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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Psychological Support In Disaster Management

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Disasters can happen anytime and at anyplace. Natural disasters are so frequent that one generally attributes it to fate. Sometimes the destructive forces of Nature become so strong that all our plans and policies fall like cards. We become helpless infront of the mighty Nature. When everything comes to an end, wherever one looks, the sight of the helpless victims fills our eyes. Children’s become orphans. Husbands lose their wives and vice-versa. The scenes are extremely painful. Lots of money in the form of grants flows for reconstruction. The obvious question that comes to ones mind is:

Is monetary help really meets their needs?

The answer will be in negative. Scenes horrendous in nature, fear, trauma and stress do engulf them. They are living dead.

The only solution to the problem is Psychological Support. In many projects a good psychological support program misses.

We have to explore those and that’s what humanity is all about.

Psychological support has become an important component of the disaster preparation and response repertoire. This occurred in the background of the need to understand mechanisms for the reduction of hazards related to disasters. The United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), 1990-99, was dedicated to promoting solutions to reduce risks from natural hazards (ISDR 2002). But it’s not always Natural Disasters that happens and leaves a scar in the minds of the people. It’s also man-made situations or accidents, which do lead to devastations. Now, it is recognized that riots, industrial accidents, acts of terrorism, internal displacement and insurgency are also roots cause for Psychological Trauma for the people. Though, these types of support are being carried out by different organizations, yet we have to do more. We need an effective trauma management throughout the World. Trauma includes major injury of all types — disasters, auto accidents, falls, industrial accidents, burns, shootings etc. Serious trauma is the leading killer of humans. Millions across the World are disabled and some permanently. If we look through the doors of history, we will find that by middle of 1970s, the growth and development of mental hospitals was the main approach for the provision of mental health services.

In India, several disasters took place. Among them is Bangalore circus tragedy (1981). It was a major disaster and the lessons learned were ‘High Emotional Stress and morbidity by survivors not addressed by health personnel’.

Bhopal Gas Leak disaster: (December 1984) where, physicians and other health personnel’s were not prepared to offer psychological support to the victims. Even till today, the horrible memories haunt them.

Orissa Cyclone was another example. Left over 10,000 dead. Approximately 15 million affected and displaced. Initial and two year surveys show high emotional stress present among survivors.

The Gujarat earthquake was another example. Over 20,000 people dead in acute phase and 100,000 with severe disabilities. Good health care, with no psychological support when many needed emotional care is the root cause of creation of secondary disasters.

Many lessons were learned but still remains a serious issue less addressed. When we talk of improved technologies; use of GIS and Remote Sensing, mitigation policies, construction and renovation, we seldom talk of this soft part of humanity, which makes us a Human. The response to any type of crisis should also include Psychological First Aid, Crisis Intervention, Defusing, Education and solution-focused counseling. Psychological support then must be framed within the existing and accepted methodologies of the continuum of disasters. Different types of trauma may affect the victims. There are different ways in which the response may affect the survivors.

These include:

i) Major elements of loss

ii) Exposure to bodies

iii) Degradation and Humiliation in cases of trauma motivated by racial or religious reasons

iv) Forced separation and relocation.

Depending upon the types of disasters, the survivor may assume different types of emotional roles:

i) The survivor assumes the role of victim and responds as victimized.

ii) The survivor assumes the role of victor and responds to the event in an active way that will foster problem-solving skills and learning and will make the person resilient after the event.

Now if we take the second point and move forward, we could surely able to make experts who have not only faced the crisis but also channel their experience towards better Psychological Support. The Psychological support program does not perceive the survivors as passive actors during an emergency or a disaster, but relies on the resourcefulness of the survivor and the capacity of individuals and communities to become resilient.

So, the ways to move forward are:

i) Pre-disaster Management:

Design and implement psychological first- aid training

ii) During the disaster: People’s response based on previous knowledge and level of coping

iii) Post Disaster: Assessment and treatment of Psychological Symptoms

iv) End Result: Reduce responses of distress and negative behavioral changes McFarlane (1995), who studied the relationship between training and preparation to post-disaster said that education about possible disaster experiences and how to deal with them, training through simulations and awareness of likely psychological reactions in both responders and survivors are very helpful. In general, the professional community would benefit from focusing on psychological support before, during and after a disaster.

Community people react differently before a disaster and after a disaster.

Pre-Disaster :

This is a period, when a community reacts in various ways. Members of the community may be anxious when a disaster is imminent, especially if they have not experienced one before and they may not respond adequately to the event. When a disaster cannot be predicted; let’s take the example of earthquakes or a volcanic eruptions, the community may become anxious and over-respond to the event, which may be detrimental to their well being. The common sources of anxiety include the threat to ones own life and the safety and well being of others, such as partners or children.

During a Disaster:

The impact of a disaster varies according to the type of disaster and the amount of warning that the survivors have had prior to the event. The roles of each variable affecting the survivors will predicate the emotional response. For example, threat, exposure, loss and dislocation will be determinants of a survivor’s patterns of adjustment. A person’s actions are geared to protection of the self and others, especially children, family members and those who are weak and helpless.

Here comes the effects of “altruism”, which is frequent and people will place their lives at risk to help others. Some people experience “shock”, especially when the disaster is unexpected, which adds their feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. Another common response is to be disorganized or stunned and people may not be able to respond appropriately to protect themselves and their families. Such disorganized behavior may extend in the post-disaster phase and so one may find people wandering aimlessly in the devastation. This reaction may reflect distortions in responses to severe disaster stressors and may indicate a level of dissociation. After a disaster, any people face complications.

The most important among them are:

a) Emotional reactions in the form of somatic complaints such as sleep disturbance

b) Indigestion

c) Fatigue

d) Social effects

e) Relationship or work difficulties

So, all these state the importance of psychological care in the case of disaster management. Psychological care is always required in such types of incidents. As (Garmezy, 1983) states that the ‘role of psychological care is to foster individual and community resilience. Individual resilience applies to the capacity to recover from a negative experience with renewed enthusiasm and an increased capacity to respond positively to a subsequent stressful event. The communities should be well trained so that a resilient community takes action to enhance the personal and collective capacity of its citizens and institutions to respond to, and influence the course of social and economic change.

Some factors which can help in positive outcomes are:

a) Recognizing and reinforcing people’s strengths

b) Providing clear and accurate information and education

c) Reinforcing supportive networks

d) Supporting and developing community strengths and process

Apart from these the Psychological Team should be able to give:

• Give practical assistance, information and emotional support.

• Respect traditional beliefs and customs and accommodate the family’s needs as far as possible.

• Provide counseling for the woman/family and allow for reflection on the event.

• Explain the problem to help reduce anxiety and guilt. Many women/families blame themselves for what has happened.

• Listen and express understanding and acceptance of the woman’s feelings. Nonverbal communication may speak louder than words: a squeeze of the hand or a look of concern can say an enormous amount.

• Repeat information several times and give written information, if possible. People experiencing an emergency will not remember much of what is said to them.

• Health care providers may feel anger, guilt, sorrow, pain and frustration in the face of obstetric emergencies that may lead them to avoid the woman/family. Showing emotion is not a weakness.

• Remember to care for staff who themselves may experience guilt, grief, confusion and other emotions.

If these issues are given importance, we can move one step ahead in creation of a Safer, Stronger, Greener and a Disaster Free World for us as well as for our future generations.

Thanks and Regards,

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS CHALLENGES

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Climate change is one of the most critical global challenges of our time. Recent events have emphatically demonstrated our growing vulnerability to climate change. Climate change impacts will range from affecting agriculture- further endangering food security-, sea-level rise and the accelerated erosion of coastal zones, increasing intensity of natural disasters, species extinction and the spread of vector-borne diseases.

Climate change refers to the variation in the Earth’s global climate or in regional climates over time. It describes changes in the variability or average state of the atmosphere over time scales, ranging from decades to millions of years. These changes can be caused by processes internal to the Earth, external forces (e.g. variations in sunlight intensity) and, more recently, human activities.

In recent usage, especially in the context of environmental policy, the term “climate change” often refers to changes in modern climate which according to the IPCC are 90-95% likely to have been in part caused by human action. Consequently the term anthropogenic climate change is frequently adopted; this phenomenon is also referred to in the mainstream media as global warming. In some cases, the term is also used with a presumption of human causation, as in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC uses “climate variability” for non-human caused variations.

Weather is the day-to-day state of the atmosphere, and is a chaotic non-linear dynamical system. On the other hand, climate — the average state of weather — is fairly stable and predictable. Climate includes the average temperature, amount of precipitation, days of sunlight, and other variables that might be measured at any given site. However, there are also changes within the Earth’s environment that can affect the climate.

Glaciation

Percentage of advancing glaciers in the Alps in the last 80 years. Glaciers are recognized as one of the most sensitive indicators of climate change, advancing substantially during climate cooling (e.g., the Little Ice Age) and retreating during climate warming on moderate time scales. Glaciers grow and collapse, both contributing to natural variability and greatly amplifying externally-forced changes. For the last century, however, glaciers have been unable to regenerate enough ice during the winters to make up for the ice lost during the summer months.

Ocean variability

A schematic of modern thermohaline circulation. On the scale of decades, climate changes can also result from interaction of the atmosphere and oceans. Many climate fluctuations, the best known being the El Niño Southern oscillation but also including the Pacific decadal oscillation, the North Atlantic oscillation, and Arctic oscillation, owe their existence at least in part to different ways that heat can be stored in the oceans and move between different reservoirs. On longer time scales ocean processes such as thermohaline circulation play a key role in redistributing heat, and can dramatically affect climate.

Climate Change Outreach Programme

Responding to the needs of the countries and following the request from the UNFCCC Secretariat, UNEP/DEC has initiated and implemented a major programme on climate change outreach that directly supported the UNFCCC New Delhi Work Programme on Article 6 (Education, Training and Public Awareness) The objectives of this project are to provide to Governments additional tools for promoting climate change awareness at the national level. Support efforts by associations and NGOs to provide accurate and accessible messages of IPCC on climate change to their memberships or target audiences, make the youth more aware of the climate change implications and motivated to take relevant climate friendly actions, and raise awareness of general public on climate change problems with easily understandable graphic materials. Project partners include the Governments of Kenya, Ghana , Namibia , Russia , Uzbekistan , Mexico , Albania , Georgia, the UNFCCC and IPCC Secretariats, WWF, TERI, the Government of Norway and other donors.

National Climate Outreach Campaigns

Those campaigns have been implemented in Namibia , Ghana , Kenya , Russia , Uzbekistan , Albania and Georgia . Each campaign identified local needs and priorities for implementing national-level Article 6 activities, promoted collaboration and networking among focal points and key stakeholders, produced popular brochures and booklets in local languages, organized radio and TV presentations on hot climate topics – and much more. In Latin America UNEP/DEC supported publication of a Handbook on Climate Change Communications for local practitioners that was successfully tested at a regional workshop with participants from 10 countries of the region.

Climate Outreach to Youth

UNEP has entered into a partnership with TERI Institute ( India ) to promote environmental education among the school children in India . This programme covered more than 100 schools in 8 states of the country and featured establishing school climate clubs, workshops and seminars for children, arranging climate-related shows and presentations and compiling guide books on climate change for teachers.

Thanks a lot for taking your time and reading. Please put a comment, if your time permits.

Regards,

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/

BANGLADESH CYCLONE: HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

Candles786A severe cyclone has killed more than 500 people in Bangladesh and left thousands injured or missing. As, the latest new goes, Three thousand people have been confirmed dead in Bangladesh after a cyclone hit the south of the country, the private ATN Bangla television network said Sunday as the death toll continued to rise.

“We are expecting that thousands of dead bodies may be found within a few days,” the deputy head of the government’s disaster management office, Shekhar Chandra Das, told AFP in the capital Dhaka.

“We have not been able to collect information about casualties in many remote and impassable places due to the disruption to communications,” he said. In most areas telephone lines are down and roads blocked. Countless villages have also been blown from the face of the earth.
“The number of deaths so far is 1,723 and it is increasing,” said major Emdadul Islam of the armed forces control room.

“A 20-foot (six-metre) wall of water wrecked the village of Charkhali and 30 more people are still missing,” said local government official K.M. Abdul Wadud.


“The wind and the tidal surge were so strong that it churned up four kilometres (2.5 miles) of a tarmac road,” added resident Anowar Hossen Khan.

The dead were being buried in a mass grave, villagers said.
Millions more were also said to be homeless. “Village after village has been shattered,” said administrator Hariprasad Pal. “Millions of people are living out in the open and relief is reaching less than one percent of the people.”

Residents in southern districts near the coast bore the full brunt of the storm and told AFP of their terror as they were hit by wind speeds of up to 240 kilometres (155 miles) an hour, huge waves and suffocating rain. Fulmala Begum, 40, said she was not warned to evacuate and had to take refuge under a bed with her husband and two children as the storm roared around her.
“Five hours later we found ourselves under a heap of tin roofs and two huge trees. Not a single house in my village was spared the catastrophe,” said the woman, lucky to be alive but totally destitute.


Thousands of survivors waited for relief aid amid their wrecked homes and flooded fields after the deadliest storm to hit Bangladesh in a decade, as a news report said the cyclone’s death toll neared 1,800.


The Government scrambled to join international agencies and local officials in the rescue mission following Tropical Cyclone Sidr, deploying military helicopters, thousands of troops and naval ships. Rescuers struggled to clear roads and get their vehicles through, but many found the blockages impassable. “We will try again tomorrow on bicycles, and hire local country boats,” M Shakil Anwar of CARE said from the city of Khulna. At least 1.5 million coastal villagers had fled to shelters where they were given emergency rations. The cyclone, which followed devastating floods in July-September that killed more than 1000, posed a new challenge to the interim administration, whose main task is to hold free and fair national elections before the end of next year. The cyclone triggered a tidal surge that inundated the towns of Patuakhali, Barguna and Jharkhand, cutting off communication links. A government official in Dhaka said there was no immediate information about casualities from the area. The cyclone blew past India’s eastern coast without causing much damage.


The cyclone will pass and we will again try to bring back things to normalcy. But the cyclone definitely left behind a legacy of pain, sorrow and memories which are never to be forgotten. It left behind orphans, left behind the cries of a bereaved mother and father. All our planning and policies failed. Situations went out of hand. Mother Nature turned so destructive that we just stood as mere spectators and our near and dear ones are taken away from us.

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

Writer:

Mr. Mainak Majumdar

Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant

Weblink:     http://www.theideas.in/