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FEATURE STORY

Senegal Makes Disaster Preparedness a Priority

September 12, 2012

Poor communities in Senegal's capital city Dakar fare the worst when natural disasters hit because of their location in flood prone zones.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Senegal is vulnerable to disasters including flooding, drought, land degradation, rising sea levels and locust infestation
  • In 2009, floods caused more than US$103 million in damages and losses in and around Dakar
  • A US$1.1 million World Bank-financed project will support the country’s disaster risk reduction plans

DAKAR, September 12, 2012—The Senegalese Civil Protection Agency is placing disaster risk management and preparedness at the forefront of its fight against the continuing negative socio-economic impacts that ordinary people experience from natural and man-made disasters.

Rather than simply react to each disaster as it occurs, the agency has decided to create a culture of proactive preparedness. With support from the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) in July, the Senegalese Government officially launched the US$1.1 million Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation project. The project complements the recently signed US$55.5 million World Bank International Development Association credit agreement with Senegal for storm water drainage in the Dakar’s suburban neighborhoods.

 “The world is, and will continue to be, marked by climate change, rapid population growth, uncontrolled urbanization and uncontrolled development of human and industrial activities,” said H.E. Mbaye Ndiaye, Minister of the Interior, speaking at the project’s opening ceremony. “Disasters are therefore likely to be more and more frequent and their occurrence causes immeasurable damage to the economy, social welfare, sanitation, education and the human condition.”

The West African nation is vulnerable to a multitude of natural and man-made disasters including flooding, drought, land degradation, rising sea levels (predicted to rise by one meter toward the end of the century) and locust infestation. Flooding in particular is a major concern in the country and with a long coastline, it is the most serious natural hazard Senegal faces. Urban areas in and around the capital Dakar and other major cities are most at risk.  An assessment of post-disaster needs conducted in 2009 for floods indicated that more than US$100 million in damage and losses had occurred, mostly in and around Dakar.

The threat of flooding in Dakar has worsened for a number of reasons. In the 1970s and 1980s, rapid urbanization occurred in the suburbs because of drought. Combined with a rural exodus that created informal settlements in flood prone areas as well as a high demand for buildings and roads, the city’s drainage system was compromised.

Annual flooding in the city affects the poorest city residents the most because of their tendency to live in low-lying, unplanned areas that suffer from a lack of basic services. In 2009 alone, floods in the outskirts of Dakar affected an estimated 360,000 people and caused damage and losses estimated at US$103 million.

City authorities report major losses in infrastructure and public and private property every rainy season. The stagnant water left by floods also brings health problems such as malaria or cholera.

 “By committing to support Senegal in dealing with these complex phenomena, you demonstrate to its appreciation, an understanding that disaster risk management is not only a humanitarian issue, as often it is perceived, but a development one,” the Minister added, addressing the development community.

The project’s first phase will last approximately two years and focus on strengthening the capacity of the Civil Protection Agency by supporting its disaster risk reduction efforts. By the end of the first phase, the Government is expected to have launched a roadmap for disaster risk management and will have set up coordination mechanisms for early warning, preparedness and response. In addition, a state-of-the-art Civil Protection Agency headquarter building will be constructed adding to the modernized infrastructure.

Phase two of the project will consolidate the country capacity to manage risk through the development of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools, a functioning early warning system, implementation of a risk awareness campaign, strengthening of a DRM financing mechanism and support to the National Strategy for the Protection of Coastal zones.

“The project will complement existing Governmental efforts and World Bank policy which offers operational support for disaster risk management,” said Doekle Wielinga, Disaster Management coordinator in the Bank’s Africa Region. “We are delighted that the project will contribute to the implementation of the National Program for Disaster Risk Reduction and to the development of national capacities for Senegal, help reduce losses and improve poor people’s lives.”