• Launching a new response to natural disasters

Launching a new response to natural disasters

02 June 2015

Whilst much is reported in the international media about the conflict in Afghanistan, less focus is placed on the often devastating effects of natural disasters.  The press will occasionally report on a major catastrophe with great loss of life and property damage, such as the deadly avalanches in Panjshir province in February this year and the double landslide in Badakhshan in May 2014.  But what is generally unreported are the lower-level but more frequent crises faced by rural communities who are often dependent on the land. 

Approximately 80% of Afghanistan’s population rely on their local natural resources to survive.  But 30 years of conflict have forced some people to live in areas that are particularly disaster prone, putting them at risk of flooding, landslides and drought. The country’s diverse geography, the effects of climate change and decades of environmental mismanagement add to this complex problem.  When poverty is added to the equation, it is easy to see how some vulnerable communities struggle to deal with these environmental problems.

A consortium of five development agencies, including three BAAG members - Afghanaid, ActionAid, Concern Worldwide, Save the Children, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – have recently launched a 4-year programme aiming to tackle these issues.  Referring to the launch event held in Kabul on 19th May, Afghanaid’s Managing Director Charles Davy stated: "Disaster risk reduction means working with communities to identify potential hazards; assessing the likelihood and impact of disasters should they occur and putting into place strategies to reduce or eliminate risk. Throughout 2014 Afghanaid has been at the forefront of DRR initiatives in Afghanistan and this project will expand on this, enabling the Afghan people to build a more secure future for themselves and their families.".

The SRACAD Programme (Strengthening the Resilience of Afghanistan’s Vulnerable Communities against Disasters) has been 14 months in development.  The consortium agencies, with a wealth of experience in the country numbering many decades, have designed a programme that delivers support from the community level up to Ministries.  Resilience – the ability to bounce back from a disaster as well as to adapt to a changing and increasingly unpredictable environment – requires this holistic approach.

SRACAD will work with communities across 25 disaster prone districts, helping them to identify and assess their unique vulnerabilities and create Disaster Risk Reduction plans and committees.  The agencies will work with schools and house-holds, and will provide ‘safety nets’ including grain and fodder banks to support those reliant on livestock.  Additionally, they will help individuals with ‘income and livelihood diversification’ so that participants can gain skills in new areas through vocational trainings and enhance their capacity and opportunity to support their families.  By providing school children with vital skills and awareness, the programme will create a generation of aware citizens to sustain the community-level response capabilities.

Beyond the community activities, the SRACAD programme will support the Afghan government in its disaster response and preparedness role. This will include technical training, information sharing and the activation of Provincial Emergency Operations Centres.  Meanwhile, the 4 year programme will generate valuable data on environmental and community resilience.  This will be shared widely across the development community, and used for advocacy purposes. In total, the complete programme aims to benefit almost 400,000 people.

SRACAD Consortium Manager, Guru Naik said of the project: “ARC (the Afghan Resilience Consortium) brings together five leading development agencies in Afghanistan. With shared experience implementing humanitarian and DRR projects, broad geographic coverage and commitment to working towards shared and common goals, objectives and activities, ARC will be able to develop an unparalleled evidence base into what works in resilience programming in Afghanistan”.

BAAG has long supported programmes aimed at both responding to and mitigating the needs of disaster-affected communities.  One of our stated Humanitarian recommendations is for the donor community to ‘systematically promote resilience to recurrent natural disaster by providing support to Afghan institutions, NGOs and local communities for disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness livelihood support and social protection.’  We therefore welcome this innovative and much-needed initiative and look forward to following and reporting its successes in the coming years.

 

SRACAD is funded by the UK Department for International Development.