Message by Nelson Mandela on the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction

6 October 1993

On the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction the African National Congress would like to reaffirm its commitment towards effective and efficient disaster management in South Africa.

The people of our country have suffered terribly under natural disasters such as drought and flooding. The impact of these disasters could have been limited if the NP government did not implement racist policies that lead to marginal agricultural areas being overpopulated and overgrazed.

During the last three year South Africa has suffered a terrible drought, from which we are only beginning to emerge. The terrible hunger and malnutrition that millions of people suffered throughout this period could have been avoided if the National Party Government followed a programme of sustainable development. Instead apartheid policies were enforced that creating pockets of privilege in a sea of poverty and deprivation. Millions of people do not have access to the most basic services.

Urgent steps must be taken to avoid further hardship and loss of life. Emergency assistance should be provided in ways that will support recovery and long term development.

It is the ANC's policy that humanitarian assistance must be provided to victims of disasters in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality. The government has the prime responsibility for providing this. At the same time, there is an important complementary role to be played by various Non-Government organisations in identifying the gaps, advocating needs, facilitating and in the supply of emergency food, water medicines, shelter and health care.

I wish to particularly commend the non-government agencies and organisations in South Africa who are doing excellent work in providing humanitarian assistance to victims of emergency and disaster. Organisations such as the South African Disaster Relief Agency, Operation Hunger and the Red Cross are at the forefront of ensuring that the much needed assistance reaches those people who require it most.

In this regard Operation Hunger's warning that it is running out of funds and that it may have to close down if it does not receive at least R10 million by the end of this month, should be taken seriously by all, particularly the National Party government. The ANC urges the Government to speedily grant Operation Hunger the funds it desperately needs.

It is evident that a fresh approach to disaster management in South Africa is long overdue. We in the ANC are committed to providing the leadership, political will and resources that are needed to ensure that such a development approach to disaster management is achieved.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation