Disaster Preparedness activities cornerstone for Saving Lives in Nepal
Nepal is one of the most multi-hazard prone countries in the world; it is hit by disasters like floods and landslides every year. Disaster preparedness activities are a cornerstone for saving lives and reducing material loses of communities at risk. These activities can range from community actions like training of local disaster response teams, training of volunteers and communities in first aid and search and rescue, developing disaster response and contingency plans and establishment of early warning systems to institutional activities like developing government systems, tools and structures to ensure targeted, effective and coordinated response.
Three months after the 2015 Earthquake, Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS), supported by Consortia led by DRC and through an European Union funded project, launched a new initiative to support the Government of Nepal with two key institutional preparedness activities: the establishment of a new mechanism for collection of impartial and timely Needs Assessment in emergency settings and the strengthening of the Emergency Operation Centres at district level. And since then, the Government of Nepal supported by NRCS, as auxiliary organization to the Government, both have been working in building these institutional capacities and structures towards an stronger disaster preparedness system.
From one side, a national team of experts in Needs Assessment and Coordination in emergency situations has been established and trained under the lead of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA)* and supported by NRCS and DRC-led Consortia in coordination with UN system and INGOs. The Assessment and Coordination Team (ACT), name given to this roster of professionals, is now established and ready for immediate deployment within Nepal. The main responsibility of the ACT members is to provide technical assistance to district authorities to ensure that impartial and timely needs assessments are produced and available for designing and strategizing the most appropriate and coordinated disaster response actions. The team now counts with 52 assessment and coordination experts, trained, equipped and ready to be deployed nationally. It is expected that these professionals work hand to hand with District Emergency Operation Centres (DEOC) in the affected districts that have the main responsibility to support a response system in time, effective, appropriate and in a coordinated manner at District level.
Currently, DEOCs are not yet fully functional along the national EOC and most of them lack of systems, human resources and basic equipment. In response to that and to model fully functional DEOCs, the NRCS and DRC-led Consortia supported initiative has been piloting the strengthening of 3 DEOCs in one of the most flood prone areas of the country through development of Standard Operational Procedures, set up of an Information management platform, training of staff and key stakeholders involved in disaster management activities and provision of basic tools and equipment for response actions. One of the most common and main weaknesses of the DEOCs is their lack of communication and connection with the community level. Communities are always the first responders in disasters; they do count with capacities and they do know their structures, neighbours and surroundings. Therefore, involving communities as an active and fully participant actor in collection of information about needs, damages and gaps can make a critical difference in the way a disaster response is designed.
Today, the Government of Nepal, as first responsible body for responding to the immediate and short term people’s needs right after a disaster count with assessment and coordination professionals and DEOCs structures in place, at national and district level, to identify needs, gaps and for coordinating the disaster response actions in an strategic way. Today, when the country gets ready for a new Monsoon season, a strong and effective disaster preparedness model is in place (in some parts of the country) for the Government of Nepal and Disaster Management stakeholders to respond effectively to the needs of the most vulnerable people in case of a new disaster hits the country.
Investing in disaster preparedness activities will reduce significantly human suffering and material loses of communities and cities at risk.
*MOHA: Ministry of Home Affairs, mandated by Law, is the first responsible body for ensuring an effective and timely response in case of disasters.