4. PRIORITIES OF RESCUE OR RELIEF OPERATIONS
The policy framework for disaster risk management in South Africa 2005 outlines the objective of response and recovery in accordance to the disaster management Act of 2002. The ultimate priority is to ensure effective and appropriate disaster response and recovery. When a significant event or disaster occurs, or is threatening to occur, it is imperative that there should be no confusion as to roles and responsibilities and the procedures to be followed as shown in Figure 4. The responsibility and subsequent priorities for relief response to known disaster events are allocated to a specific state entities. For example, flood response and recovery efforts would involve the combined efforts of many stakeholders, but the primary responsibility must be allocated to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry with the other stakeholders assuming supportive responsibilities. In the case of drought, the Department of Agriculture could be the primary agency, and in the case of extreme weather events, the National Disaster Management Center (NDMC) could assume primary responsibility.
Figure 4: South Africa National Disaster Framework showing the disaster response and recovery outline in accordance to the disaster management Act of 2002.
For example, during the South African-Mozambique flood of 2002, the priorities defined for rescue and relief operations were;
§ Accessing people, both to rescue those trapped by floodwaters and to deliver badly needed relief assistance to affected populations.
§ Establish a coordination centre for the relief effort in relation to the disaster
§ Identify infrastructure (roads and bridges) which are affected and undertake emergency repair, so that access to people in need of humanitarian assistance could be improved and costs for the relief operation reduced.
The operational plans and guidelines of the various response agencies that contribute to field operations will be considered when allocating responsibilities and priorities for response and recovery. In this regard, primary and secondary responsibilities will be allocated for each of the operational activities associated with disaster response, for example, evacuation, shelter, search and rescue, emergency medical services and fire-fighting. Katarina Toll Velasquez, leader of the UNDAC team dispatched by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the priorities of assisting tens of thousands of flood victims, were to rescue people trapped, transport them to safe ground, and ensure their basic needs were provided for – food, shelter, clean water, sanitation, and the infrastructure. Then look ahead at what is the biggest fear, the outbreak of health epidemics.”