districts where the response plans existed, they were not adequately financed.

The report thus notes that there is a need for a law to govern disaster risk reduction and management. It says Uganda does not have a national law governing disaster risk reduction and management, and its alignment with international thinking although a National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management exists.

The report further recommends that the government should make use of the institutional framework established by the National Policy on Disaster Preparedness and Management in its disaster response programs including COVID-19. 

It recommends that structures like the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, National Emergency Coordination and Operations Centre (NECOC), Ministerial Policy Committee, District Disaster Committees, among others should be relied upon to provide disaster mitigation, aversion and management guidance as they are established with the right technical expertise, competencies and capabilities.

The findings in the report showed that there was a lack of coordination of communications sent to the Local Governments from the Central Government Ministries and Agencies. 

The task forces got directives from several fronts including Ministry of Finance, Minister for Presidency, Office of the Prime Minister, UPDF and each entity sent their communication to its representative on the task force.

Additionally, whereas there were such mechanisms in ensuring accountability and transparency within the task forces , many key informants raised concerns about how the resources were used. Most of these concerns rotate around; failure by the task force members to provide accountability for resources received and nepotism in identifying beneficiaries of food items.

A further recommendation made is that the Office of the Prime Minister OPM should ensure that National Disaster Management Policies and Frameworks are prepared and communicated by districts to all stakeholders since they have a direct bearing upon recovery. This will enable awareness creation and preparations against disasters including pandemics like the COVID-19.

The report says there is need to follow the established mechanisms for responding to pandemics and disasters, but the OPM which has the mandate to coordinate and manage disaster preparedness and planning response activities, is currently unable to fulfill its responsibilities as it lacks the full support of all key players, including resources.

The other recommendation includes the need to operationalize the Contingency Fund provided for under Section 26 of the 2015 Public Finance Management Act so that the both the Central Government and the Local Governments are empowered to effectively respond to pandemics, disasters and other and risks adequately.

There is also a need to increase health sector financing for emergencies. Inadequate funding was reported as a major challenge affecting the functioning of the District Task Forces. It was evident that the country was not adequately prepared to handle the pandemic.

The study also revealed that there were reports of human rights violations during the enforcement of the guidelines. This, therefore, calls for sensitization of the police and the military on human rights issues during such operations.

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