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Driving African Capacity Building in Disaster Management


AFRICAB main.jpg
Sierra Leone Landslide
Susan's Bay
Sierra Leone Floods
Susan's Bay Fire
FCC Guide

AFRICAB is an innovative BUDMC led research project on “Single Points of Failure in African Disaster Management” based in West Africa, with a primary focus on Sierra Leone. It is supported by the UK’s prestigious Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). The main aim is to meet the urgent needs of African disaster managers and stakeholders; to be able to detect and understand deficiencies in their disaster management systems that have the potential to lead to partial or full breakdowns in disaster management prior to and during disasters.

The project applies innovative research techniques and Single Points of Failure (SPOF) diagnostics and methodologies honed by BUDMC in recent years to identify potential and real SPOF that are ‘resolvable’ by African disaster managers and where workable solutions and control measures are likely to already lie in the hands of national and local policymakers. Furthermore, the project seeks to assimilate, accommodate, reduce and overcome resistance factors in order to enhance the governance of disaster risk and enable disaster management frameworks to function more efficiently.

A notable feature of AFRICAB is that the project has been based on highly constructive cooperation with disaster management partners in Sierra Leone, including, for example, the newly created National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and Freetown City Council (FCC). The 3-year long project involved extensive field research and practitioner engagement, including semi-structured interviews with national policymakers and stakeholders, dedicated focus groups, ongoing practitioner observations and the organisation of eleven practitioner feedback and benchmarking sessions and workshops involving actors from the highest tier of national policy-making down to community leaders working in disaster management at the ward and district levels. The research evidencing and analysis incorporated a total of 559 individual inputs from participants and covered the COVID-19 pandemic and Susan’s Bay fire disaster that led affected over 7000 people in a district of Freetown in March 2021.

The project, led by Professor Lee Miles, has produced numerous impacts that have and are likely to continue to enhance disaster management in Sierra Leone.  At the national level, the AFRICAB Final Report included 8 thematic areas and 27 key recommendations for national policymakers and stakeholders. The AFRICAB report was launched on the 30 September 2021 and was endorsed by Chief Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa and Director General of NDMA, Lt Gen (Rtd) Brima Sesay. Key discussions are ongoing around a Single Points of Failure based Risk Reduction Programme to be refined by NDMA in 2021 based on the implementation of the AFRICAB Final Report findings.

At the local level, AFRICAB researchers have worked extensively with Freetown City Council (FCC) since 2020 to meet the urgent need to develop SPOF based local risk matrices and registers and emergency action plans. Notably, AFRICAB researchers co-authored an FCC Facilitators Guide to Disaster Management and led training workshops to provide accessible guidance to District Disaster Management Committee(s), Community Disaster Management Committee (CDMCs), local councillors, community leaders, tribal chiefs and volunteers in the 360 district and wards of Freetown that cover disaster response for over 1.2 million people in Freetown. The Facilitators’ Guide was authored by Professor Lee Miles with support from Dr Henry Bang, Jamie Martin, postdoctoral researcher Dr Meera Patel as well as BUDMC researchers, Yue Zhang and John Miles with significant contributions from officials of the NDMA and from FCC. The guide has been distributed across Sierra Leone and has been utilised for both seasonal flooding and during the response to over 16 fire incidents during Spring 2021, including the traumatic Susan’s Bay Fire in March 2021.

In addition, SPOF diagnostics and the FCC Facilitators Guide have supported the adoption of a Minimum Training Competence Requirement in Disaster Management by the FCC in September 2020; the first of its kind in Sierra Leone that provides direct guidance on key competences expected of all disaster managers working in Freetown. Most significantly SPOF diagnostics and the FCC Facilitators Guide underpin and were incorporated into FCC’s new Disaster Preparedness Plan introduced in 2021 enhancing disaster management planning in the city for the coming decade.

AFRICAB represents just one step in a continuing path of constructive cooperation. The BUDMC has a long history of working with Sierra Leone, commencing with work in 2016 with the Office for National Security (ONS) as the country grappled with and emerged from the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak. A team led by Centre Director Richard Gordon spent over six weeks in country working with the ONS as they scaled up to be able to manage both the post-Ebola environment and annual flooding.

Professor Lee Miles is now also engaged in a follow-on project to AFRICAB that focuses in understanding the impact of COVID-19 on crisis communicators and journalists in Sierra Leone. Professor Miles, has recently co-authored one of the first national surveys of the impact of COVID-19 on journalism in Sierra Leone, published in 2021.


Principal Investigator

Professor Lee Miles

Lee joined the Bournemouth University Disaster Management Centre on the 1st September 2015. Lee is an international relations scholar, educated at the Universities of Lancaster, Birmingham and Hull, receiving his PhD in Politics from the University of Hull (1999), and awarded a Docent in Political Science by Karlstad University in Sweden (2004).

Lee’s research interests cover several areas and involve research projects across the globe:

First, International Crisis Management (ICM) and Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) Presently, his research examines the role of political and policy entrepreneurs in shaping foreign policy management and emergency responses to crises and disasters. He is developing concepts of ‘entrepreneurial resilience’ in international crisis and disaster management. He works in relation to European crisis management and long-standing interests in the Nordic countries.

Second, Lee directs major international projects on African disaster management. Three recent projects are indicative. The AFRIGATE project (2017-2018) examined the role of resistance obstacles to effective African disaster management (Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria). He also then went on to direct the UK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) sponsored AFRICAB project (2018-21). This project examined single points of failure in African disaster management (Cameroon, Senegal and Sierra Leone) and led to major research findings that have influenced the formation of Sierra Leone's new National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA). AFRICAB produced the key research informed policy deliverables that have helped to improve the skills and capacities of local disaster managers, policy-makers and community leaders covering 1.2 million people in the capital of Freetown. More specifically, Freetown City Council (FCC) introduced a new Minimum Training Competence Requirement in Disaster Management (2020) and a revised Disaster Management Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) (in 2021) that incorporated AFRICAB guidance and deliverables within formal policy frameworks.

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