… Ghana must join ARC insurance risk pools
In 1939, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurred in Accra which killed at least 17 people and injured many. There has not been any earthquake of higher magnitude recorded in the past 80 years.
However, following a series of earth tremors in recent times most especially this year in Accra, President Akufo-Addo last week tasked the Ministry of the Interior and National Security to prepare a national earthquake emergency plan that will serve as a roadmap to effectively manage its impact should the disaster struck.
In response to the Yokohama strategy for a safer world and plan of action, the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) was established by Act 517 of 1996 to manage natural disasters and similar emergencies.
Reports indicate that NADMO has been tasked as the co-ordinating agency for this crisis management assignment. However, what has been the track record of the Organisation and various security services in terms of managing natural disasters such floods that occur every year, let alone managing the impact of earthquake? How effective have been the insurance companies in making swift payment response to beneficiaries who taken cover against natural disasters with them?
When the Melcom Building disaster occurred in 2012 which took the lives of 14 people, according to official data from the security officials, it took close to a week to clear the whole area and at least three days to rescue people – both dead and alive, trapped under the rubble. Should one building take this number of days to salvage everything under it, the impact of a major earthquake and the response by the security officials would be difficult to cope with.
This year alone, three earth tremors have struck the Accra, with the latest being described by the Ghana Geological Survey Authority (GGSA) as a moderate earthquake with a magnitude of 3.9. The time all the three incidents have occurred is also interesting to note. The first happened early on a Sunday morning, the second on a Sunday evening and the third on a Saturday night. Should these observations be taken into consideration, it could indicate that if a bigger magnitude occurs, the impact and the response rate might be slow as many people would be at home then.
Some reports have indicated that the formation of Ghana’s rocks makes it impossible for a major earthquake to occur. However, as it stands now, we do not have the technology know-how to determine the veracity of this claim.
In October 2012, an Italian court convicted seven prominent Italian earthquake experts including a former government official of manslaughter with a six year jail term for failing to adequately warn the public about a fatal 6.3 magnitude earthquake that struck in the central Italian city of L’Aquila in 2009 which killed more than 300 people.
The verdict sent shock waves through the scientific community. This is unusual knowing that earthquake, is a natural disaster that is difficult to predict, yet these experts were imprisoned. This tells the level of seriousness some countries have attached to managing natural disasters.
Obviously in Africa, when natural disaster strikes, humanitarian aid and financial support can take months to reach people on the ground. By the time relief support arrives, lots of damage might have been caused. A quicker response could have minimized the long term effects of the damage caused.
To effectively manage the damage natural disasters inflict after they occur, government last month during a joint board meeting, signed an agreement with the African Risk Capacity agency (ARC) and its financial affiliate, African Risk Capacity Limited.
During the signing ceremony, Chairperson of the ARC Agency Board, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, encouraged Ghana to put immediate plans in place aimed at joining the ARC insurance risk pools in order to have adequate resources available to better manage natural disasters while commending Ghana for its efforts towards continuously building its capacity to manage disaster risks.
The programme is set to prepare the country to possibly take disaster insurance from ARC Ltd as well as improving responses to extreme weather events and natural disasters which are impeding the achievement of some components of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ghana joined the African Risk Capacity programme on 28th January 2016 by signing the Establishment Agreement followed by the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in June same year. In 2017, the country signed the first Programme Workplan for a duration of two years.
The Programme will help the Government of Ghana to improve responses to extreme weather events and natural disasters as well as prepare the country to possibly take out insurance from ARC Ltd.
This shows some commitment on the part of successive governments to effectively manage such disasters and minimize the impact should they strike. Whiles working on this, there is the need to work effectively on domestic natural disaster insurance, with emphasis placed on earthquake and flooding. A quick check about the products major insurance companies offer are motor, marine, aviation and general accidents, fire, general bonds and others accidents.
Thus, apart from charging the Interior Ministry and National Security to prepare a national earthquake emergency plan, there is also the need to institute some domestic measures to deal with the situation. Aside joining the ARC insurance risk pools which is in the offing, a permanent natural disaster insurance fund must be instituted for residents living in the earthquake zone. Effectively streamlining policies that will enable the insurance companies better manage the crisis in tandem with the coordinating agencies may also not be a bad idea.
The African Risk Capacity (ARC)
The African Risk Capacity (ARC) is a Specialized Agency of the African Union established to help African governments improve their capacities to better plan, prepare, and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters.
Through collaboration and innovative finance, ARC enables countries to strengthen their disaster risk management systems and access rapid and predictable financing when disaster strikes to protect the food security and livelihoods of their vulnerable populations.
The African Risk Capacity is comprised of two entities: the African Risk Capacity Agency and the ARC Insurance Company Limited. Together, they provide ARC Member States with capacity building services and access to state-of-the-art early warning technology, contingency planning, and risk pooling and transfer facilities.
By Dundas Whigham