RELIEF GUIDELINES: AN ESSENTIAL PART OF DISASTER MANAGEMENT

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EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF DISASTERS:

In any emergency, the response by Governments and Aid organizations can be successful if AID reaches in time and to everyone in need. But in disaster zones worldwide, despite the best efforts of many, a great need remains.

The main factors that happen in the disaster areas are:

1) Importance shifting to other points.

2) There is a clear lack of dialogue during the distribution of relief as a result there is discrimination based on the reasons of sex, ethnicity, religion etc.

3) The people of above sixty and disabled have difficulties in getting relief. The older persons and the disabled may find it difficult to travel to distribution sites and often do not have strength to carry the goods back to their shelters. This is the case, when the sites are located high above due to some security reasons. Mobility is also a big problem for these people, where flooding or other type of disasters is regular.

The elderly are often deemed helpless. When the Iranian city of Bam was destroyed by an earthquake in December 2003, killing over 26,000 people, disaster response experts were helped by local elderly men of influence who organized community responses across the city.

When relief material was distributed following the Indian Ocean Tsunami, An older people stood alone in the remains of his thatched roof and refused to join for collection of relief for him. Asked why he did not join in and he shook his head and said that’ it’s of no use. I’ve been pushed out before and have fallen on the ground.

There is also same problem in Haiti Earthquake Relief Response (2010)

These are the challenges which are faced in general:

1) Use of untrained or unqualified personnel, lack of adherence to quality and accountability standards, as well as humanitarian principles and values and the non-utilization of local response capacities and skills.

2) Sometimes delayed entry of foreign relief workers or goods and equipment, lengthy procedures for gaining legal status to operate in the disaster-affected countries.

Special emphasis should be given to Women during a disaster as they are most vulnerable. So, whether disabled or not, young or old, of whatever colour or race, women remain the most vulnerable and discriminated category, whereas the first local response comes from women.

At Banda Aceh, over 70 % of Staff of local NGOs delivering relief in Banda Aceh were women. There are instances where women were denied their rights to relief. Then there is violence against women at conflict areas. Alongside contraventions of women’s rights, disaster after disaster produces irrefutable evidence that with displacement- be it as a result of natural hazards or conflict- the risks of physical abuse to women and girls rises substantially. The nature of the discrimination varies but commonly includes sexual violence, exploitation and abuse, forced prostitution, domestic violence, trafficking, forced and early marriage and widow inheritance.

In general some disaster prone communities are also vulnerable to discrimination. This happens especially with some groups, households and individuals. A disaster can reinforce various forms of discrimination. May it be social or may it be political or may it be racial.

Another challenge, which is faced by the agencies are lack of continuous focus on the affected areas. This is due to the fact that when a disaster happens, in general the Media of the World focuses its attention to it. But at times, when things almost are half done, a different quite similar type of incidence occurs in some other part of the World and Journalists based there are given marching orders. This does hamper the development and the aid work, which was conducted in the area. Not only the agencies loses there focus but the obvious question that arises is that the Job/task remains half done. Later, we again bring some rehabilitation project into the area and that again involves lots of money. In the mean time, the persons involved in the first task loses there attention and thus lot of motivation is required for the new project officers to conduct the task. This is from my personal experience. Hence Journalists should be on board on disaster relief committees.

How to meet this challenge?

We have every reason to see that this is really a great challenge, which need to be addressed. We have to take some time and think on these lines. So, any international organizations should have separate regions and separate force ready to tackle the issues.

The international community needs to agree on clear definitions of all potential minority groups to prevent opposing interpretations and to ensure a common understanding of the vulnerability of minorities. Aid agencies need to improve initial need assessments by sharing information learning from experience and developing indicators on the impacts of discrimination. Minority and vulnerable groups need to be supported and enabled to participate in the planning; design and implementation of all emergency and non-emergency programmes. Agencies need to advocate within communities to change existing negative attitudes towards minority and vulnerable groups.

It’s a tough task, but if these can be done then, we can move one step towards a sustainable world. Agencies need to advocate within communities to change existing negative attitudes towards minority and vulnerable groups. Government and Non-Governmental agencies must also identify and address obvious and hidden discrimination, within their organizations.

On the other hand disasters do not discriminate. They strike indiscriminately, affecting minorities and majorities alike. However, there are various impacts to discrimination. The vast desert and semi-desert region in northern Kenya is home to 3 million people ‘ most of whom are pastoralists. By 2006, there has been drought in the region. In Wajir in north eastern Kenya, visiting journalists reported that many grazing cattle had died by March and that two-thirds of the people were dependent on food aid. The crippling drought was then followed by floods. The appalling infrastructure seriously hampered the food and medical aid distribution programme, as the only road to the worst affected area had reportedly been washed away. The United Nations now has sophisticated early warning system in place, based on factors such as expected rainfall and crop yield, which can forecast when critical food shortages are likely to arise in advance. Then the obvious question comes to one’s mind is that why the Government did not act in time. There may be many reasons but one may be due to the fact that Kenya’s political elite consider or regard the pastoralist way of life as an anachronism. Often it is seen that geographically distant from the capital cities; pastoralists are also sidelined politically, lacking the influence to press their case in the corridors of power.

Now with the effect of climate change felt in most parts of the world, we have a problem in the desert areas of Africa. It is also clear that the long term impact can be catastrophic. Hence, the more we go on neglecting these issues; we are going to make our fellow brother’s and sisters’ more and more dependent to disaster relief assistance. Not only that there are evidence of caste based discrimination in some parts of the World. After the Indian Ocean Tsunami, ‘Dalits’ who are treated as ‘untouchables’ in the Hindu caste system, were forbidden by other castes from drinking water from UNICEF water tanks because sharing with Dalits would, in their view pollute the water. So, discrimination can be deep rooted, not just for operational relief work but also for recovery and further rehabilitation work.

So, what could lead to a better relief?

a) The donor agency should see and include minority peoples in the team. Ideally the ratio of minority peoples in the organization should equal the ratio of minority peoples among the public.

b) Educate minority peoples with the aim of developing community resilience as well as obtaining professionals from the communities.

c) Be aware of discrimination against the minorities in humanitarian work, by self examination as well as through consultations with people from the community and human rights specialists.

d) Participate in advocacy in domestic, regional and international forums. Humanitarian organizations can also play a vital role in human rights advocacy.

e) Develop indicators on the impact of discrimination against minorities in disaster management with the co-operation of human rights.

Now the donors and the funding agencies should look into these aspects:

a) Put more value on the issue of discrimination in humanitarian operations. Disaster Relief and discrimination are inseparable issues.

b) Examine the possibility of introducing special measures for minority groups, particularly those who do not have access to basic materials.

c) Understand the vulnerability of minorities, especially those who are prone to being affected by disasters. If the region has a history of disasters, then there is an absolute need for disaster preparedness.

I visited Assam India and I found that the State Red Cross Branch, under Indian Red Cross Society have built orphanages out of their own resources. Kids in the age of 1-3 years are their occupants at ‘Sishu Gram’ (Sishu in English means Children and Gram in English means Village).

Recent floods have washed out everything. The donor attention should also focus into these aspects while funding for any program. Disasters bring along with them lots of trauma and pain. Especially the Children are the most affected. They are the living dead. A small contribution for their education and care in good shelters can make wonders. It’s not an emotional statement, but a fact which is hard to ignore.

Media:

In a disaster, it is common to see images of children, often vulnerable, unwell, used by humanitarian agencies to generate compassion and funds. While the images can create the desired effect with donors, children’s protection and special needs are rarely incorporated within budget lines and programmes, resources are not prioritized and there is a lack of clear strategies to support and protect children.

Children are too often used to generate support, but they do not always enjoy the benefits.

So, what can be done?

Prioritize prevention of discrimination and violence against children. This means clear budget lines for prevention programmes and services.

There is also a need to enhance the capacity of all humanitarian personnel through education on children’s rights.

Create accessible, safe and child-friendly reporting systems and services. This includes safe, well-publicized, confidential and accessible mechanisms for children, their caregivers and others to prevent and report violence against children.

Help to improve collaboration between humanitarian agencies. This includes developing clear systems and standards to prevent and respond to all forms of violence against children at all stages of a disaster ‘ preparedness, response and recovery. Children don’t get the support they need.

Hence, separate funds should be allocated solely for the purpose of children. Community Recovery Committees ‘ a diverse group including different ethnicities, backgrounds and genders that are well trained, with adequate resources and able to communicate with the formal humanitarian system- can greatly assist equitable assistance. An oversight mechanism to ensure that discrimination against poor and neglected groups is minimized in the committees is needed and their assessments have to be cross-checked.

I do believe that a little attention to the above mentioned problems and its solutions can help us to create a Safer World for us as well as for our future generations. Hence, we need to have effective Relief Guidelines for proper management of disasters.

I faced the situations.  Heart-rending situations in a disaster area bring tears in ones eyes. I am not emotional, but what is stated above are true facts. Please put a comment, if your time permits. I will be glad to see your support on the above issue.

Let’s together join hands and create a Safer, Stronger, Greener and a Disaster Free World for us as well as for our future generations.

Thanks a lot for reading.

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Please send your feedback in the e-mail address given below.

Thanks and Regards,

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

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CREATING LIFE: IS IT A BLESSING OR A CALL FOR AN UNKNOWN DISASTER?

Life was formed 3.6 billion years ago. Some scientist’s are of different view. There are various models for origin of life and is a debatable issue. Religious groups take a different stand. But whatever it is, evolution of life is still a mystery. Scientists after their experiment had arrived at a conclusion that life arose from a single cell. That which has the capacity to replicate, and its progeny replicated them, and so on, with lots of genetic twists and it is carried on from generations to generations and thus we find the living beings in this world.

Imagine all this started with just a DNA (Deoxy Ribo Nuclic Acid)!

Today, every living organism – every person, plant, animal and microbe – can trace its heritage back to that first cell.

Imagine amongst this present day species, arrives some new comers and here we are not talking of some extraterrestrials. Scientists in the last couple of years have been trying to create novel forms of life. They’ve forged chemicals into synthetic DNA, the DNA into genes, genes into genomes and built the molecular machinery of completely new organisms in their lab, such type of organisms that are nothing like anything Nature has produced before. We do not know, what forms of life that would be. Will the new species succumb us or it will help us to move our life with more ease is a question, which time can only answer. If the earlier fact is true then we are into trouble. As, it would be the reason for a new disaster!

If the latter part is true, we can live a better life. The notion of creating life in the lab has plenty of detractors. Some Scientists aren’t convinced it can be done and religious leaders and environmentalists are in arm against this move. But there are also lots of advantages to it. Jay Keasling at UC Berkeley received $ 42 million from Bill Gates to create living microfactories that manufacture a powerful antimalaria agent. (Newsweek). Imagine that a microbe being created that would circulate in the blood and hunt down Cancer Cells, Imagine such type of bio devices that could conceivably have enormous advantages over traditional manufacturing processes and sources of material. Cell machinery that could operate the equivalent of multistep production lines at molecular level, fabricating complex chemical products precisely, atom by atom.  They would also work cheaply and efficiently, fed by simple safe substances like sugar. A few such types of projects are already giving us a glimpse of the power of this new field. The most extraordinary effort is to create a microbial organism that would produce a powerful antimalarial drug.

New York Times newspaper reports: ‘Such Biofabs produce made- to- order genes, the stretches of DNA that contain the instructions for living creatures.’ Sale of gene-synthesis industry are estimated at only $ 50 million a year, but they are growing rapidly. One foundry in Germany, has gone public. It says it expects sales this year to increase at least 60% , to 12.5 million euros, or about $17 billion, New York Times report.

The ability to make genes has given rise to a new subject called synthetic biology, which might lead to artificial life in very few years. Genetic Engineers extract a gene from an organism. Then they might modify it and put it in a different organism. There is certainly a behavior change in the organism. It then acts in the desired way. And once this bio device is designed and properly fabricated, the hard work becomes over – its users can instruct it to make as many copies of itself, by itself, as are needed. This Biodevices could make impossible drugs, including ones that are quite impossible to create through traditional chemistry. While there might be some other biodevices created that act as sensitive environmental biosensors, programmed to detect and degrade specific toxic organisms or  act as indicators like glow in the proximity of a biological, chemical or radioactive weapon. Anything is possible with these genetically modified organisms.

An organization is eyeing an even bigger prize: a self sustaining, highly efficient biological organism that converts sunlight directly into clean biofuel, with minimal environmental impact and zero net release of greenhouse gases (Newsweek).

Now, look at it in this way. Imagine that any of these mutated forms of biodevice doesn’t obey orders.

A species, which becomes an enemy of its own masters, it’s own Gods.

Probably, it would be a day, when humans have to wage war against that unknown species, which if wins, would lead to our extinction. Pope Benedict XVI has expressed outrage at scientists who “modify the very grammar of life as planned and willed by God.”

Some critics point out that Government should devise some regulations for saving Humans from any such mishaps.  “The result is not bioterror,” ETC Group, a technology watcher said in a report, “but BIOERROR” and we write our own annihilation story.

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Please send your feedback in the e-mail address given below.

Thanks and Regards,

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

EARTHQUAKE AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT


An earthquake is a series of vibrations on the earth’s surface caused by the generation of elastic (seismic) waves due to sudden rupture within the earth during release of accumulated strain energy.

Faulting may be considered as an immediate cause of an earthquake.    Due to constant movement of plates, deformation is caused which results to generations of strain energy. Indian  plate is moving in  north-north-east  direction  and  colliding  with  Eurasian  plate   along  the  Himalayas. All earthquakes, let it be the Gujarat Earthquake, Kutch (16 Jun, 1819, Magnitude 8), Shillong Plateau Earthquake (12 Jun 1897, Magnitude 8.7), Bihar Nepal Border Earthquake (15 Jan 1934, Magnitude 8.3), Arunachal Pradesh China Earthquake (15 Aug, 1950), Gujarat Earthquake, Bhuj (26 Jan 2001, Magnitude 7.7), Sumatra Earthquake (26 December, 2004, Magnitude 9.3), Kashmir Earthquake (08 October, 2005) have same story to tell about our destruction and annihilation.

The Recent Earthquake at Haiti (13 January, 2010, Magnitude 7) again repeats our helplessness to this mighty force of nature. Management of earthquake has become very crucial in this trouble times.

Severity of an Earthquake is measured by:

  • Slight – Magnitude up to 4.9 in a Richter Scale
  • Moderate – Magnitude up to 5 to 6.9 in a Richter Scale
  • Great – Magnitude up to 7.0 to 7.9 in a Richter Scale
  • Very Great – Magnitude up to 8.0 and more

A proactive stance to reduce the toll of disasters in the region requires a more comprehensive approach that encompasses both pre-disaster risk reduction and post disaster recovery. It is framed by new policies and institutional arrangements that support effective action. These types of approaches need the following set of activities:

  • Risk analysis to identify the kind of risks faced by the people and development investments as well as magnitude
  • Prevention and mitigation to address the structural sources of vulnerability
  • Risk transfer to spread financial risks over time and among different actors
  • Emergency preparedness and response to enhance a country’s readiness to cope quickly and effectively
  • Post disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction to support effective recovery and to safeguard against future disasters.

There are different types of theories which states about the causes of an earthquake. Hence the true nature of an earthquake must be well understood before adopting any control measures.

Two models were suggested. One was the Dilatancy –Diffusion Theory developed in the USA and the other is the Dilatancy – Instability theory of the then USSR.

The interesting fact is that the first stage of both the models is an increase of elastic strain in a rock that causes them to undergo a dilatancy state, which is an inelastic increase in volume that starts after the stress on a rock reaches one half its breaking strength. Hence it is in this state the first physical change takes place indicating future earthquake.

The USA model suggests that the dilatancy and fracture of the rocks are first associated with low water containing dilated rock, which helps in producing lower seismic event. The pore water pressure then increases due to influx of water into the open fracture, weakening the rock and facilitating movement along the fracture, which is termed as an earthquake.

Now let us take the Russian Model: The first phases is accompanied by an avalanches of fracture that release some stress but produce an unstable situation that eventually cause a large movement along a fracture. Seismic gaps are defined as an area along active fault zones, capable of producing large earthquake but that have not recently produced an earthquake.

It is these areas which are thought to bring in tectonic strain and which are the candidates for future large earthquake. Any fault that has moved during quaternary can be called as active fault. It is generally assumed that these faults could get displaced at any time. Faults that have been inactive for the last 3 million years are generally classified as inactive fault.

Active fault are basically responsible for seismic shaking and surface rupture (Sinha et al.2000). Like all other natural hazards earthquakes also produce primary and secondary effects. Primary effects include surface vibration, which may be associated with surface rupture and displacement long fault plane. These vibrations may sometimes lead to the total collapse of large buildings, dams, tunnels, pipelines and other rigid structures.

Secondary effects of an earthquake include a variety of short range events: such as liquefaction landslides, fires, tsunamis and floods. Long range effects include regional phenomenon such as regional subsidence or emergence of landmasses, river shifting and regional changes in ground level.

The main objective of earthquake preventive measures should be to develop and promote knowledge, practices and policies that reduce fatalities, injuries and other economic losses from an earthquake. Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing provides a tool effective and efficient storage and manipulation of remotely sensed data and other spatial and non-spatial data types for both scientific management and policy oriented information. This can be used to facilitate measurement, mapping, monitoring and modeling of variety of data type’s related natural phenomenon.

The critical areas that need focus for effective Earthquake Management are:

• Lack of awareness among various stakeholders about the seismic risk;

• Inadequate attention to structural mitigation measures in the engineering education syllabus;

• Inadequate monitoring and enforcement of earthquake-resistant building codes and town planning

bye-laws;

• Absence of systems of licensing of engineers and masons;

• Absence of earthquake-resistant features in non-engineered construction in suburban and rural

areas;

• Lack of formal training among professionals in earthquake-resistant construction practices; and

• Lack of adequate preparedness and response capacity among various stakeholder groups.

A number of organizations, like NGOs, self-help groups, CBOs, youth organizations, women’s groups, volunteer agencies, Civil Defense, Home Guards, etc. volunteer their services in the aftermath of any disaster. Large-scale natural disasters draw overwhelming humanitarian support from different stakeholders. The relief and response activities carried out by such stakeholder’s comply with the norms prescribed by the appropriate authorities. After an earthquake, accurate information is generally provided on the extent of the damage and the details of the response activities through electronic and print media.

The personal dos and don’ts at the time of an earthquake are given below for reference and awareness generation:

DO’S:

  • Take shelter under a desk, table, bed   or doorway during an earthquake.
  • Provide help to others and develop confidence.
  • Shut off kitchen gas.
  • Keep stock of drinking water, food stuff and first aid arrangements.
  • If you are in a moving vehicle, stop and stay in vehicle.
  • Follow and advocate local safety building code for earthquake resistant construction.
  • Heavy objects, glasses should be kept on lower shelf.
  • Turn on transistor or T.V.  to get latest information.
  • Make plan and preparation for emergency relief.

DON’Ts

  • Do not get panicky
  • Do not use candles, matches etc and do not switch any electric mains immediately after an earthquake.
  • Do not spread and  believe in  rumors
  • Do not run through or near buildings during an  earthquake

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Please send your feedback in the e-mail address given below.

Thanks and Regards,

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

CYCLONE MANAGEMENT

Millions of people living in the coastal areas of the West Atlantic, East, South Pacific and North and South Indian Oceans, regularly face the hazards of cyclone, also known as hurricane in the Western Hemisphere, typhoon in the western Pacific, willy willy near Australia and baguious in the Philippines.

Every cyclone begins as tropical low – pressure depressions, created by oceanic temperature rising above 26 degrees Celsius, which rotates clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere and counter clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, forming a gigantic and highly volatile atmosphere system with an eye at the vortex (10 to 50 Km) which is a relatively calm area, an eye wall (10 to 15 Km in height and 50 Km in length) of gale winds and intense clouds and spiral bands of convective clouds with torrential rains (a few Km wide and hundreds of Km long) – that move above 34 knots (64 Km per hour). The cyclones moving more than 90 Km, 120 Km and 225 Km per hour respectively have been classified as severe and super cyclones.

The hurricanes in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific basins are classified in categories I to V as per Saffir-Simpson Intensity Scale.

The lessons drawn from catastrophic cyclonic areas show that in the more developed countries, causality is less but more on the economic front.  Conversely in poor countries the human losses would be more but economic losses would be less simply because the unit costs of damages are assessed lower in developing countries. In middle income countries the damages to life and property would be somewhere in between.

The most complex task of mitigation is to map the hazard, risks and vulnerabilities of cyclone at all levels, analyze and assess the levels of risks and monitor it continuously. It is only on the basis of such knowledge base that a proper and effective strategy for cyclone risk mitigation and preparedness can be developed.

Atmospheric and Remote Sensing sciences have made a huge progress in the understanding of the phenomenon of cyclones. Satellite images can spot the development of low pressure zones, Doppler radars can track them down and instrumented aircrafts can reach the cyclone eye, eye walls and spiral bands to transmit data on wind velocity, pressure and moisture contents of the low pressure zones. Powerful Software tools are available to analyze the data to make fairly accurate forecasts on the intensity, direction and location of the landfall and the likely areas to be affected by winds, rain and storm surges.

The time series data on cyclones are now utilized to map and zone the areas prone to the hazards of cyclone. Such maps are now available at a regional, district and even sub district levels in most of the countries. Such maps are also available in digital formats which enable integration of various spatial data with socio-economic, housing, infrastructure and other variables that can provide a quick assessment of the risks and vulnerabilities of cyclone based on which appropriate mitigation and preparedness strategies can be developed.  But actual work on such data integration has been limited to few areas only and therefore vulnerability analysis has still to be done on the basis of ground level data collection and analysis, which is largely unattended task in most of the countries.

The satellite imageries are also supplemented with data regarding topography, vegetation, hydrology, land –use, land cover, settlement pattern etc to develop numerical models of storm surge and the inundation levels based on which timely warnings can be issued and realistic evacuation plans can be drawn up to shift the people and cattle likely to be affected by the cyclone.

However, such theoretical advances on cyclone modeling have been confronted with constraints in practical applications which would require more sustained research for accurate forecasting and simpler application format that would enable transfer of the technology to the planners and emergency response managers.

The constraints are further compounded by non-availability of accurate ground level data base and the costs involved in up-scaling such models from a pilot research phase to country wide application phase. Such works are still in progress even in advanced countries and therefore developing countries may not have the benefit of such accurate modeling in the very near future although this is well within the realm of possibility.

The other solution is the importance of Community Based Participatory Risk Assessment (PRA). Many such PRA tools have been developed in coastal areas which capture the intimate knowledge and perception that a community has about its own risks and vulnerabilities. Such perceptions have been validated by scientific analysis, lending credence to the reliability, simplicity and cost effectiveness of such assessment. More importantly, it involves the communities in the entire process making it democratic, sustainable and proactive and definitely facilities bridging the gap between assessment and preparedness or knowledge and action.

Therefore the ideal tool for assessment of cyclone risks and vulnerabilities at the local level should be a combination of scientific and traditional knowledge each supplementing the other.

Thanks and Regards,

Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/