Building back Stronger
In the wake of the earthquake which has caused devastation in Nepal, RedR UK is working to save lives in the short term – and developing a local capacity-building programme to rebuild lives, livelihoods, buildings and infrastructure for the long term future.
The 7.9 magnitude earthquake, which struck Nepal’s capital Kathmandu and surrounding regions on Saturday 25th April, is known so far to have caused more than 7,500 deaths, and injured more than 14,500 people.
As more remote affected areas are reached by emergency services and aid agencies, those figures are expected to rise.
Protecting lives right now
RedR UK, along with RedR India and RedR Australia, has Members on the ground, working on the immediate life-saving response in the South Asian state.
They are helping to provide safe water for drinking and hygiene systems, as well as working to ensure people have safe places to stay after their homes were destroyed in the devastating earthquake.
One RedR UK Member, Kemraj Upadhyaya, working as Disaster Risk Reduction Advisor for HelpAge International in Kathmandu explained:
‘We have many people here without safe places to stay. At the moment we are putting up tents but we need two more to house around 200 people who otherwise will be sleeping in the open for more nights.’
And Arno Coever, a RedR UK Member who is leading Malteser International’s Nepal relief operations, warned that time is of the essence.
‘The main thing – the matter hanging over all of our heads – is that the monsoon season is coming in a month and a half. We must get people shelter and safe water before that comes. ‘People are in shock here. They literally don’t know what to do, and in many cases they have no belongings or materials even to make a start. Shops and factories are closed. They can’t buy anything or go to work.’
Addressing Technical Skills shortages
As our Members work to meet immediate needs, RedR India has set up a central hub in Kathmandu which is working not only to help co-ordinate Members engaged in the emergency response, but has also conducted a full needs assessment, so that we at RedR UK understand best way we can help Nepal in the longer-term.
We plan to work on providing technical expertise and capacity-building – training national and international NGOs, government employees and community members, in the skills they need to recover from the earthquake, reduce the impact of future disasters, and improve lives and livelihoods.
The assessment is ongoing, but early signals are that Shelter – as well as water and logistics – is likely to be the major priority.
This is not only because of the immense damage done to properties and infrastructure across the affected regions, but also because even before the earthquake struck, access to clean, safe water was limited, homes were in conditions which risked collapse, and communities were cut off from large parts of the state by poor access to roads – or by those roads’ poor state of repair.
A spokesperson for RedR India explained:
‘Shelter is certainly a major component. In fact Shelter is one particular need which the response would be focusing on. The hub is also currently offering WASH and Logistics sector support as per the need.’
Long term resilience
RedR UK has direct experience in this kind of capacity-building activity. In the wake of the November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan disaster in the Philippines, we worked to provide expert training to Philippines nationals in a range of skills, including shelter and construction.
We used our expertise to train 577 people, 98 per cent of whom were Philippine nationals, working for international NGOs such as Save the Children and Oxfam, national organisations and government bodies. We also created training for UNICEF, in partnership with Relief International, and ran sessions for clusters – the groups set up to enable all relief and aid groups to exchange information and skills.
In one case, we developed Build Back Stronger – a construction and shelter-based skills programme in which community members were taught how to rebuild their properties to better withstand a similar future disaster.
The training was attended by 16 people, who then set out to train to 3,000-5,000 households to reconstruct their homes to help them stand up better to future disasters. One attendee, Kenneth Renera, said:
‘It has enabled me to give ideas to the people in how to build back better.’
Using our expertise and direct experience, RedR UK and its partners plan to work with Nepalese people to help them recover from the earthquake – and improve lives and livelihoods – in a similar way.
Torrential rains in Bangladesh throughout summer 2013, followed by widespread flooding into September 2013, formed an apt backdrop to RedR's community-based disaster risk management training, which was completed this autumn. During the week-long training, 18 participants learned about:
Ten volunteer first-responders who had been involved in recovery efforts after the Rana Plaza factory collapse participated in the training, giving them the opportunity to learn about how to form their own community-based organisation. Volunteers also had the opportunity to network with staff of national and international NGOs, who also attended the training. Rakib Hassan, one of the volunteer first responders at Rana Plaza, commented, “This course brought a combination of good facilitator, participants from NGOs who had expert opinions and experience and volunteers together which helped everyone with proper knowledge sharing.” The NGOs represented were Srotodhara Foundation, PASA, SAFE, Surhid, BRAC, and KBSSS.
The course participants gave the course and trainers a 100% approval rating in all areas, including course content, teaching, materials, and teaching methods. All participants attested that the training had improved their knowledge, skills, and understanding of disaster risk management. Also, every trainee felt that the course was relevant to them and their work.
Dalower Hossain, Programme Coordinator at KBSSS said, “Now I am a trained person on how to handle this type of hazard situation.”
When asked for his opinion about the best aspect of the course, Shahadat Hussein, the volunteer first-responder who contacted us for help, praised RedR's signature “Interactive methods and group works.”
AZM Ridoan, another volunteer, remarked, “The best aspect of the course was group works and discussion in combination with the slide show and videos. We have gained a lot of knowledge from the facilitators as well as the fellow participants. Now, we can handle a tough situation much better way.”
Thanks to our amazing supporters who made RedR's expert training possible, these volunteers are skilled-up and ready to respond to flooding, building collapse, or any other natural or man-made disasters that hit Bangladesh in the coming months and years. Thank you again for your life-saving support.
Thanks to the contributions of many RedR supporters, we have been able to a week's training in Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction for people who had volunteered as rescuers after the Rana Plaza collapse in April.
The course covered topics such as Search and Rescue, Disaster Management, Fire and Safety, and First Aid. Members of the volunteer first responder group participated in the training, learning a range of skills which will help when they respond to future disasters.
RedR offered this training in response to a request from Shahadat Hussein, a Bangladeshi man who had just spent five days and nights pulling survivors from the wreckage of the collapsed iRana Plaza garment factory collapse in Dhaka.
Shahadat is not an employee of the country’s emergency services, nor is he an aid worker. He is a local man who runs a hardware business. When news of the collapsed garment factory broke on local television, he quickly realised that not enough was being done to rescue workers trapped inside the building. He decided to volunteer alongside hundreds of other local people.
Shahadat and the other volunteers saved many lives before the Bangladeshi army stepped in and took over. They improvised search and rescue methods, using their own equipment to drill through the layers of concrete trapping the victims. They worked for hours at a time without proper protection – in dark, airless cavities with no water, boots or hard hats.
“When we found someone still alive inside the building, we did our level best to save that life. This was not an expert rescue. We improvised solutions using any equipment we could.”-Shahadat Hussein
Shahadat was right to seek professional training. The Rana Plaza disaster will not be a one-off occurrence. In June a survey conducted by engineers in Bangladesh revealed that three-fifths of the country’s 600 garment factories are poorly constructed and vulnerable to collapse.
All photos © RedR/GMB Akash