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The Work of BRAC and UNISDR Disaster Risk Reduction/Management Bangladesh

Introduction

Natural hazards constitute processes involving the earth, water, and atmospheric processes that can cause destruction to people, environment, and property. Human settlements worsen the situation of the natural hazards especially people living in the plain lands, terraced places, areas weakened by flooding, faulting, and earthquakes. Many factors such as economic, social, political, and cultural issues increase the vulnerability of people to natural disasters.

Organizations Dealing with Natural Disasters

Bangladesh Rural Development Committee (BRAC) is an organization whose aim is poverty reduction through empowering the poor people to adopt new changes in their lives. The organization began its work in Bangladesh in the year 1972 and has worked in tackling poverty related issues and ways of dealing with climatic change (Climate Action Network International, n.d). To aIDress the frequency and severity of the natural disaster and other aspects of climate change, BRAC as a programme that deals with issues of environment and climate change in which they rehabilitate and offer relief emergencies to the affected individuals. The programmes aim at mental and physical rehabilitation by providing the locals with skills that enable them be self-sufficient and deal with disasters. In Bangladesh, BRAC in collaboration with DECC has helped the community n construction of 43 disaster-resilient houses and one resilient school that help in protecting people during disasters such as cyclone and floods. Most of the buildings are the Southern Bangladesh where disasters are very common especially in the Padmapukur in Shyamnagar who can now live secure lives. The organization has assisted many women by helping them form women’s groups that help in the identification of the most vulnerable members and give recommendations for them to receive training and livelihood support. The livelihood activities include crab fattening, rice cultivation, tailoring, rearing livestock, and making nets for earning a living.

All the BRAC staff receives training on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), and all the workers have first aid kits to help in the emergency situations whenever a disaster occurs and reduce the number of casualties. Through DECC, BRAC trains school teachers, village and community leaders, and health volunteers on ways of responding to disasters especially in areas prone to disasters. The other form of education the local Bangladeshis receive from BRA is to help them with coping abilities to stress, exploitation, and discrimination through psychological counselling. The organization has helped in the construction of sanitation facilities such as elevated latrines in areas prone to flooding such as Khulna and Satkhira to reduce waterborne diseases. Working together with the government and local leaders, BRAC in collaboration with DECC provide school books that help to create awareness on disaster preparedness especially in the risky areas such as along the coast. Weather forecasting is very important to predict the occurrence of disasters in Bangladesh and BRAC in collaboration with DECC has invested in the Integrated Collaboration and Rapid Emergency Services iCDESS, to collect data relating to the communities at risks of suffering disasters. BRAC workers give warnings about an impending disaster assisting the locals to prepare or relocate to safer grounds. BRAC offers relief assistance to communities affected by disasters by distributing emergencies during disasters and providing long-term solutions to make the victims self-sufficient.

UNISDR is an international organization that involves itself with disaster risk reduction especially coordination of the United Nations systems and other regional organizations in socio-economic and humanitarian fields. The organization as established by the UN General Assembly in 1999 for implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction UNISDR, 2010). The UNISDR coordinates disaster reduction and ensures that all the activities involving disaster reduction activities of the UN and the regional organizations are to the required standards. The organization also looks into the socio-economic and humanitarian sectors as a way of reducing risks associated with natural disasters. The organization has offered a lot of assistance in the form of training and funding the local projects aimed at reducing the effect of natural disasters. Some of the projects funded by the organization are the construction of houses that can minimise the effect of the disasters such as flooding.

The UNISDR chief Margareta Wahlstrom visited a disaster-resilient village in Bangladesh and praised the people for fighting against climatic change and its impacts. The organization assisted in funding a project for constructing homes that stand on plinths raised five feet from the ground level (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction UNISDR, 2010). The homes have a good sanitation facilities, improved stoves and solar panels for lighting, making the lives of the vulnerable communities more comfortable. The other project the organization has offered flood defense embankment, construction of community ponds, construction of cyclone-resistance schools, and health centres. There are also water treatment plants and community information centres constructed through the organization’s assistance. The project’s other facilities are boats and training opportunities for the community to enable them perform different jobs to secure some income. The organisation collaborates with the other international organisations such as UNDP to implement various projects and community rehabilitation to reduce the vulnerabilities of the local community especially women and children. UNISDR has always met with the top government officials to discuss the importance of DRR at the community level by having policies, which will help the communities cope with the effects of the disasters. The organization has also partnered with other groups such as Vulnerable Group Feeding and Employment Generation Programme for the Poorest to provide funds for supporting the vulnerable groups through provision of the basic commodities, training, and generation of employment (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction UNISDR, 2010). The group does many follow ups on the progress of the ongoing disaster management projects and coordination of programmes aimed at capacity building. The organisation’s top officials have held forums with the Bangladesh government to discuss issues concerning DRR and any major challenges the country faces as a developing country. Some of the issues of their discussions touch on the 2015 international framework for disaster risk reduction such as understanding the meaning of DRR, strengthening the socio-economic resilience and reconstruction of the countries damaged environment.

Case study: Bangladesh

Bangladesh is a country that has suffered many natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, landslides, famine and many more affecting several activities of the country each year. Flash floods are very common in the country especially in the hilly areas while monsoon floods occur during the monsoon season as asserted by Khalequzzaman (1994). The other types of floods affecting the country are the bank floods occurring in the rivers such as Brahmaputra, Meghna, and Ganges. Many floods have occurred in the country such as the 1842, 1871, 1892, 1987, 1988, 2004, 2010 and many others affecting the economic activities of the country (Bangladesh flash floods affect nearly 10, 0., & Report, 2013). The 1987 floods that occurred in July and August affecting about 57,300 square kilometers or 40% of the land will form the basis of this discussion. The main cause of the flooding as the human activities in Himalayas Mountains as the inhabitants used vertical irrigation to water their crops. The main factors that led to the peoples’ vulnerability to the flooding are economic factors such as the farming practices such as irrigation especially in the hilly areas (Ewert & Brockmueller, 1990). The economy of Bangladesh creates the disparity between the rich who live in urban areas and the poor living in disaster prone areas such as mountain and riverbanks. The flooding in 1988 as greatly influenced by the peoples’ irrigation methods in the Himalayas Mountains. Deforestation is also common as people clear land for farming and grazing leaving the area bare and prone to floods whenever it rains. Cultural factors such some religious, cultural values restrict the use of modern family planning methods especially in the rural areas where the level of education for women is low. The education disparity experienced in the country makes the poor vulnerable to the floods due to lack of knowledge of the activities that expose them to the disasters especially the methods of cultivation. Low education levels contribute to the high population, and people have to clear lands for settlement and agricultural activities. Forest clearing results to soil erosion and eventually to flooding when it rains. Social factors such as welfare and social protection for the different social groups in the country such as lack of availability of knowledge and information to the poor class and certain societies expose people to natural hazards. The distribution of assets and other important resources by the government in different communities make people settle and cultivate in flood-prone areas. The reoccurrence of the disaster depends on the political response to the previous one and may result in a more serious one if necessary steps are not taken. Politicians are the lawmakers and determine the action to be taken to prevent or reduce the magnitude of the occurrence of the floods as Hapeman (2012) asserts. The amount of funds allocated to disaster management can worsen the situation for instance if the funds are not enough, the projects for reducing the effects might not be accomplished. Political factors determine the opportunities and locations for human activities such as mining, agricultural activities, energy resources, settlements, and places of work. Poor people mainly work in disaster-prone areas and expose themselves to hazards such as flooding especially people living near the riverbanks of Meghna and Ganges in Bangladesh.

Actions and Policies to aIDress the disaster

One way Bangladesh is doing to aIDress flooding is building improved canals to drain water than cause a lot of flooding in the region through the help of the government (Boyce, 1990). The authorities are creating water collection tanks and dams to drain the rainwater disaster whenever it rains. Other practical solutions are the construction of flood proof sheds for animals and houses that can withstand the force of the floods in the flood-prone areas. The huge embankment built along the rivers and coasts helps prevent flooding when the rivers swell by providing the capacity of the river to hold more water (Hasan, 2015). The government through the help of NGOs has constructed Dams along the rivers to help in holding the excessive water longer to minimize flooding of the nearby lands.

Another solution for flooding in Bangladesh is raising plinths of the communities’ houses and animal sheds five feet above the estimated flood level. According to Braun and Aßheuer (2011), Plinths can also protect crops from damage by planting them on raised plinths. Buildings bridges and roads to a higher standard, which can tolerate the force of the water during floods and prevent the floods from sweeping them away is another solution (Rahman & Chowdhury, 1998). Building of flood defenses and educating people on their maintenance for them to last longer and stop flooding is another method Bangladeshis are using. The government and the department of geosciences have improved the prediction technologies and on people of impending flooding early enough to prevent loss of lives.

BRAC helps in implementing long-term efforts of poverty alleviation and empowering the poor by educating the victims especially in the rural areas and the Bangladesh slums according to Climate Action Network International (n.d). The body helps the victims of the natural calamities such as floods and cyclones. BRAC helped the flood victims in 1974, 1987, 1988, 2000, and 2004 and carried out more research concerning issues of DRR and DRM and the future responses to floods and disasters in Bangladesh. The organization has urgent programmes to help in the reduction of death from starvation, rehabilitation, employment, and nutritional support for the affected people. The UNISDR helps in safeguarding lives and maintaining the livelihoods of the affected people after flooding (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction UNISDR, 2010).

Conclusion

Natural hazards are some of the major causes of destruction of lives and property in many developing countries especially in the vulnerable communities. There are many factors that contribute to the devastating effect of the natural disasters such as political, socioeconomic, and cultural norms of communities. Bangladesh is a country in the developing world faced with many natural disasters such as flooding, cyclones, and earthquakes. Many of the people affected by the disasters are the poor communities living in disaster-prone regions. The government together with international organizations and NGOs such as BRAC and UNISDR have come up with various projects aimed at Disaster Risk Reduction especially at the local level. Some of the activities for DRR include training the locals on disaster management and the effect of the climate change, relief supplies, construction of disaster-resilient villages and many more. All the measures taken by the government, the communities, and the organizations aim at reducing the impact of natural disasters to the Bangladeshis.

References

Bangladesh flash floods affect nearly 10, 0., & Report, D. (2013). Bangladesh flash floods affect nearly 10,000. Disaster-report.com. Retrieved 22 April 2015, from http://www.disaster-report.com/2013/07/bangladesh-flash-floods-affect-nearly.html

Boyce, J. (1990), Birth of a Megaproject: Political Economy of Flood control in Bangladesh. Environmental Management, (14) 4, 419-428.

Braun, B., & Aßheuer, T. (2011). Floods in megacity environments: vulnerability and coping strategies of slum dwellers in Dhaka/Bangladesh. Nat Hazards, 58(2), 771-787. doi:10.1007/s11069-011-9752-5

Cannon, T. (2008). “Reducing people’s vulnerability to natural hazards: communities and resilience” WIDER Research Paper 34, Helsinki. Retrieved 22 April 2015, from http://www.wider.unu.edu/publications/working-papers/research-papers/2008/en_GB/rp2008-34/

Climate Action Network International (n.d). Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC). http://www.climatenetwork.org/profile/member/bangladesh-rural-advancement-committee-brac

Ewert, T., & Brockmueller, L. (1990). Some agricultural and socio-economic aspects of the floods of 1988, including suggestions for future NGO agricultural rehabilitation assistance. Dhaka: Mennonite Central Committee.

Hapeman, K. ( 2012). The Effects of Politics on Natural Disasters: Lessons Learned from Bangladesh. Case-Specific Briefing Paper Humanitarian Aid in Complex Emergencies

Hasan, M. (2015). Communities Find Solutions to Tackling Climate Change in Flood Hit Areas in Bangladesh. The World Bank News. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2014/12/15/communities-solutions-tackling-climate-change-flood-hit-areas

International Strategy for Disaster Reduction UNISDR, (2010). Local Governments and Disaster Risk Reduction http://www.memorisks.org/docs/ISDR_2010_LocalGovernmentsanIDisasterRiskReduction.pdf

Khalequzzaman, M. (1994). Recent floods in Bangladesh: Possible causes and solutions. Natural Hazards, (9), 65-80.MacDonald, M. (1989). GOB (Government of Bangladesh) and UNDP (United Nations Development Programs), A Flood Policy for Bangladesh: International, Cambridge, England.

Rahman, M., & Chowdhury, J. (1998). Impacts of flood control projects in Bangladesh. In, Ali, M. A., Hoque, M. M., Rahman, R., and Rashid, S.,1998 (eds),Bangladesh Floods –Views from Home and Abroad: Dhaka, United Press Limited, p.55-66.

Wisner, B., Cannon, T., David, I., Blaikie, P. (2004) At Risk: natural hazards, people’s vulnerability and disasters, 2nd ed. Routledge: London. http://www.unisdr.org/files/670_72351.pdf

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