Second wave coming, but flood rehabilitation efforts for victims must continue, says public health expert

The attention over the past two weeks has been on flood relief for thousands of displaced flood victims, even as Malaysians brace for a second wave.

However, a government public health and disaster expert said the focus on rehabilitation efforts must not waver, even in the face of a second onslaught.

He said it was important for a post-disaster recovery plan to be drawn up and followed through, to ensure victims, including those displaced, were able to get back on their feet.

“Rehabilitation is an aspect often overlooked once the cameras stop clicking. There must be more commitment, including having a proper plan on how to help those affected,” said the expert, who requested anonymity.

“The impact of the floods is not short term. Take Kelantan, for example. People were still living in temporary shelters two years after the 2014 floods. We must learn from the Kelantan tragedy.”

Heavy rains since Dec 17 caused many parts of the nation to be submerged, including densely populated areas in Selangor, which caught many by surprise.

Water levels in certain areas rose quickly, leaving victims stranded on their rooftops, some for days.

The expert added there should also be strategies to aid businesses, especially small traders, to restart their businesses.

“It’s not just about helping to clean up their shops … It’s also about them having the necessary tools and assets to restart their lives,” he added.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob recently announced several financial aid packages for flood victims, including RM10,000 loans by Bank Simpanan Nasional, to help those affected. However, several parties said that the financial assistance was insufficient.

Vehicle owners, meanwhile, were left high and dry, as most of their insurance policies did not provide coverage for floods.

According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Management, recovery programmes, along with increased public awareness and engagement after a disaster, afford a valuable opportunity to develop and implement disaster risk reduction measures that can help people “build back better”.

A disaster management cycle comprises four phases – preparation, response, recovery and mitigation. Rehabilitation and reconstruction are part of the recovery stage.

The expert also emphasised that a “whole of society” approach must be taken in addressing floods.

“There must be a joint effort among all organisations, be it government or non-government, to lead rehabilitation efforts. It is important for central, state, and local agencies to work together with proper coordination.

“It cannot be a case of one agency doing all the work,” he added.

On Sunday, Ismail Sabri announced that the government had agreed to set up a special task force for post-flood activities, and to prepare for the second wave.

The task force, comprising relevant agencies, including the Malaysian Armed Forces, is chaired by Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Ali.

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