World telecoms body challenged to act

John Nyashanu in Kuwait City, Kuwait
The International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency with a membership of 193 countries has been challenged to assist developing countries in preparing for potential disasters rather than wait for tragedies to strike and respond when lives have already been lost.

The call was made by Deputy Minister of Information Postal and Courier Services Dr Win Mlambo in his ministerial statement at the Second Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications running under the theme “Saving Lives”, in Kuwait City, Kuwait on Tuesday.

More than 700 delegates from nearly one hundred countries are attending the Forum which was officially opened here on Tuesday.

“There is need for the ITU Telecommunications Development Bureau (ITU-D) to guide countries in the development of emergency telecommunications plans as part of the countries’ preparedness which would incorporate network resilience and redundancy.

“The plan would provide for periodic exercises/drills and simulations to test both system and people readiness. In the case of Zimbabwe we know precisely that in twelve months, there will be veld fires. But come the time for the fires, people still die due to these inadequacies which centre on human attitudes and lacklustre approach to work,” said Dr Mlambo.

Member states of the ITU also came under attack from Tuvalu, a small island in South Western Pacific Ocean, accusing them of not taking treaties on disaster management seriously.

“Over the years, we have been signatories to numerous treaties. We have used countless vocabularies year after year – risk, preparedness, regulatory frameworks, saving lives (etc). But what’s stopping us from cooking the right soup. We need strong political will to achieve this goal,” said Monise Laafai, the country’s minister of Communications and Transport.

He cited the Tempere Convention signed in Finland in 1998 as an example. To date, 18 years down the line only 48 countries, including Zimbabwe have ratified it out of all ITU member states.

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