In response to the 1994 Yokohama conference on Natural Disaster Reduction which mandated every country to establish a permanent disaster management organisation, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) of Ghana was established in 1996 by an Act of Parliament, Act 517.

It was and still is mandated by law to “manage disasters and similar emergencies” in the country by “coordinating the resources of government institutions and nongovernmental agencies, and developing the capacity of communities to respond effectively to disasters and improve their livelihood through social mobilisation, employment generation and poverty reduction projects”.

NADMO coordinates all the relevant civil authorities at the national, regional and district levels. It functions under a National Secretariat, 10 Regional Secretariats, 216 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Secretariats and over 900 zonal offices throughout the country.   

Information available on the organisation’s website indicates that, since 1997 till date, it had had to tackle major disasters and emergency situations. Some of the disasters include the outbreak of cerebrospinal meningitis in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions which claimed 1,356 lives; the 1999 Northern floods which swept through the three regions as well as the northern parts of Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions affected over 300 thousand persons.

Also, the 2007 Northern floods which killed over 50 people, collapsed over 30 thousand houses and nearly 200 thousand metric tonnes of food crops destroyed according to the UNDP. Nearly 500 thousand people were severely affected by the flood caused by a heavy downpour and spillage of excess water from the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso. Moreover, a 2015 flood and fire disaster in Accra killed about 200 people and affected over 50 thousand residents. The cost of the flood was estimated at 55 million United States dollars.

Currently, NADMO has about seven thousand personnel across the country. But sadly, as enormous as its responsibilities are, NADMO has just a handful of logistics to work with. Besides, annual budgetary allocation to the organisation is inadequate, hence the frequent appeal to nongovernmental organisations for support to enable it address disasters and emergency situations.

During his recent tour of the Northern Region to assess a flood disaster that had occurred in parts of Tamale and the Sagnarigu Districts, the NADMO Director General, Eric Nana Agyemang-Prempeh lamented over the lack of vehicles for his staff to enable them respond in real time to disaster and emergency situations.

He was of the view that, if the organisation was “well-resourced”, personnel would be in a much better position to prevent most of the disasters that occur, often leading to needless loss of lives and property.

From its National headquarters in Accra to the Northern parts of the country, not a single office has an official vehicle, and even if there are vehicles, they are not road worthy. Basic accoutrement like wellington boots, cutlasses, rain coats and other protective gear are hard to come by in the nation’s disaster management body.

There are also reports of inadequate office spaces, office furniture, dilapidated office structures some of which are homes to reptile and insects among others.

NADMO is charged with the responsibility of managing hazards and disasters such as hydro meteorological disasters, pest and insect infestation disasters, geological/nuclear radiological disasters, fires and lightning disasters, disease epidemics disasters and man-made disasters.

Sadly, more than 80% of the organisation’s staff, from the national to the district level, have no training in disaster management.

“……. I can tell you more than 80% of staff have no training on disaster management. That is absurd and that accounts for so many complaints about our effectiveness and efficiency.

“We equally lack logistics, insufficient budgetary allocation for in-house administration and of course late approvals for the purchase of relief items,” a March 18, 2017 news report by myjoyonline.com quoted the immediate past Director General of NADMO Brigadier General Francis Vib-Sanziri.

According to Nana Agyemang-Prempeh, the last time NADMO was given vehicles was during the second term of office of the administration of President John Agyekum Kufour; about a decade ago. If this assertion by the NADMO Boss is anything to go by, then it behoves on the current administration of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to act immediately and do whatever is possible to look for resources for the organisation to enable it run effectively and efficiently.

From my point of view as a health and disaster management advocate, NADMO is currently in dire need of assistance more than even victims of the recent flood and armyworm disasters in many parts of the country. Per the reports available to me, NADMO urgently needs training for majority of its staff, four-wheel drive vehicles for at least more than half of its offices across the country as well as relief items for certain persons (women, children, aged and other vulnerable groups) currently affected by disasters and those likely to be affected again in most parts of Northern Ghana following the spillage of the Bagre Dam in the coming weeks.

As a show of its readiness and preparedness, NADMO, the 48 Engineers Regiment of the Ghana Armed Forces as well as other non-state organisations, has started pitching camp at Walewale in the Northern Region. This is to enable personnel of these organisations to take critical decisions including assessment of the ground and education of potential victims of the looming Bagre Dam spillage flood.

On behalf of Nurses Without Borders Ghana and on my own behalf, I wish to urge residents of Northern Ghana who are mostly going to be severely affected by the spillage of the Bagre Dam to immediately seek refuge on higher grounds in order to safeguard their lives first. They should heed to the advice of NADMO personnel on the ground and desist from taking such vital pieces of advice for granted.

Author: Joseph Ziem

The Author is a Journalist and the Executive Director of health NGO, Nurses Without Borders Ghana, based in Tamale. He can be reached via [email protected] or +233 (0) 553597289.

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