HELP US to help ourselves, was the plea to the international community from Ugandan President Museveni last month. He was speaking in London at the Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief lecture - Disaster relief, past and present: an African perspective.
President Museveni spoke of Africa's inability to cope with disaster mitigation before an audience of 200 which included the Princess Royal, president of RedR.
He thanked the international community for its support in disaster areas - most recently for the flooding in Mozambique - but stressed Africa was trying to break the dependence cycle.
'Africans complain too often that the international community does not arrive soon enough in a disaster situation. We know it needs time to gather equipment, materials and men. But unfortunately, in this time, people perish.' he said. 'So we need to plan for disasters, not merely react.'
While explaining that many disasters such as famine and drought could be predicted, he spoke of what the international community could do to help Africa prepare for its own disasters.
'We are preparing our own regional rapid disaster teams. The international community can help us to help ourselves by passing on its knowledge to us.'
President Museveni turned to earthquake building design as an example, explaining the help the international community has given to Ugandans to prepare Codes of Practice to reduce the earthquake damage to buildings.
Speaking warmly of RedR, the President said: 'In these cases, RedR should add 'prevention' to its name.'
Director of Oxfam David Bryer said: 'Education on natural disasters for Africans can turn a vicious circle into a virtuous one. Non governmental organisations should do all they can in this field to support local capacity.'
He added that finance was far more readily available for European projects such as Kosovo than those in Africa, where disasters and conflicts often go unreported. Bryer urged people to remember some important lessons. 'Humanitarian action supports peace and reconciliation, and countries should move towards better burden sharing and partnerships.'
At the end of the evening the Princess thanked the speakers, agreeing with President Museveni that local people should offer their knowledge to solve domestic problems.
'Often, the local communities in undeveloped countries have coping mechanisms we in developed countries have long forgotten, ' she said. She congratulated RedR and Uganda for their efforts in disaster mitigation. 'Progress in Uganda is now a reality, not just a dream, ' she added.