Reducing Community Vulnerability to Disaster

Natural disasters usually have great impact on the environment, which in most cases is negative.

The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami are considered to be among the deadliest natural disasters recorded in history. With its epicentre off the West Coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, it claimed more than 230,000 lives and affected more than 1.6 million people spread in more than 20 countries.

Kenya, like many other developing countries, at the time was ill-equipped to respond to the effects
of the Tsunami. Consequently, in September 2005, ILEG with the support of the Ford Foundation,
commenced this project which had two broad objectives. .

The first was to generate and disseminate a body of information necessary to help improve and sustain the coastal communities’ preparedness to respond to disasters and emergenciesThe second was to develop a programme for the improvement of the communities’ preparedness to respond to emergencies/disasters.The project was implemented with the collaboration of 11 institutions each undertaking a specific aspect of disaster preparation.

Most of the activities involved various initiatives including among others research, capacity building, advocacy, community support, and the production of several publications. The projects undertaken by the various organisations were as follows:

  • A Review of the Legal and Policy Framework for Disaster Management in Tanzania – Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team And ILEG
  • A Review of the Legal and Policy Framework for Disaster Management in Kenya – ILEG
  • An In-depth Study at a Rights Based Approach to Reducing Community Vulnerability to Disasters – Coast Rights Forum
  • Developing Coastal Communities Capacities for Eliminating Vulnerability To Disasters – Ujamaa Centre
  • Educational and Disaster Preparedness in Radio Programming – Media Trust
  • Improving Disaster Preparedness and Response among Tanzanian Fishermen – Tanzania Red Cross Society
  • Protecting Children in Emergencies – The United Nations Children Fund.
  • Research on the Governance, Rights and Policy Issues Relating to Disasters – CARE Tanzania
  • Restoration of Livelihoods of Fishermen Affected by The Tsunami in Malindi – Kenya Red Cross Society
  • Strengthening Disaster Mental Health Preparedness, Response, Recovery and On-going Psycho-Education – United States International University-Africa (USIU)
  • Tapping and Using Coastal Natural Resource Management and Knowledge Across Generations – World Agro-forestry Centre (ICRAF)
  • Training on Disaster Prevention and Management – University of Witwatersrand Office of Disaster Preparedness In Africa.

This project highlighted several issues for consideration by communities, civil society, NGOs and government departments as they continued to work to prepare for and mitigate the effects of disaster.

Firstly, it was noted that education and awareness creation was critical to preparedness and mitigation of the disaster. Further, that whether disasters were anticipated or sudden, the sharing of information and knowledge whether traditional and modern among members of society could greatly reduce their vulnerability to the disaster and its adverse impacts.

Secondly, that sustainable use of natural resources could help reduce vulnerability to disaster. Moreover, documenting and sharing of indigenous knowledge was critical in reducing vulnerability as well as in restoring community members that have been affected.

Thirdly, that the role of government was important in the development and implementation of appropriate legal and policy frameworks and in coordinating national disaster prevention and post disaster management.

The project also showcased the importance of partnership and collaboration among the different sectors of society including government agencies, national and international NGOs, civil society, private sector and communities in disaster preparedness and response.