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Empower communities with disaster, risk reduction skills

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th March 2010 03:00 AM

Disaster risk reduction has been given lip-service especially at a time when the globe is experiencing climate change effects that have caused hazards and disasters. Although the subject has received attention from development partners, donors and governments, its intensity and adaptation measures r

Disaster risk reduction has been given lip-service especially at a time when the globe is experiencing climate change effects that have caused hazards and disasters. Although the subject has received attention from development partners, donors and governments, its intensity and adaptation measures r

By Sarah Kalembe

Disaster risk reduction has been given lip-service especially at a time when the globe is experiencing climate change effects that have caused hazards and disasters. Although the subject has received attention from development partners, donors and governments, its intensity and adaptation measures remain a challenge.

Efforts by development partners to mainstream disaster risk management into community programmes, has not yet yielded much as the communities still do not know what to do when faced by disaster. This raises questions like; what is it that we have not done to make our communities resilient to hazards and disasters?

As we continue to design our disaster risk reduction interventions, there is need to ask the following questions; what are some of the causes of these disasters? Who is mostly affected by the disasters when they occur? For whom are interventions designed? Have our target communities been involved in the design of interventions?

How timely and effective are our responses to the affected communities? Is there a preparedness and contingency plan to address disaster effects during and after their occurrence?

Is there an effective early warning system to warn our communities about the impending hazards? How sustainable are our interventions to those affected by disasters? The answer to the above questions is simple. Communities need to be empowered in disaster risk reduction.

Communities’ skills, knowledge and capacities need to be identified and enhanced through training and participation in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of the disaster risk reduction interventions. Otherwise, it is useless to think for the community as it is them that know the extent to which the hazard and disaster affects them. Communities have capacities, resources and skills, that we need to build on, but most of them have been undermined by development efforts. It should be noted that no community has zero capacity to manage a problem.

We should, therefore, help communities identify these capacities and fully utilise them.

Through approaches like community managed disaster risk reduction, communities can be helped to realise their potential. The approach takes a systematic process of involving the community in a participatory disaster risk assessment.

It is the community that analyses the hazard, conducts a vulnerability assessment, and their capacity to cope with the hazard. Using the same process the community is able to identify the root cause of the hazard.

The community also identifies the most vulnerable group, plans intervention strategies and ensures they are managed and implemented.

Planning for a disaster and the development of early warning systems are part of the community empowerment activities. In other words, communities become drivers of their own disaster reduction process other than wait for donors and the Government.

This approach believes that once communities tackle the root causes of some of the hazards, then disaster occurrence can be minimised.

In the long run, community capacities and potential will be enhanced and resources for emergency and relief response may be saved and invested into other development programmes.
The writer is a programme
officer, IIRR Uganda

Empower communities with disaster, risk reduction skills

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