(By V. Martin, Feb.19, 2016) Government has declared the current drought situation as a national emergency. The declaration was made by the Prime Minister Dr Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini when he launched the National Emergency Response, Mitigation and Adaptation plan at the Cabinet Offices in Mbabane.
Declaring the drought a national emergency, the Prime Minister said, “Almost the entire Swazi Nation, to varying degrees, is affected by the present drought, caused primarily by the cyclical dry weather phenomenon known as El Nino. Starting as far back as 2014, the drought has, throughout the subsequent months, deepened in severity, with a path that has defied regional weather forecasting and, in our case, as in many other areas of Southern Africa, with devastating consequences”.
“The negative impact of the drought has led to seriously diminished water availability for crop production, human consumption and livestock sustenance. At the present time, we count the loss of around 40,000 head of cattle, and have to report a serious food and water vulnerability currently experienced by approximately 300,000 of our people, which is around 25% of the population. There has been a huge negative impact on business, especially agricultural business, with one of our biggest employers having to reduce irrigation down to 20% of the optimum level. The drought has also led to hydropower generation being suspended – a measure that is giving rise to load shedding”.
“That is the situation facing us today and, with dams and river flows at crisis levels, we have encountered an unprecedented challenge of this kind. The rains have begun but we need a great deal more, and therefore, we pray for good soak rains to fall across the country in the next few weeks, prior to the dry winter months that will follow. But any such rains cannot reverse the damage to crop production and livestock mortality already experienced, and having such a negative impact on the livelihoods of so many of our people, now and into the foreseeable future. Rural and urban areas across the country have been adversely affected, though our population is largely rural-based and especially hard hit by the drought”.
“From the Multi Hazard Contingency Plan, the Crop and Food Security Assessment, and the Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis, the facts and expectations have been established to the best of Government’s ability. The details and costs have also been identified for what we calculate to be the necessary action of Government to deal with the unfolding crisis”.
He further added, “Taking into account the above circumstances it is now necessary, in accordance with the provisions of the Disaster Management Act of 2006, in particular Section 29 of the Act, for Government to announce the prevailing drought situation as a national emergency which will take immediate effect, with the existing emergency processes and management structures strengthened accordingly”.
“Our National Disaster Management Agency has already been established, with a management and implementation team recruited to deal with this, and any other, similarly disastrous challenges that may befall our country over the coming years”.
He said, “Very much in common with how we established the necessary response to the devastating onset of the HIV and AIDS crisis in our country, we need to adopt the approach of being at war with a national enemy. For effective defence and counter-attack we have, therefore, drawn up our battle plan. It is in the form of the National Emergency Response, Mitigation and Adaptation Plan – I may also refer to it as NERMAP for ease of identification and enunciation. The Plan has been developed by a joint Government team working with the recently established National Disaster Management Agency, and a broad spectrum of stakeholders. The Plan covers the Response for the entire country, covering both urban and rural dynamics of the drought situation.”