Exposed to floods, tropical cyclone or drought almost every year, Malda district in the State of West Bengal, in east India is also plagued by low agricultural production and lack of jobs. This situation has exacerbated migration, malnutrition and other related problems that increase vulnerability to disaster. Marginal farmers and landless labourers, who form over 70% of the district’s population, are the most affected. In February 2006, World Vision India, in partnership with the Government of India and UNICEF, initiated a project aimed at strengthening community disaster preparedness and mitigation, while providing wealth creation and income diversification opportunities. Targeting 15,000 vulnerable farmers and marginalized persons, with a special focus on children, the project worked to improve livelihoods as a disaster risk ‘safeguard’. Focused support was provided through the following four strategies:
Awareness of disaster response and preparedness measures was significantly enhanced through the distribution of learning materials to elementary school children. Local Relief Action Teams were formed with village volunteers, including women and youth, who are now trained in first aid, rescue and coordination with the local government structures in times of disaster.
Livelihoods and infrastructure development was initiated to address some of the immediate economic and physical barriers to disaster resilience. Vulnerability assessments were conducted and 50 families were assisted with access to income generation activities, including women-headed households. The project also involved the community in the restoration of ponds, installation of tube wells, digging of open wells, construction of roads and the building of two relief centres. Working with children’s clubs to enable community members to access disaster preparedness materials and drill exercises through children. This activity ensures that preparedness reaches all households – including illiterate households that cannot make use of educational materials.
Relationships have been established with the local government through ongoing meetings and communications on the project. This has ensured the cooperation of the local government and provision of ongoing support for community capacity-training sessions. The project’s success is now being replicated in 92 villages – thus integrating poverty reduction and disaster risk reduction in World Vision’s programme strategy.« BACK