Community Empowerment in Disaster Management

Community Empowerment in Disaster Management

While disasters can strike wide region or a nation, that impact is felt at the community level although it may hit one or several communities at once. It is these communities that constitute what is referred to as “disaster fronts”. Being at the forefronts, communities need to have capacity to respond to threats themselves. It is for this reason that communities should be involved in managing the risks that may threaten their well-being.

While different community empowerment programmes related to disaster mitigation have achieved their objectives, they are often short term, and issues on sustainability in these efforts are rarely addressed. Government, non-government and international organizations implement various programmes before and after the disasters. Most of them are very successful during the project period, but gradually diminish as the years pass. There are many reasons for this kind of phenomena, however, lack of effective participation and capacity building of the local communities to peruse the program remains major factor for lack of sustainability.

It is accepted that governments have the prime responsibility for managing disasters and for taking into consideration the roles played by different players. In the past, top-down and command-and-control approaches were oftentimes used to manage the consequences of disasters. In this approach, decisions come from higher authorities based on their perception on the needs. The communities serve as mere “victims” or receiver of aid. In practice though, this approach was proven to be ineffective. It fails to meet the appropriate and vital humanitarian needs. Moreover, it increases requirements for unnecessary external resources and creates general dissatisfaction over performance despite exceptional management measures employed. This is due to the fact that the community, as the primary stakeholder and recipient of the direct impact of disasters, was not given the chance to participate in the process of decision-making and implementation of activities. On the other hand, communities if left alone have limited resources to fully cope with disasters. In many developing and underdeveloped countries, those who suffer the most are the poor, who, in the first place have limited survival resources and do not enjoy adequate infrastructure and access to social services.

Community empowerment for disaster risk management demands their participation in risk assessment, mitigation planning, capacity building, participation in implementation and development of system for monitoring which ensures their stake.

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