Community participation in disaster management

The UDMC must ensure that local populations are informed and able to take concrete measures to reduce risks. Picture: star

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The UDMC must ensure that local populations are informed and able to take concrete measures to reduce risks. Picture: star

Bangladesh is undeniably the most disaster-prone country in the world. Recurrent disasters destroy the economic resource base of the poor and deplete economic potential. Effective humanitarian coordination aims to ensure the best use of resources to achieve the most appropriate and relevant response to the needs of people affected by natural disasters. Disaster impacts and vulnerabilities could be minimized through good disaster management planning and by incorporating disaster management activities (risk reduction, response and recovery) into local and national development plans. It is obvious that effective coordination is an essential element of disaster management. Bangladesh has gained credibility and reputation around the world for its disaster management.

The Government of Bangladesh has taken a number of important steps over the past decades to put in place institutional arrangements from national to union level for effective and systematic disaster management. To maintain good coordination among the relevant ministries, departments, implementing agencies, local government and community members, and also to ensure their smooth functioning so as to lessen the suffering of the people, the government has put in place places a set of devices from the national level to the basic level. levels. For these mechanisms to work best, the Standing Disaster Orders (SODs) serve as a guide.

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In line with the SOD, disaster management committees are in place, from the National Disaster Management Council headed by the Prime Minister to the Union Disaster Management Committee (UDMC) headed by the President of the Union Parishad. In accordance with the SOD, the UDMC consists of 36 members while the Chairman of the Committee may co-opt a maximum of 3 (three) additional members and form groups and sub-groups taking into account the local situation and particular circumstances. The UDMC has been given the mandate to act as a rural disaster management entity and is expected to play a role in disaster preparedness, mitigation, emergency response and post-disaster rehabilitation.

UDMC should ensure that local people are kept informed and able to take practical steps to reduce risk at the household and community level, and also widely disseminate success stories of risk reduction among local people disaster at the household and community levels. It will also carry out a hazard, vulnerability and risk analysis at Union level and prepare a Risk Reduction Action Plan (RRAP) and an Earthquake and Disaster Contingency Plan. other hazards. The UDMC will facilitate coordination between development agencies and service providers through quarterly coordination meetings and make decisions on the implementation of the risk reduction action plan, as well as review progress of the risk reduction action plan. He will work to raise funds at the local level to implement the risk reduction action plan.

Unfortunately, local people, especially vulnerable groups, have very limited access to the deliberations and decisions of UDMC meetings. This largely means that members of local vulnerable groups have very limited information about the role, mandates and functioning of the disaster management committee on the ground. There is no evidence of a major role played by the UDMC in the period leading up to the disaster. Moreover, disaster risk management remains a secondary priority and is not well integrated into the various programs implemented by the Parishads of the Union. The people who manage and lead disaster management committees are not disaster management experts, but the SOD has empowered them to coordinate and manage disaster management efforts.

Community participation in UDMC activities builds confidence, pride and capacity to continue disaster preparedness. PHOTO: RUSHOW KHAN

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Community participation in UDMC activities builds confidence, pride and capacity to continue disaster preparedness. PHOTO: RUSHOW KHAN

People exposed to disaster vulnerability are destitute and never have access to the kinds of disaster management programs planned and executed by the Upazila and district governments in Bangladesh. On the other hand, the union disaster management committee headed by the union president has been published as the chairman and the other members are not well trained on the procedure to be followed by the committee. Furthermore, the Upazila administrations are not in favor of the effectiveness of the disaster management committee at the Union level, since the resources allocated for disaster management are managed by the two government agents.

Community participation in UDMC activities builds confidence, pride and capacity to pursue disaster preparedness and mitigation as well as development responsibilities at the local level. Capacity building and public awareness activities through the UDMC enable communities to increase their participation and potentially even support preparedness and mitigation activities themselves. Moreover, the inclusion of two women in each UDMC does not go far enough to ensure that women’s needs and capacities are represented. There is no evidence or analysis available on women’s ability to participate in and influence UDMCs. UDMC support and capacity building is not mapped.

No single group or organization can address all aspects of disaster management on its own. Disaster management thinking views disasters as complex problems requiring a collective response. Coordination, even in conventional emergency management, is difficult, as many organizations may converge on a disaster area to provide assistance. Disaster management requires strong vertical and horizontal linkages (central-local relationships become important).

To manage disasters in different phases, it is essential that governmental and non-governmental agencies contribute to the solution of a common problem instead of individual agencies having ad hoc programs with different objectives; Achieving this requires institutional arrangements and procedures that allow agencies to participate in the execution of a comprehensive and common response plan.

The Department of Disaster Management (DDM) is responsible for coordinating and making “the disaster risk reduction and response activities of all governmental and non-governmental agencies object-oriented and robust”. In reality, the agencies involved in the humanitarian response generally lack a common understanding of the problem. They individually prepare intervention plans; and often their goals and strategies are so diverse that they rarely manage to agree on a common goal. In addition, in many cases, funding agreements allow very little flexibility in individual agency plans. As a result, the coordination of humanitarian responses becomes extremely difficult.

Local populations, especially vulnerable groups, have very limited access to the deliberations and decisions of UDMC meetings. PHOTO: COLLECTED

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Local populations, especially vulnerable groups, have very limited access to the deliberations and decisions of UDMC meetings. PHOTO: COLLECTED

Primary data on damage and needs comes from disaster management committees at the local level via Form D (Damage Information Form). However, disaster management committees at the local level lack understanding and skills for data collection and documentation. Also, the data storage, compilation and analysis system is weak to plan for a quick response.

To rapidly mobilize human resources for evacuation, rescue and emergency relief distribution, it is helpful to set up ‘volunteer teams’ in the community beforehand. There are a number of Disaster Management Information Centers (DMICs) within the government. Continuous effort and attention should be made to ensure that all stakeholders share information with the government disaster information management unit and that their repository becomes the clearinghouse for disaster information.

Funding for disaster preparedness, response and recovery is provided by the government and its development partners. To understand whether a disaster is being adequately funded, an up-to-date gap analysis must be available. There have been attempts in the DDM annual report to present the amount of donor funding received for aid, but this information is dependent on information published by OCHA’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS) and therefore does not include not where development money is spent on preparedness or recovery or where small-scale interventions are undertaken.

The Local Disaster Management Fund is important because of the number of “micro-level” disasters that go unnoticed at the central level, but have serious effects on a community’s resilience. Local authorities, especially Deputy Commissioners as well as Upazila Nirbahi officers, should make sincere efforts to raise and utilize the local disaster management fund.

The link between development and disaster management must be strengthened. Understanding the root causes of gendered vulnerability is essential if relief and recovery programs are to reduce rather than rebuild people’s risk from future natural events. The gap between policy and practice continues to hamper disaster management and the voice and capacity of disaster-affected people in preparedness, response and recovery has not been sufficient.

For the UDMC to be effective in addressing the challenges of community disaster preparedness, it should hold regular UDMC meetings before, during and after the disaster phases; raising funds dedicated to disaster risk reduction; set up a disaster alert post in each UP office; build and maintain disaster shelters in the UP complex; train teams of volunteers under each PU for emergency response; launch training on disaster preparedness and emergency response; creating a social awareness campaign on disaster management; and ensure prompt and timely coordination.

Dr Mohammad Tarikul Islam is Associate Professor of Government and Politics at Jahangirnagar University. He has been a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. Email: t.islam@juniv.edu

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