ECOSOC: The real value of preparedness and resilience

15 Jul 2013

May 2013, Kulob, Tajikistan: A farmer tends his crops in Tajikistan's Hamadoni district. Humanitarian and development organizations are working together in Tajikistan to protect communities against regular and predictable disaster threats. Credit: OCHA/Z. Nurmukhambetova
In the south-west of Tajikistan, humanitarians and development partners are working together on preparedness to save millions in disaster costs.

On 16 July, a high-level panel at the 2013 ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment will explore how humanitarian organizations need to look beyond providing immediate relief, and focus instead on supporting vulnerable communities and their governments to identify, manage and reduce the risks they face.

In south-west Tajikistan, collaboration between humanitarian and development partners, including an innovative approach to disaster funding, is helping communities and authorities do just this, and is saving millions of dollars in the process.

At the end of March, heavy rain and hail triggered mudflows in Tajikistan’s southern district of Hamadoni. Few outside the region paid any attention. Each year, Tajikistan experiences over a hundred of these types of small-scale and localized emergencies – most of them during the rainy season that runs between March and July.

Given this lack of attention, and because funding for humanitarian assistance has been hard to come by, local and international organizations have been focusing their efforts on supporting communities and authorities to manage their own disaster risks.

So as soon as the mudflows started, Hamadoni’s local disaster authorities were able to activate a series of well-rehearsed and trained emergency teams to assess damage in five of the most vulnerable villages in the area, and to begin to compile lists of needs.

These teams – known as Rapid Emergency Assessment and Coordination Teams (REACT) – are made up of emergency workers from local and international NGOs as well as UN humanitarian and development agencies.

Cash and fuel

It was immediately clear that clearing roads and diverting streams that were overflowing their banks were top priorities. Authorities needed to get heavy earth moving machinery to the areas above the villages to clear drainage channels. But to do this they needed fuel, and to buy fuel, they needed cash.

“Local emergency services are well equipped to manage such small emergencies but what they often lack and urgently need is fuel,” explained Abdullo Guliev, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) regional manager.

The Government asked the humanitarian community for about US$2,900 for fuel. This might not sound like much, but for local authorities in Tajikistan, this kind of money is rarely available. The humanitarian community then turned to UNDP, who were able to release funds quickly from their community-level disaster risk reduction fund.

An innovative fund

The fund was created in 2012 as an innovative way of providing resources for local disaster preparedness and response efforts.

UNDP provided about $120,000 to the financial organization Rushdi Voce to distribute as microloans. The only proviso was that the loans should only go towards projects that were aimed at improving local economic development and disaster resilience.

With the rapid allocation, Hamadoni’s local authorities were able to clear drainage channels to mitigate the mudflow and to allow people to return to their homes.

$1 saves thousands

This is not the only example of the fund proving its worth. An allocation in late 2012 helped avert a disaster in the village of Hayoti Nav. An allocation of less than $7,000 meant that a mudflow drainage channel could be cleared and upgraded ahead of the annual mudflow season.

In spring of 2013, as mudflows were racing through neighboring villages, the 200 households and 330 hectares of agricultural land in Hayoti Nav were protected. The UNDP and the local authorities estimate that some $1.5 million dollars’ worth of damage was averted.

“In the humanitarian community we often say that one dollar in preparedness saves seven dollars in response. This case shows that one dollar can save up to a couple of hundred dollars in response,” said Vadim Nigmatov, OCHA National Disaster Response Adviser in Tajikistan.

Watch the High-Level Panel 'Reducing vulnerability, improving capacities and managing risks' live on UN Webcast (10:00 AM, CET, Tuesday 16 July).


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