Engaging with citizens and communities to build a resilient Afghanistan

Source(s): Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the (GFDRR)

For much of its recent history, Afghanistan’s development progress has been set back by conflict. Eager to turn the page and rebuild the bonds of trust that have frayed over the years, the national government has prioritized the implementation of the Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project (CCAP), a comprehensive program to put the needs and aspirations of citizens front and center in the development of the country’s infrastructure and service delivery.

In line with the Citizens’ Charter, the national government, with the support of GFDRR and the World Bank, has been making marked progress toward  strengthening community-based disaster risk management practices in Afghanistan. No stranger to disaster, the country is highly vulnerable to natural hazards such as flooding, earthquakes, avalanches, landslides, and droughts.

In 10 communities in Badakhshan, Panjshir, and Kandahar provinces, local teams have gathered firsthand information about the disaster risks and challenges people face and, just as critically, the opportunities for building resilience at the community level. Focus group discussions involved over 800 participants, nearly 40 percent of whom are female. Alongside the focus group discussions and key informant interviews, staff from the Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Resource Center (piloted at the Ministry of Reconstruction and Rural Development) have been conducting field surveys to document and better understand past hazard events.

Drawing on insights from these efforts as well as Afghanistan’s repository of geospatial disaster data in the country’s Geonode platform, which has also been supported by GFDRR, the DRM Resource Center has developed multi-hazard risk profiles for each of the 10 communities. These profiles include maps of
buildings and farmlands that identify residents and categorize the different levels of risk in each of the communities.

By the Numbers

Over 800 citizens in 10 communities across 3 provinces informing the identification and prioritization of resilience measures by the Afghan government considered in the resilience-building efforts.

With feedback from the wider population, community development councils have begun using these profiles to inform deliberations around the identification and prioritization of resilience measures to be undertaken by the Afghan government under its CCAP. For instance, the Allani council in the northwest region of the Darayim District, Badakhshan Province, has identified the construction of a protection wall against floods, landslides, and avalanches as a priority investment for the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. To ensure that council members and the wider population are able to participate fully in the deliberations, the risk profiles have been converted to a video format, narrated in both Dari and Pashto.

With an eye for long-term sustainability, GFDRR has also supported training and capacity-building activities that complement these efforts for community members. Within each local team, a leader has been trained and recruited to help ensure consistent engagement and buy-in from the community. At the same time, community development councils and community champions have received training in key disaster risk management concepts and principles.

GFDRR and World Bank support for community-based disaster risk management in Afghanistan is aligned with a wider portfolio of resilience engagements in the country. For instance, several community leaders have also participated in training to operate and maintain low-cost and locally assembled weather stations as part of ongoing support toward strengthening the country’s hydrological and meteorological (hydromet) and early warning services. Coupled with weather boards located in mosques, along with a free mobile weather application in Dari and Pashto to use on a phone, these efforts are helping ensure that Afghan citizens in the 10 communities have access to local weather data and forecasts. Furthermore, insights and lessons from the community-based DRM engagement are also informing the development of the IDA-funded, Drought Early Warning, Finance, and Action Project in Afghanistan, which is currently under preparation.

Lessons learned

Developing a gender-sensitive approach to community-based disaster risk management requires strategies for engaging women and girls that are appropriate to the local context. In this work in Afghanistan, the technical team helped cultivate a network of male and female allies that was crucial to ensuring that women and girls’ needs and capacities were fully considered in the resilience-building efforts.

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