Communicating flood disasters in Zambia: A case study of the Disaster management and Mitigation unit strategies in Shangombo District

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Wakumelo, Lutangu
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This report is based on an evaluation of the effectiveness of the communication strategies used by the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) in Shangombo District concerning the 2008/2009 flood disaster. Since information is very important in disaster management work, the means by which it is made available to the people matters. Effective communication during disasters requires an adequate understanding of the target audience and careful planning of the messages to be communicated and the means to be used, including the personnel.The data on which the report is based was collected in a case study of two wards in Shangombo District, Simu and Mambolomoka, using a self-administered questionnaire, focus group discussions, in-depth interviews and informal discussions with residents of the district. The study was premised on the rationale that the DMMU’s work of preventing disasters or mitigating their effects. The work of the DMMU in Shangombo District is mainly aimed at ensuring that people’s livelihoods are not endangered by the incidence of disasters or hazards. The unit’s work can be most meaningful if it was proactive rather than reactive. In other words, hazards in the communities need to be addressed by the unit before they become disasters. Unfortunately, the unit has failed to use effective communication strategies to gain the good will, co-operation and collaboration it needs from the community. As a result, it has come to be perceived as solely a relief agency despite that being only one of its many functions. Pictures of people caught up in disasters across the country also justify the opinion that the members of the unit sit in their offices waiting for a disaster to occur so that they can then go an administer relief services to the affected community. This is the view that is prevalent in Shangombo District.The study reveals that the failure of the DMMU’s strategies with regard to the aspect of communication reside in the inadequacies of the media and personnel it uses; the messages it sends; and the timing of its messages. This strategic failure leads to a failure of its work,generally, which is the conclusion of this report and the testimony of the residents. Some officials interviewed, including the former District Commissioner, admitted to most of then weakness highlighted in this report, although they attributed them to different factors, most commonly lack of resources. In general, the report indicates that the DMMU has neither managed to safeguard people from the adverse effects of disaster nor earned their solidarity. A number of the respondents did not even know that the unit existed. It is recommended that the unit reviews its communication strategy with respect to media, personnel, messages and timing as a way of improving its chances of effectively discharging its mandate in disaster-affected regions of the country
Flood Control---Social Aspects , Floods Forecasting---Zambia , Disaster Prevention , Disaster Preparedness