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Community Support During Disasters – A Review of Disaster Pattern And Their Management




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Nepal is one of the most disaster-prone countries of the world due to its complex geophysical condition and poor socio-economic situation. The country is facing various types of natural disasters like: flood, landslide, fire, earthquake, windstorm, hailstorm, lightning, glacier lake outburst flood, drought, epidemic, avalanche and so on. Further it is also exposed to various types of natural disasters due to rugged and steep topography, extreme weather events, and fragile geological conditions. Nepal’s vulnerability to disasters is compounded by rapid population growth, and development of haphazard and unplanned settlements.

The rural houses are built mostly with the wood and thatched roofs and are hence very weak and majority of them remain highly vulnerable to disasters such as fire hazards, earthquakes, landslides, and floods. The disaster occurs almost every year in one or the other part of the country.

Thousands of families every year become homeless due to natural disasters and most of these are poor families as they usually live in the disaster-prone areas due to socio economic conditions and the repressive caste system. It is obvious that they are more victimized as they are in un planned settlements in the hazard/risk affected area with minimal preventive measures (using poor construction materials), haphazard use of land for agriculture and other activities.

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Large tracts of the rural areas are often inhabited by low income earning communities dependent upon agriculture, livestock, daily wage, forest products, small business, and service for their livelihoods. Once the disaster occurs, these extremely vulnerable people are mere dependents (for a long time) on external aid in absence of community safety nets and weak government infrastructure and support systems.

The types of natural and human induced hazards in Nepal, drawn from the active dataset (table 1) maintained by MoHA, covering a period of 45 years (1971 to 2015) tells us that a total of 22,373 disaster events have been recorded during this period. This works out to an average annual exposure to 500 events of disaster.
Nepal has been classified by the World Bank 2015 as one of the ‘hot- spot’ countries in the world with high risk for multi-hazard and disasters. Accordingly, “Nepal is ranked as 11th at most risk country in the world in terms of its vulnerability to earthquake, 30th with respect to floods and ranked 4th at risk of climate change induced disasters, making it the 20th most disaster-prone country among 198 countries in the world” (UNDP/BCPR, 2004). According to “National Strategy for Disaster Risk Management in Nepal 2009” of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), Nepal suffers a loss of about 1000 people’s life every year due to natural hazards, and a direct loss of an average of nearly 1208 million Nepali rupees per year. Every year millions of national and international expenditures are spent on disaster response activities, which absorbed a great deal of resources which would normally be allocated for well grounded national development efforts.

Nepal is one of the most disaster-prone countries of the world due to complex geophysical condition and poor socio-economic situation. The country is facing various types of natural disasters like: flood, landslide, fire, earthquake, windstorm, hailstorm, lightning, glacier lake outburst flood, drought, epidemic, avalanche and so on. Further it is also exposed to various types of natural disasters due to rugged and steep topography, extreme weather events, and fragile geological conditions.
The key research question is the analysis of the community’s resilience to the frequent natural and man-made disasters. This will include understanding of:

a) the ín-situ’ coping ways of the community within their families as a unit and
b) the preparedness measures that they have and how do they act when disaster occurs

the research will further investigate and analyse the patterns of the disasters in the study area, the impact of the past disasters on the community and the landscape.
These actions will help in framing the project narrative describing the disaster patterns, impacts, community coping mechanisms incl. preparedness and mitigation measures

Until the 1970s, disasters were understood as synonymous with natural hazards/events such as earthquakes, windstorms, floods and landslides. The magnitude of a disaster was considered to be a function of the magnitude of the hazard. For instance, earthquakes and windstorms are not avoidable; the emphasis of national governments and the international community, therefore, was mainly on a reactive approach of responding to the events (disasters) and in the best of cases, preparing for them, with an assumption that disasters are inevitable to be dealt only with response actions.

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But, from the 1970s onwards, and with the start of million decades from 2000s, especially following the Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA), it has been established that disasters are intimately connected to the processes of human development. Natural hazards like windstorm, floods and earthquakes, however intense, inevitable or unpredictable, translate to disasters only to the extent that the society is unprepared to respond and unable to cope (which reflects the state of their vulnerability) and consequently, severely affected. In other words, there is nothing natural about disaster; it is the outcome of human inaction or lack of appropriate action in development (World Bank).

So, there is now a new paradigm shift that natural hazards themselves do not necessarily lead to disasters. Natural hazards are triggering disaster events, but that for a hazard to become a disaster, it has to affect vulnerable people. If people can be made less vulnerable, or non-vulnerable, then a hazard may still occur, but need not produce a disaster. It is now recognized that disaster risks (physical, social, and economic) unmanaged (or mismanaged) for a long time lead to occurrence of disasters. The possibility that a disaster might or might not occur will depend on whether those risks are adequately managed or not. Disasters are the results of ill-planned and un-planned development. Even the occurrence of recent climatic abnormality attributed to global climate change is traced to human activities as the emission of unmanaged and extremely high greenhouse gases (CO2, methane… ). Looking at disaster from this perspective, the management of the emergency (response) itself ceases to be a priority.

As such disasters result from the combination of hazards, conditions of vulnerabilities that are usually accumulate over time, and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce the potential damages. This is reflected in a simple empirical formula:

Disaster risk: Hazard x Vulnerability

Since little can be done to reduce the occurrence and intensity of most natural hazards, actions and activities should focus on reducing existing and future vulnerabilities to damage and loss. This clearly establishes that reducing vulnerabilities is the key to disaster risk reduction which should be acted upon as the integral component during the development phase of the program. It is not to be left upon for action by humanitarian actors in the aftermath of a disaster.

It is a concept applied in an integrated approach towards a disaster event in which the management cycle can be carried out through a sequence of activities/ phases, each being responsible or designed to address a specific type of intervention. Disaster risk management as an action to cope with disasters could refer to any purposive undertakings before, during and after disaster occurrence as a cycle with different phases, from preparedness through response, from prevention, mitigation and readiness through relief, recovery and rehabilitation. The disaster risk management is pivotal because of its ability to promote the holistic approach to disaster risk management and to demonstrate the relationship of disasters and development.

The relationship between disaster and development as a cycle reinforces the fact that disasters, however inevitable, could be managed through adequate planning and preparedness for response. Disaster risk management cycle on prevention, mitigation and preparedness comprises the development portion, while relief and recovery comprise the humanitarian assistance portion with preparedness linking both types of efforts. Thus, the disaster risk management cycle consists of four phases: Prevention/Mitigation and Preparedness in the pre-disaster stage, and Response as well as Rehabilitation/Reconstruction in post-disaster stage. The two stages to disaster risk management: pre-disaster and post-disaster phases are illustrated in DRM Cycle.

Pre-Disaster Phase: It covers Risk Identification, Prevention, Mitigation, Adaptation and Preparedness measures undertaken to reduce the disaster risks associated with potential hazards to prevent or minimize the adverse impact on human and property losses caused by a disaster. The intention of preparedness is to prevent or minimize the losses and damage in case of a disaster. Preparedness denotes the post disaster phase of disaster risk management cycle

Post Disaster Phase: It covers Response, Recovery and Reconstruction actions taken in response to a disaster with a purpose to achieve early recovery and rehabilitation of affected people and communities. The Response includes the search and rescue; fulfilling basic humanitarian needs of the affected communities and other humanitarian actions. Recovery starts after the immediate threat to human life has subsided. The immediate goal of the recovery is to bring the affected area back to some degree of normalcy and to a situation which should be better than before the disaster, following “Build Back Better” principle of humanitarian assistance.

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