Making people safer at home – the International Day for Disaster Reduction

On the 2017 International Day for Disaster Reduction, Disaster Resilience and Response Advisor Meghna Manaktala reflects on amazing work by our partners across the world to reduce disaster risk – and make their homes and communities safer for all.

Home Safe Home: Reducing Exposure, Reducing Displacement

In Haiti, 98% of the population is vulnerable to disasters. Our partner organisation IDEJEN has been doing outstanding work in supporting young people to reduce disaster risk in their communities.

They have developed specialised modules on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation with the Departments of Education and Civil Protection to skill up the most vulnerable young people. Modules are accessible to out-of-school and out-of-work young people with very basic levels of literacy and numeracy.

Along with enterprise & employability and leadership training, these skills enable young people to reduce disaster risk – not just for themselves but also for their communities. From clearing market places and planting trees to promoting better hygiene among children, IDEJEN youth agents have been making their voices heard.

In one community, they were even approached by the Mayor to support their community to prepare for the local carnival. In this way, they are subverting traditional power structures and growing their own and their communities’ resilience.

On the other side of the world, Community-Based Disaster Management Committees (CBDMCs) were set up in some of the worst slums in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Their excellent preparation made a huge difference before and during an especially hard rainy season.

Thanks to their determined and meticulous drainage clearing and awareness-raising on the need to evacuate to higher ground during heavy flooding, the slums in which the Sierra Leone YMCA has been working for the past several years were spared the devastating impact that other communities in the country faced.

Sierra Leone YMCA has trained CBDMCs in eight communities in Freetown as well as six other parts of the country affected by the 2014 Ebola outbreak. This contributed to thousands of people being safer at home.

I visited Nicaragua earlier this year to see how young farmers are coping with drought. The YMCA there has been working to help communities cope with the devastating effects of El Nino. 146 young people living by subsistence farming received training and community assets to improve their livelihoods. They learned not just how to cope but how to adapt to increasingly harsh and unpredictable climatic conditions.

Young men and women are trained in improved, climate-adaptive agricultural techniques, and provided with of indigenous seed varieties which improve crop yields. And we have supported them to set up non-agricultural businesses.

Identifying ten new water sources and building ten artesian wells means a further 462 people can now access fresh water. Thanks to the increase in productivity and post-harvesting techniques, used to store seeds, farmers and their families can now count on having a six month supply of beans to eat.

In this way, we at Y Care International and our partners are supporting young people to make their homes and communities safer to the impacts of floods, diseases, drought and many other hazards. You can see some hands-on action pictured above, when a community in Bangladesh got together to dig a canal to combat flash flooding.

And through supporting them to build their own businesses and get into employment, we’re also growing the resilience of young people and their families. Something to celebrate on this International Day of Disaster Reduction.

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