1. Home
  2. Asia
  3. Bangladesh

Boosting community resilience in disasters

Thousands of survivors Cyclone Aila found themselves marooned at the end of March 2010 when the earthen embankments meant to protect them gave way to rising river water levels
(Contributor/IRIN)

A bed sheet to stop bleeding, broken furniture as splints for fractures, Buddhist temples turned into evacuation centres and bottled water to decontaminate wounds: People are often forced to innovate when disaster hits.



“In the first 24-48 hours of a disaster, the community bears the burden of response. It is a fallacy to rely on external help,” the World Health Organization’s Southeast Asia adviser for emergency and humanitarian action, Roderico Ofrin, told IRIN.



He is attending a regional three-day conference ending on 30 September in Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, on strengthening community health systems’ preparedness for disasters.



NGO, government and private sector representatives from 10 Southeast Asian countries discussed primary health care - health care for all that uses appropriate technology, involves the community, and collaborates with other sectors - in emergencies, and shared successful community programmes.



“These answers already exist at the community level, but are not well-documented,” said Ofrin.



A 2010 report on community responses to disasters in Southeast Asia  found that village storytelling in Thailand’s Surin Islands; seismic-proofing hospitals in Nepal; community health worker and hospital staff training in Myanmar and Sri Lanka; household water filters in Myanmar; and coastal warning systems and cyclone evacuation plans powered by more than 30,000 village volunteers in Bangladesh - all helped minimize deaths during those countries’ recent disasters.



But ingenuity and will are not enough: People need materials like “gum boots to wade to flooded villages, and ropes for community health workers searching for survivors,” said Ofrin. “National policies are good, but we need to get materials and training into the communities for them to mean anything.”



pt/cb


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

We uncovered the sex abuse scandal that rocked the WHO, but there’s more to do

We just covered a report that says the World Health Organization failed to prevent and tackle widespread sexual abuse during the Ebola response in Congo.

Our investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation triggered this probe, demonstrating the impact our journalism can have. 

But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking. 

We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone. 

The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and do more of this. 

Become a member today and support independent journalism

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.

Join