Role of GOs and NGOs in Disaster Management

Functions/Role of GOs and NGOs in Disaster Management

Disaster Management a General Scenario

Many poor people are to live in vulnerable areas of the southern part of Bangladesh. The vulnerability is so miserable that they have to go and settle in the newly accreted land in the Bay of Bengal and its surrounding areas, which is occasionally hit by tidal bore or devastating cyclones. All the natural hazards' adverse impacts on socio-economic conditions need to be reduced for sustainable development. In realisation of this reality, the Government of Bangladesh has undertaken a lot of plans and programs for disaster reduction through disaster management. Realising that sustainable development is hinged on disaster management vis-a-vis risk management, the Government of Bangladesh initiated a project called "Support to Comprehensive Disaster Management" in 1993 with the overall goal to reduce the human, economic and environmental costs of disaster in Bangladesh. 

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One of the main elements of the project's development objective was to increase the capacities of the households and local communities in highly disaster-prone areas through the establishment of Local Disaster Action Plans (LDAPs) to cope with cyclones and floods, and other potential disaster situations. Training and awareness-raising were other central element of the development objective under the project. The project was completed on 30 June 2001, making scope for formulating the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) for a more holistic approach to risk management with support from development partners and international agencies. The present Government of Begum Khaleda Zia attaches importance to CDMP in the context of poverty alleviation and sustainable development.


Roles of Government and Civil Society in Disaster Management

The government of Bangladesh has a constitutional responsibility to protect the population from disasters and help those affected. As such, it must lead and coordinate both disaster preparedness and response. Civil society, including the media, the academic community and national and international NGOs, has a vital role in advocating for improvements, encouraging and supporting positive initiatives and holding the government to account.

International agencies, including NGOs, UN agencies, and the Red Cross/Red Crescent, can provide resources and expertise to improve disaster preparedness and management and through long-term development programmes to address the underlying vulnerability. These actors share the same goal: reducing exposure and protecting and supporting affected people. However, this does not guarantee that they will work in a coordinated and collaborative way. Lack of effective collaboration can lead to a failure to deliver the protection and support vulnerable people have a right to expect.


Significant progress has been made in disaster management in recent years. Bangladesh has an excellent operational framework, the Standing Orders on Disasters (SOD), which defines roles and responsibilities in the event of a disaster and a draft Disaster Management Act (DMA). But there is still no framework codified in law, and there are no legal safeguards for affected people.

Codifying government responsibilities in law will be part of the solution but not the only factor. Legal obligations are one thing; the capacity to meet them is quite another. There is currently a significant gap in capability, particularly at the local government level. Under the new legal framework, local Disaster Management Committees (DMCs) will be critical institutions with essential responsibilities. However, in many of the most vulnerable areas, DMC members still lack the basic skills and knowledge to fulfil their anticipated roles.

Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP)

With support from international donors, the government launched the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) in 2004. The first phase of the project was implemented between 2004 and 2009, and the current CDMP II is an expansion and scaling up of this first phase. CDMP II aims to institutionalise the adoption of risk reduction approaches, not just in its host Ministry of Food and Disaster Management but more broadly across 13 ministries and agencies. CDMP II channels support through government and development partners, civil society and NGOs, promoting cooperation, providing coordination, ranking priority programmes and projects and allocating resources to disaster management, risk reduction and climate change adaptation.                    


Structural and Non- Structural Mitigation

Based on the new concept of disaster management, GoB has given equal importance to both structural and non-structural mitigation measures keeping in view the aspect of better coordination within the overall disaster management system. It is rather strongly believed by the GoB that non-structural mitigation measures need to be complemented by structural mitigation measures to modify or reduce some disaster effects. The programmes on disaster management in Bangladesh focus equally on structural and non-structural practices meant for

Disaster Mitigation

As part of structural measures, the GoB, with its own and external resources, has constructed 1,841 cyclone shelters and 200 flood shelters for evacuation of people exposed to impending cyclones and floods. In addition, during the last four decades, 482 small, medium and ample water and flood control projects have been implemented. More than 400 projects were implemented after the liberation war in 1971. Through these projects, about 8,200 km. Long flood protection embankment, drainage channels of a total length of 3,400 km. and 9,000 sluice gates and regulators on different rivers and canals as safety measures against inundation by tidal waves, storm surges and flooding, have been constructed.

Institutional Arrangement

The GoB has taken several significant steps during the last few years for building up institutional arrangements from the national to the union levels for effective and systematic disaster management facilitating mitigation of the suffering of disaster victims in Bangladesh. To maintain proper coordination amongst the concerned Ministries, Departments, line agencies, Local Government bodies (LGD) and community people, and also to ensure their proper functioning to mitigate the sufferings of the people, the GoB has formulated a set of mechanisms for Council and Committees from national down to the grass-root levels. The Standing orders on Disaster (SOD) act as a guidebook for the tools to be the best operative.


The high powered National Disaster Management Council (NDMC) and In-Ministerial Disaster Management Co-ordination Committee (IMDMCC), developed as influential bodies to promote and coordinate risk-reduction, preparedness activities and mitigation measures, meet twice and four times a year, respectively. While NDMC formulates and reviews disaster management policies and issues directives to all concerned, the IMDMCC plays a vital role in implementing the orders, maintaining inter-Ministerial coordination, supervising the Armed Forces' services and NGOs working in the field of disaster management in the country. Under the mechanism, there exists a well-established organisation named the Directorate of Relief and Rehabilitation (DRR) within the administrative control of the MDMR, wherein the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) is located. The DRR acts during a post-disaster emergency situation and operates relief activities for distribution to remote field levels under the supervision and guidance of the Ministry of Disaster Management & Relief (MDMR) / IMDMCC. The MDMR has a small dynamic professional unit known as Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) to perform specialist functions and ensure coordination with line departments/agencies and NGOs by convening meetings of Disaster Management Training and Public Awareness Building Task Force (DMTATF), Focal Point Operational Co-ordination Group on Disaster Management (FPOCG), NGO Coordination Committee on Disaster Management (NGOCC) and Committee for Speedy Dissemination of Disaster-Related Warning Signals (CSDDWS) every three months regularly.


Community-Based Disaster Management

With the emergence of changing role of the government and with the increasing participation of the public in socio-political activities of the government, the unusual rising trend of various natural disasters is posing a fundamental question as to the role of government and how it would manage the disaster and what would be the more rational and effective way of management. A common consensus is emerging amongst the policymakers, experts and professionals that the government alone can not and will not properly manage and handle all types of disasters with its machinery, which requires active participation by the people in any region of a country. In line with this philosophy, developing developed and developing countries have encouraged local-level people, leaders, and communities to provide necessary services and logistics to their victims during and after the disaster. And in recognition of this philosophy, a new approach to managing disasters has been evolved known as the Community-Based Approach (CBA), which emphasises the total participation of all people facing any hazard or disaster and makes sure to render all possible services to the community. This approach in Bangladesh is being popularised gradually.


Community-Based Disaster Management Practices in Bangladesh

The existing system for disaster management in the country covers activities at regular times for important disaster management aspects like mitigation /prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. Disaster management has become an event rather than a process of development. Linkage in ongoing development programs and community participation in planning and executing the programs will improve the local capacity and preparedness measures.

Community Program by the Government

Under the project "Support to Comprehensive Disaster Management", the Government of Bangladesh took several initiatives for community-based disaster management. The program includes the development of a Local Disaster Action Plan (LDAP), organising quite a good number of training and awareness campaigns at the local level to sensitise and mobilise community people in the overall risk management system. Total 900 numbers of LDAPs have been developed as of today. A good number of training programs were organised by DMB at the local level for different disaster management committees. However, a sustainable mechanism is being developed to continue the training and examine the impact.


Community Coping System

Many individual communities have their own coping system to face disasters. Disaster Management Bureau conducted research on the issue. This is the first milestone in this regard. In 2003, DMB organised 06(six) workshops for Community Leaders on disaster preparedness & indigenous knowledge on coping mechanisms.

Role of NGOs in Disaster Management

The Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) has been assigned the role of coordinating the activities of NGOs. The NGOs constitute a vibrant sector in Bangladesh and have been acclaimed worldwide. NGOs and CBOs are actively involved, among others, in disaster management, micro-credits, family planning, and human rights protection. The advent of NGO activities in Bangladesh owes its origin to the rehabilitation works immediately after the devastating war of independence in 1971. Currently, about a quarter of foreign assistance to Bangladesh is channelled through NGOs. Therefore, their contributions, particularly to the social service sector and the mobilisation of the poor, are pretty prominent. This has been acclaimed by the international community.

NGOs like the Grameen Bank and Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) have extended their development and disaster management programs at the international level.


NGOs such as CARE-Bangladesh, OXFAM-Bangladesh, Action Aid, Intermediate Technology Development Group-Bangladesh, Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Center (BDPC) and Disaster Forum are mainly involved in various pre-, during and post-disaster activities. Pre-disaster activities include advocacy, public education campaigns and training programs for personnel involved in disaster management from the national down to the union or local community level. NGOs also are active in emergency evacuation and in taking people to shelters. The post-disaster activities include offering new micro-credits or rescheduling their loan payment programs for rehabilitation.  

Role of GOs and NGOs in Climate Change & Natural Disaster

Non-Structural Measures

§  Policy Making

§  Adopting Disaster Management Plan

§  Forming Regulatory Framework

§  Awareness Building

§  Providing Training

§  Information Distribution

§  Technology Transfer

§ Social SafetyNet and Relief Distribution

Structural Measures

§  Construction of Shelter

§ Construction of Roads & Embankment

§  Building Bridge and Culverts

§  Raising the plinth of home

§  Social Afforestation


Role of NGOs in Disaster Management

According to Debabrata Mondal, Sarthak Chowdhury and Debabrata Basu (2015), Emerging trends in managing natural disasters have highlighted the role of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as one of the most effective alternative means of achieving an efficient communication link between the disaster management agencies and the affective community. The specific role of NGOs in respect to disaster management is:

Roles in the Pre-disaster Period 

 Training and capacity building of NGO staffs and task forces;

 Set up of information channel to the village and district;

 Advocacy and planning;

 Regular contact with block control room.

Roles during the disaster Period 

 Activate of channel of warning dissemination to reach the target groups;

 Help block administration for wide dissemination of warning;

 Immediate rescue and first-aid, including psychological aid, supply of food, water, medicines, and other quick need materials;

 Ensuring sanitation and hygiene;

 Damage assessment.

Roles in Post-disaster Period

 Technical and material aid in reconstruction;

 Assistance in seeking financial aid;

 Monitoring

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