Thursday, 29 June 2017

Community Based Disaster Preparedness

In the event of any disaster, it is the members of the affected local community who are the first responders, primary beneficiaries and principal actors. Disasters and emergencies are known to overwhelm the response capacities of communities leading to large-scale loss of life, property and livelihoods. It is therefore imperative to build the capacity of the local community to effectively respond to disasters and emergencies. One way of doing this is by enhancing the preparedness level of the community through capacity building initiatives.

Participants explaining the findings of group exercise, depicting the hazards, vulnerabilities and capacities of in and around areas of the conference hall building. (Photo: AIDMI)

The north-eastern state of Assam is of special strategic and cultural importance to India. Not only does it bind India to the north-east India, it is also blessed with many natural resources and can be considered a biological hotspot teeming with rare animal and plant species. However, Assam is exposed to a variety of climate and disaster risks. These include earthquakes, landslides, floods, and strong winds. Floods and the resulting everlasting river erosion have proved to be particularly detrimental to Assam's economy and citizens. To build up the resilience of Assam against such aforesaid risks, the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) routinely takes up disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation initiatives. And All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) has found that in these initiatives the citizens of Assam play leading role when given a chance.
Recognizing the need for building the capacity of communities to effectively respond to disasters and emergencies, ASDMA launched its capacity building initiative called 'Community Based Disaster Preparedness' in July 2016. The goal of this initiative was to empower communities at the local level with the knowledge, skills and expertise to manage the risks they are exposed to. This goal was to be achieved by organizing capacity building sessions in all the districts of the state with the grassroots level workers from various government departments such as social welfare, health, or agriculture along with volunteers and members of community based organizations. The AIDMI was the technical partner in this initiative and conducted these trainings sessions at ASDMA's behest.
This partnership has been special. It generated results on the ground, influenced the two institutions, and created enabling environment for DRR in Assam.
As the first phase of these trainings draws to a close, I am happy to report that this initiative has been successful in achieving its stated objectives and goal. Hitherto, a total of 1055 participants from 27 districts of Assam have been covered under the ambit of this initiative. The participants have become informed respondent. So many of them committed advocates of disaster risk reduction. And some of them have become local leaders in reducing risks. But these numbers, as impressive as they are do not cover the wisdom, ingenuity and creativity with which the local communities in Assam have managed and mitigated their risks. AIDMI has learned more from the participants, not only what to do and how but also new ways of thinking about both, risk and Assam. Perhaps the most important lesson from this initiative was the effectiveness of risk reduction measures if they are carried out in an inclusive, participatory and democratic manner.
Community based Disaster Preparedness (CBDP) refers to all those activities and measures undertaken by a community using a locally owned and locally appropriate approach to reduce and manage its disaster risks. In essence, CBDP implies a community based approach to risk reduction done by using existing resources in a contextualized and localized manner. In simple words, AIDMI team started from where the communities were, building upto where they want to be. Given the participatory nature of CBDP, the pedagogy followed by AIDMI in imparting these trainings emphasized introspection, deliberation and dialogue.
These trainings focused on providing technical skills such as conducting hazard, vulnerability, capacity (HVCA) assessment; drawing seasonal hazard maps; capacity-vulnerability matrix and compiling community resource inventories at the block level. These technical skills helped the participants in identifying the underlying causes of their vulnerability to disaster risks and then proceed to make elaborate preparedness plans. Similarly, the best practices on CBDP from previous projects and programmes was also shared with the participants.
Although the technical knowledge imparted during these trainings will help these participants to carry out disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities in a systematic and coordinated manner, perhaps the greatest achievement of these trainings was that it encouraged the participants to speak up on their perception of risk, vulnerability and preparedness. People from different parts of Assam experienced risks differently and would often suggest innovative approaches to manage them.
I once again commend and congratulate ASDMA on organizing this initiative and successfully empowering citizens of Assam to plan, prepare and manage their risks. This is AIDMI's small contribution to operationalize National Disaster Management Authority of Government of India in Assam with citizen of Assam.

– Mihir R. Bhatt, AIDMI

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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Resilience to Disaster and Climate Risks in Education

Education is taken as a key sustainable development indicator and the need to scale up and mainstream CCA and DRR in the education sector is imminent and unavoidable even at the local administrative levels, as it is a key policy and planning strategy for increasing children's capacity to become agents of change and enhancing their resilience to climate change and disasters.

The demand and debate for mainstreaming climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in to key development sectors has potentially seen the most rapid expansion over the past decade. The recently promulgated global frameworks be it the Sendai Framework, the Sustainable Development Goals or the Paris Climate Agreement, have equally voiced the concern for having an integrated approach to disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) across sectors.

Since children are one of the hardest hit demographic group by climate change and disasters, their rights need to be protected. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mitigating environmental risks could save the lives of 4 million children every year. Thus, inclusion of DRR and CCA in education will contribute in enhancing children's resilience in the face of climate change and disasters. Girls, boys and women are typically the most affected due to climate change and disasters. Thus, children need to prepare for, cope with and thrive in such complex environments. 
The diagram represents the framework for comprehensive school safety with DRR-CCA integration for resilience. Comprehensive School Safety Framework
The major benefit of mainstreaming DRR and CCA in education can also serve communities through school children. After access to quality education they can also share the information with their families and neighbors and this will increase resilience and also develop a culture of safety. This will empower the whole community and contribute to its ability to reduce risk and to adapt and secure more stable and sustainable livelihood strategies.
There is increasing evidence in Assam that students of all ages can actively study and participate in school safety measures on the one hand, and can work with teachers and other adults in the community towards minimizing disaster and climate risk on the other. The state authorities and education department can effectively reach out to schools and educational institutions and protect them as well as getting a contribution from them in integrated DRR CCA in the education sector to achieve greater community resilience. So far pilot projects by state and national authorities have provided useful lessons to design and implement district wide programme on school safety.
For capacity development, education sector is providing crucial services in terms of DRR CCA such as large human resource and infrastructure support from the state to local levels, volunteer support from NCC/NSS and scouts. However, these services and platforms need to be strengthened to get maximum advantages for making Assam safe from disaster and climate risk.
The educational institutions and department must ensure that their infrastructures are multi-hazard resilient. It requires widespread investment in capacity development by disaster management and the education sector on infrastructure services where each mason is trained for safe construction, engineer staff is trained for retrofitting techniques, technical consultant can audit and monitor infrastructure resilience needs and the policy planners are able to allocate sufficient resources for resilience of infrastructure.
The capacity building and training actions with and for teachers, NCC/NSS and scouts and guides volunteers in DRR CCA is an important area to capitalize upon. The sector can provide tremendous opportunities for DRR and CCA that contribute to the sustainable development in the long term. The trained resources from education sector can build the widespread impact to reducing disaster and climate risk and also contribute in the climate change mitigation aspects.
The state already had experience of the NSSP pilot project, district wide school safety trainings, and pilots, etc. Now there is a need to emphasize upon massive roll-out reaching across the state and all levels of institutions. The state has the ability for such capacity development actions. The lessons from NSSP, recommendations from SDMP, DDMP, SAPCC, etc. can provide useful inputs for covering DRR and CCA, on various components including building resilience among its stakeholders, particular audience - children and teachers; particular locations - schools and other educational infrastructures; particular services - educational services.
The department of education (Elementary, Secondary and Higher education) has taken concerted training and capacity building efforts including school safety programme. It requires, facilitation service from technical institutions like NIDM, SDMA so that the department and its institutions are able to address basic services like fire safety, school DM planning, evaluation mapping and drills, actions. Only the training component is not enough. The consultation and facilitation with impact study is required to institutionalize the process and increase the ownership. The state has already implemented school safety projects. The experience should be shared at 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction at Cancun, Mexico to promote similar safety measures. 
Vishal Pathak, All India Disaster Mitigation Institute 

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