Saving lives before disaster strikes

Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 12:00

If you could save a life from the threat of disaster, what would you do?

Disasters can be natural such as earthquakes and floods, or man-made – for example civil war and oil spills. 

In some cases, people who are affected by these disasters are able to bounce back.

Unfortunately, the poorest and most vulnerable people often struggle to recover and are worse off when disasters happen.

This is because the few assets they have are lost and they can’t afford to replace them.

Three years ago, Sakeena, from Thatta in Sindh, lost invaluable assets including her house when torrential rains hit this Pakistani province. In only a couple of days 10 times the annual rainfall fell on this region, causing widespread chaos. 

By delivering aid to the region, we were able to help the communities in Sindh get their lives back to something approaching normality. We did this by supporting women’s livelihoods. 

Sakeena received shelter and two goats. She uses the goat milk to feed her children and for the first time, knows what it is like to own something.

Now, she attends community meetings where local women  receive training to develop their leadership skills and are taught livestock management and entrepreneurship, amongst other things. 

Together, Sakeena and other local women are developing the confidence to ask their government for the much-needed services to help them and their children survive future disasters.

Disaster risk reduction is a way of working to protect vulnerable communities from suffering the full force of disasters when they occur.

This approach is at the centre of our work with vulnerable communities, as it helps them plan for the future.

So what does ActionAid’s Disaster Risk Reduction work look like?

Work with local people

When disaster strikes, it is the families, individuals and communities at the frontline who respond first, before the government or any other agencies are able to reach them. We work with these communities to help them understand how they can respond effectively using the few resources that they already possess.

Help people understand the risks

We work with the most vulnerable communities of people, educating them about the risks they face and helping them to arrive at their own solutions to protect themselves better.

Work through schools

We use schools as the starting point for a discussion about the disaster risks people face, helping them to focus on protecting their children and their future. 

Encourage people to invest

Disaster risk reduction is an approach that needs more investment of time, money and other resources from those who are in power. We work with decision-makers and influencers to invest in this way of protecting people.

Work to improve governance

One of the root causes of poverty is the unequal power balance between those who make life-affecting decisions, such as governments, and the most vulnerable communities that are supposed to be protected – their citizens. We work to make the balance of power between these two groups more equal.