Botswana may find itself at sixes and sevens should a major disaster strike because the country has no legal instrument that addresses disaster response, this emerged from a report following a study commissioned by the Botswana Red Cross Society (BRCS).
It emerged from the report that Botswana has not acceded to or domesticated most major treaties in Disaster Risk Management; has no National Disaster Risk Management legislation; has no legislation governing the facilitation and regulation of international disaster assistance and has no law that manages the international disaster assistance as in funds, food and qualified human resources.
The study dubbed “International Disaster Response Law (IDRL) in Botswana” sought to enquire on legal preparedness for facilitating and regulating international disaster assistance.
The report was authored by University of Botswana Humanitarian Law lecturer, Elizabeth Macharia-Mokobi and was presented in Gaborone at a workshop on International Disaster Response Law this week.
The researcher found that the existing multiplicity of laws relating to disaster risk reduction is fragmentary and burdensome.
“Existing legislation is fragmentary and while it may be used to assist in disaster situations, this may take valuable time and resources and be burdensome on government and international actors offering assistance,” states the report.
The study does not only stop at analyzing the existing legal and policy frameworks for disaster management and response in Botswana but provides an assessment of strengths and weaknesses.
The research recommended that Botswana should consider acceding and domesticating relevant treaties in Disaster Response Law in particular the Tampere Convention on Tele-communications through a single enabling act.
Botswana should also consider enacting national Disaster Risk Management legislation in order to provide a legal and institutional framework for disaster management in the country. Furthermore, the study gives an insight on how the act may be formulated.
“In such a Disaster Risk Management Act, the government should consider enacting provisions for the facilitation and regulation on international disaster assistance. The Model act on IDRL would be of assistance in preparing such legislation,” states the report.
The report also called for clear procedures for receiving international assistance and proper coordination between the latter and the national disaster relief.
Speaking at the workshop, Macharia-Mokobi cautioned that, “Accession alone to some of the selected international treaties is not adequate but must be complemented by corresponding vigorous and practical implementation of such treaties.”
Commenting on the study Jobe Kefaletse who was the Ministry of Education Skills and Development (Department of Curriculum Development and Evaluation) advised that the Act must also focus on and cater for the vulnerable groups such children, women and the disabled. “The Act must have a clear portion where it captures the vulnerable groups. Students are directly affected during disaster situations hence the legal instruments must speak to and protect such groups of the vulnerable,” he said.
He called for measures to be put in place for rehabilitation and therapy for those affected, during and after the calamities.
The Disaster Law Coordinator of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Africa Ida Marstein expressed concern about rigid laws which she says are a hindrance to humanitarian assistance on natural disaster.
“Rigid laws are a serious hindrance to humanitarian assistance on Natural Disaster. Entry and operation barriers such as Visas, Custom, Tax and lack of coordination equate to an expensive and less effective humanitarian aid,” observed the IFRC Africa boss who is based in Ethiopia.
The SADC Secretariat-Disaster Risk reduction Unit, Dr. Kennedy Masamvu said “All governments need to be proactive as far as monitoring disasters is concerned. SADC is prone to disasters that hamper the region’s socio-economic growth. The study is seen as a harmonizing factor on how the region responds to natural calamities. That is commendable.”