Change is Possible

Local people must be engaged and listened to in order to reduce or avoid disasters that are man-made.  Let me share what I mean with an example. In the year 2008/2009 we had serious floods in one of the informal settlement in my town. We had close to 40 houses destroyed and one person die. The community also was affected with cholera infections and recorded some deaths.  After the rain season, I engaged pastor who is also a key community leader and I asked him what he thought caused this problem?

He responded that people had no title to the land on which they had built their shelter and therefore were not willing to invest in drainage system in the area surrounding their houses. In addition, people in the community were not working together to address problems because they lacked leadership to push for ownership of the land and lived in fear that they would be removed anytime. As is the case with all unplanned communities this community has poor road infrastructure, drainage and sanitation systems and lacks clean drinking water.

In the year 2010/2011 season the community was ready. The local churches had joined hands with the international churches, local government, and businesses, civil society, local based community groups and worked together. Drainage system were cleared A bridge was repaired, local government started giving title to land, people in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and international churches started building houses. 26 cement brick houses have so far been built because people now own title to land.  With support from international church five boreholes were drilled and are providing clean water to thousands of people.  A private company disinfected the pit latrines.

I am here to report that no person died from a cholera case and no house was destroyed in this community during the 2010/2011 season because churches, local government civil society and business houses joined hands and worked together and change has happened.

Lawrence Temfwe (speech at the UN opening plenary session on Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva on 10th May 2011)