Strengthening community resilience in South Asia

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Local women cooking for the community hub while recovering from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake
Local women cooking for the community hub while recovering from the Great East Japan Earthquake

What can make communities more resilient?

Cooking says Takako Kotake, vice president at Cookpad Inc, a Tokyo-based online recipe-sharing platform that boasts more than 100 million users worldwide.

On September 1, on Disaster Prevention Day which commemorates Japan’s Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, Cookpad issued a special recipe book.  

The book contains ideas to prepare meals with limited tools and alternative ingredients.  Platform users who had to feed during a disaster—with limited water or energy—contributed their cooking tips.

If this basic form of cooking can help communities survive a disaster, what are the policy recipes that can sustain the overall resilience of communities?   

Recipes for resilience in Sri Lanka

Since a devastating tsunami hit the island in 2004, Sri Lanka has tried several such recipes to help its people and infrastructure recover more quickly from natural disasters and climate change threats. 

Examples to build resilience include the introduction of policies and plans such as the Disaster Management Act 2005 as well as the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme 2014, both of which laid the ground to reduce risks.  

While disasters such as earthquakes or floods affect everyone, their impacts are unevenly felt by different population groups. And in Sri Lanka, like anywhere else, natural disasters hit the poor and other vulnerable groups the hardest.  

While disasters such as earthquakes or floods affect everyone, their impacts are unevenly felt by different population groups.

To protect its people and their assets from flood risks, Sri Lanka just launched a new program to improve early warning systems and flood protection infrastructure. 

The project will pioneer three recipes for #ResilienceforAll:  

First, its early warning system can deliver disaster alerts customized for differently-abled people. 

Some options may include text messages that flicker a light for the hearing-impaired and warning sounds and text-to-voice for people who can’t read or are visually impaired.   

Second, a citizen monitoring committee is set up to involve communities in the design, construction and maintenance of flood infrastructure to mitigate the impact of water intrusions.  The committee represent different groups and help convey feedback to the government.

Third, vulnerable communities will have the opportunity to relocate to safer locations and receive assistance, like priority resettlement for some families, livelihood support,and the option for female and male joint ownership of land and assets.   

How does the World Bank support resilience for all in South Asia?

The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) are working to develop a recipe to advance resilience for South Asia and beyond.

For example, as part of its plan to provide safe havens to nearly 14 million people in nine coastal districts, Bangladesh is making emergency evacuation shelters more accessible to differently-abled people.

Some options may include text messages that flicker a light for the hearing-impaired and warning sounds and text-to-voice for people who can’t read or are visually impaired.  

Standard designs of the evacuation shelters were reviewed to introduce tactile guideways for people with poor eye sights and remove gaps and obstacles for those who have limited movement. 

It also includes dedicated rooms with attached toilets for the elderly, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and illustrative signage to communicate with those with limited literacy and small children.   

In Nepal, as part of the post-disaster reconstruction following the 2015 earthquake, people with different abilities are encouraged to develop new skills to enhance their entrepreneurship.

Recently, a pilot training was conducted to foster trainers who can help differently-abled people identify appropriate entrepreneurship opportunities depending on their ability and help them establish small businesses.

During the two-week program, differently-abled people and trainers explored various business ideas to establish custom-made business opportunities for each.   

We will discuss this approach to resilience in Tokyo on November 20, with the University of California at Davis, Japan Women’s Network for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Japan International Corporation Agency.

Authors

Keiko Sakoda

Keiko Sakoda, Disaster Risk Management Specialist, World Bank

Bandita Sijapati

Bandita Sijapati, Senior Social Development Specialist, World Bank

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