Natural Disaster Management

UN and Disaster Management in Orissa Bookmark1

After a `Super Cyclone' hit the Orissa coast on 29th October 1999, an emergency session of the UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) was convened in Delhi on 1st November to review the UN system's response to this unprecedented natural disaster. On 1 November, the UN Resident Coordinator, Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney wrote to the Chief Minister of Orissa expressing the full support of UN Agencies in India and offered to provide assistance to the state government. As of March 2000, the total UN relief and rehabilitation contribution in Orissa stood at over US$ 16 million.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as convenor of UNDMT, coordinated the efforts of all UN agencies by preparing and distributing daily situation reports and organised DMT meetings to review the situation. In the immediate aftermath, the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) provided emergency relief and medical aid to the affected population. WFP supplied food. The UNDMT also coordinated with the international and national NGOs, and bilateral agencies in Delhi. Assessment missions were undertaken by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to survey the situation and formulate rehabilitation strategies.

The UNICEF State Office in Bhubaneswar was converted into common UN premises (UN House) in November'99 to coordinate the operations of all UN agencies involved, as it became quite apparent that Orissa would need long-term development assistance in almost all areas. An Inter-Sectoral Team Leader and sectoral consultants in Agriculture and Shelter have been recruited, as well as 12 UN volunteers to assist district collectors to monitor and facilitate flow of relief and rehabilitation resources in the affected districts. In Balasore District, an IT National UN Volunteer (NUNV) is helping in training the local administration personnel in establishing databases for analyzing information and data.

The Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA) was established by the State Government in December 1999. The OSDMA has representation by all key players, including the UN, and has been designated the nodal agency in Orissa to coordinate and prioritize rehabilitation activities in all the sectors.

A common UN Workplan to address short and medium term rehabilitation needs in several key sectors has been prepared by the Inter-Sectoral Team in Bhubaneswar, in consultation with the Orissa Government and OSDMA. The Workplan with a bottomline of $ 46 million, envisages thematic consultations on Food, Shelter, Health, Education and Disaster Preparedness to provide policy guidelines and operational coordination. The government and OSDMA together with other major players are involved in these strategic consultations.

A Health Coordinator has been recruited - as well as 7 medical UN volunteers - to assist in strengthening the State Government Health infrastructure and train medical workers.

In the area of Shelter reconstruction, UN House in Orissa will implement the construction of 250 summer-cum-monsoon shelters in 10 of the worst affected blocks in 8 districts. The UN has also mobilized bilateral donors to support the transfer of technology (to be implemented in consultation with HUDCO), and monitor construction activity with the involvement of architect volunteers, who would also help the communities in availing different government schemes and assist them with appropriate guidelines.

The Government of Orissa and the UN system are working together to address some key issues in the area of Agriculture & Food Security in the post-cyclone scenario. A consultation on Food Security was jointly organised in Bhubaneshwar by the Orissa Government and UN House on 1 May 2000. A time-bound Action Plan has emerged from the discussions.

UNDP-appointed consultants have drafted a proposal to enhance the disaster preparedness capacity of the State Government. UNDP would fund the project. The State Government and UN House have organised two rounds of consultations with IT agencies and related senior government officials in Bhubaneshwar in this connection.


Visit the UN Exhibition

at the Social Development Fair

Theme: Natural Disaster Preparedness & Management

Hall No. 13, Stall Nos. 72, 73 & 89

15-21 May 2000

ITPO, Pragati Maidan

Human Rights Based Approach to UNICEF Interventions in Emergency Situations: Lessons Learnt from Orissa

After the super cyclone hit Orissa on 29 October 1999, UNICEF immediately started its relief efforts, continuing using child rights as a programming framework. Six months after the cyclone, UNICEF can draw some lessons learnt on rights based approach to interventions in emergency situations.

The super cyclone that hit Orissa brought winds of up to 300 km per hour with tidal waves reaching ten meters high and incessant rain for 48 hours. The districts located on the coastal belt, that bore the impact, were completely devastated, causing insurmountable loss of human lives, its habitat and ecology. An estimated 7.5 million people were rendered homeless, devoid of food and livelihood. About 19,000 schools, 556 child care centres, 44 hospitals and 146 primary health care centres were damaged or destroyed. Some 100,000 tube wells were submerged and water sources were contaminated. The official death toll was put at 10,000, with an estimated 1,500 children orphaned.

UNICEF' rights approach to the emergency relief in Orissa:

1. Universality: all children are entitled to their rights as spelled out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since the vulnerability of disadvantaged children in the aftermath of the cyclone was high, it was necessary to pay particular attention to child protection issues.

Within a month after the cyclone, UNICEF and the Save the Children Fund developed guidelines to identify and assist children up to the age of 18. Children living alone, children separated from their families, orphans and disabled children were specifically targeted.

2. Community participation: UNICEF put a great emphasis on involving communities in the analysis, development and implementation of rehabilitation. One of the models developed in Orissa was the Mamata Gruhas ("Motherly Love Homes" in Oriya) project which promoted the community-based rehabilitation of orphaned children. In February 2000, with UNICEF's support, the Government of Orissa launched a Scheme for community-based rehabilitation of children and women at risk, uncared aged and disabled persons.

A major concern was that an increasing number of children were at risk of becoming victims of labour and even prostitution. UNICEF supported the Department of Labour in setting up 60 Child Labour Prevention Centres in seven cyclone-affected districts, each centre being run by a local NGO. Families and communities were actively involved.

3. Inter-sectorality and convergence of services: the holistic approach to children means that all sectors need to work together to bring basic services to them at the community level.

Interventions related to the right of children to survival and development encompassed health, nutrition, water and sanitation. During the relief phase UNICEF made available a wide range of supplies such as food, medicine, polythene sheets, blankets and oral rehydration salt. UNICEF also developed and provided the government of Orissa with 80,000 family kits containing cooking utensils, blankets, clothing, matches, candles, kerosene etc.

The health support was strengthened by a strong intervention in the areas of water and sanitation, one of the UNICEF's immediate priorities to prevent epidemic breakdown. For instance, UNICEF facilitated the repair and reconstruction of some 68,000 tube wells and the distribution of water hygiene posters and handbills.

Schools can constitute poles for convergent services. Encouraged by UNICEF, the GOO re-opened schools 10 days after the cyclone. UNICEF assisted the GOO to provide textbooks for 17,000 schools. Ensuring access to safe drinking water and toilets at school is part of the effort and UNICEF plans to organise medical check-ups on a pilot basis. Re-opening schools also contributed to the prevention of child labour and was part of the strategy to bring back normalcy to the life of children.

4. Co-ordination: the highly effective level of co-ordination among UN Agencies, GOO, international aid agencies, donors and NGOs, the appointment of a UN Co-ordinator at the State level and the creation of a UN House were unprecedented in India. The daily co-ordination meetings, gathering all partners, held during the first weeks after the cyclone has become a weekly State level Co-ordination Committee Meeting under the aegis of the UN House.

The positive outcomes of the co-ordination were: a) strengthened networks, b) preventing duplication of efforts, c) optimal resource management, d) convergence of strategy and resources in reaching out the most disadvantaged communities.

To support the effort of the people and Government of Orissa in the long term, a UN inter-sectoral workplan is being implemented.

5. Emergency preparedness: the unimaginable fury of the cyclone, its coming ten days only after another cyclone and its rapidly changing path made it difficult to properly plan the evacuation and protection of the population. Moreover, the breakdown of all essential services and the lack of contingency plan and preparedness, caused delay in the systematic and rapid emergency response.

The development of emergency preparedness plans and the training of selected agencies have been identified as crucial actions that need to be conducted on a regular basis. In January 2000, UNICEF conducted a workshop on Disaster Management for the UN staff and GOO officials of the Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority. UNICEF programming includes developing the capacities of the communities to devise contingency plans to be able to tackle future disaster situations with greater preparedness and skills.

Within the UN system, UNICEF is presently playing a leading role in the rehabilitation and development activities in Orissa. It is providing assistance to the Government of Orissa and NGOs in effectively taking preparatory measures to deal with the heat wave that is believed to hit Orissa in May/June this year. The UNICEF State Offices in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are currently analysing and responding to the drought, in close consultation with their respective Governments and NGOs.


WFP and Disaster Management Bookmark3

Natural disasters are a major factor affecting food security in areas prone to flooding, drought, and pest and disease outbreaks. WFP is committed to mitigating and preventing emergencies and their consequences on human lives like famine related death, starvation and nutrition deficiencies.

WFP's mitigation activities include measures to prevent and moderate the potential threats from occurring. Prevention steps include construction, restoring rural infrastructure to limit the damage of flood water or construction of water harvesting structures, which improve the water table and prevent desertification. A second set of activities is to help people through the crisis. Such activities are oriented towards the preservation and protection of assets.

The rapid response capacity, information systems and local knowledge through its regular country presence has helped WFP to assist in disaster situations such as flooding in Bangladesh, China and Somalia and the devastating hurricane that hit Central America.

WFP's response to disaster in India has been quite limited. WFP helps government efforts to alleviate the suffering caused by sudden food shortfall and promote early recovery by working in the most natural disaster and drought prone states-particularly Rajasthan, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where food crisis repeatedly occur. WFP closely collaborates with other partners for rapid and effective response to emergency situations. In June 1998, when violent floods hit Assam, WFP responded to request by the State Government for assistance by providing 635 MT of Corn Soya Blend. WFP cut critical response time because it was already assisting ICDS centres in Assam.

As an immediate response to the century's worst cyclone, which hit Orissa, WFP provided 250 MT of high protein biscuits. In addition to this, WFP provided approximately 2000 MT of food including 500 MT of a highly nutritious infant food called "Indiamix" specially targeted for young children and 1500 MT of rice. Total worth of these commodities was around US $ 700,000.

Additionally, the Government of India and WFP have signed an agreement (Protracted Relief and Rehabilitation Operation -PRRO 6211) for 3 million US dollars for the rehabilitation phase of the cyclone affected people in the two worst affected districts, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara in Orissa. Through this agreement, WFP will provide 8,341 MT of food items including rice, pulses, blended food and vegetable oil. This phase will be implemented in collaboration with the Department of Women and Child Development and various non-government organisations.

Recently, WFP has responded to the devastating drought condition in Rajasthan by providing 1,500 MT of food grains for undertaking food-for-work schemes in Dungarpur, Sirohi, Rajsamand and Banswara districts.

WFP's regular food for work activities in India contribute to drought prevention. Activities include creation of water harvesting structures which have a major role to play in raising the ground water level. WFP afforestation activities supported through the department of Forest and Environment also play a critical role in preventing drought.


UNESCO and Natural Disaster Preparedness Bookmark4

UNESCO has been involved in a series of training programmes which relate directly or indirectly to natural disasters. Training courses in Structural Geology, Remote Sensing and Plate Tectonics are meant to study the movements of the earth which cause earthquakes, landslides and volcanic activity. A large part of each of these courses naturally includes field work and observation.

Regional Training Course in Structural Geology

UNESCO sponsored The Sixth Regional Training Course in Structural Geology at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in Dehra Dun. Held on 9 - 19 March 1999 and organized by the Institute, the course was intended for young (under 35) geo-scientists with a Master's Degree in Geology. It aimed at updating the skills of all those engaged in teaching, research and applied aspect professions, by providing them with the latest information and training in the field of Structural Geology. Another aim was to promote a better understanding of complex structures, their geometry and the processes involved in their formation.

The training course (attended by twelve candidates - seven from the region and five from India) was an opportunity for geo-scientists from South and Central Asian countries to get together and promote international co-operation and understanding. A series of lectures on selected topics in Structural Geology was organised, practical classes were held, and four days field training given. Field work showed participants how to record and understand the various structural features of the Himalayan orogenic belt.

UNESCO New Delhi circulated a questionnaire to evaluate the course and have participants present their views on its usefulness. Since geology is based on field observation, participants wanted the duration to be lengthened to one month to enable them to get a wider exposure in the field.

Regional Training Course in Plate Tectonics

A ten days training course in "Plate Tectonics" sponsored by UNESCO New Delhi Office will be organised by Institute of Geology, University of Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan between 28 November - 7 December 1998. The need for and the desirability for such a training course was felt as Pakistan presents the best field laboratory in Plate Tectonics in the world and is the focus of major research activity by teams of scientists drawn from many parts of the world. A fairly long fieldwork after the first few days of classroom lectures is perhaps the more important part of the course and is a unique opportunity for the delegates from abroad.

Regional Training Course on Remote Sensing Applications to Geology

UNESCO also sponsored a Regional Training Course on Remote Sensing Applications to Geology in collaboration with Department of Geology, Anna University, Chennai on 15-26 November 1999. The course aimed at creating awareness about remote sensing techniques and their applicability in geological studies (including geological mapping, mineral and groundwater exploration), geo-technical/engineering projects and geo-environmental applications; and at generating interest in them in the user community in this region.

It also trained government officials as well as officials of local governing bodies in India and regional countries who are involved in exploration and exploitation of minerals, groundwater, and execution and monitoring of engineering projects in remote sensing techniques.

The major subject areas covered were: basic principals of remote sensing and GIS,platforms and sensors of LANDSAT, SPOT, IRS, visual and digital interpretation, Digital Image processing and Case Studies on Applications of Remote Sensing to mineral, groundwater explorations, coastal geology, geomorphology and geo-technical engineering. The laboratory exercises included stereoscopy, aerial photo and satellite image interpretation, hands on exercises on digital image processing for geological application, preparation of geological, geomorphological and geotechnical maps, spectro-radiometry, GIS digitizing, editing, plotting, overlay analysis. The results of lab exercises were various thematic maps such as geological map, lithological, structural, geomorphological, landuse maps etc. In order to verify the accuracy of interpretation, a two-day field trip (ground truth verification) was organised during which participants visited several formations such as gondwana, tertiary sandstone formation, pre-cambrians (charnockites) peninsular gneisses and alluviam (coastal and fluvial). The coastal geomorphological map prepared by them during the lab exercises was verified in the east coast of India between Mahabalipuram - Chennai. The laboratory exercise and the field work were presented as mini-project report by the participants.

Participation in Earthquake Safety

UNESCO New Delhi Office supported the First Earthquake Safety Day Exhibition held on 16-18 January 1999, Kathmandu, Nepal. The exhibition was organized by National Society for Earthquake Technology - Nepal.


WHO and Emergencies Bookmark5

Natural disasters have reportedly claimed three million lives world-wide during the last 20 years and adversely affected the lives of at least 800 million people. The consequences of disasters and conflicts represent a major public health and development issue, and consequently WHO has defined disaster reduction as a core area of its work. WHO's Constitution specially mandates the Organization in the field of humanitarian assistance, "to act as the directing and co-ordinating authority on international health work."

In recent years, as natural and human-induced disasters have become more frequent and more severe, WHO's role as the lead UN agency for health-related aspects of emergencies has expanded considerably. In WHO's South East Asia region, the Emergency and Humanitarian Action (EHA) programme took wing about three years ago.

To ensure greater relevance of its work in emergencies, the EHA programme has been in the dynamic process of change. The strategic objective of WHO's EHA programme is "to increase the capacity and self reliance of countries in the prevention of disasters, preparation for emergencies, and mitigation of their health consequences and create a synergy between emergency action and sustainable development."

At the regional and global levels WHO's overall focus is on the development of emergency surveillance systems and response to disasters and emergencies. Capacity building is undertaken through training programmes and publications based on best public health practice in emergencies.

WHO helps to mobilise resources from the international community to address populations at risk or as a response to natural disasters or complex emergencies. This is done in partnership with other international organisations, NGOs and the private sector. Through its emergency relief and humanitarian action operations, WHO's objectives are:

1) to guide other UN organizations and other bodies in the countries with comprehensive, regular health assessments;

2) in the wake of disasters, to work with countries to reestablish health services and emergency preparedness systems and

3) to support countries in drafting health sector plans to respond to nuclear, biological, technological and chemical incidents.

Being a technical agency on health, WHO has a comparative advantage and experience in this field. In emergency situations, WHO can, if requested, send epidemiologists and health experts to support the development of a health surveillance system. WHO has also developed surveillance tools, which focus on how to assess the health situation, and to pinpoint critical areas to be addressed, including surveillance of epidemic diseases.

An important aspect of WHO's role is to co-ordinate health assessment to ensure the health relief efforts are efficient, coordinated and relevant to the needs of the situation. WHO also works to ensure that incoming emergency assistance meets international standards. Guidelines for donors have been produced. WHO's task is also to identify important areas of health which have not been covered by other agencies.

The main focus for WHO on health disaster reduction is at national level, and the emphasis is on national capacity building:

Learning from previous disasters is important to improve emergency preparedness and management and to identify the population and geographical areas at risk. WHO therefore is promoting the collection, analysis and dissemination of information on emergencies and disasters.

Training of health personnel and other cadres on emergency management

Strengthening the capacity of national institutions to prepare for and act in emergencies

Promotion of national legislation and national policy for emergency management

Ensuring that the response to emergencies contributes to sustainable development

In the South-East Asia Region of WHO, the EHA programme has been very active particularly in the last three years. When Bangladesh was swept by devastating floods, WHO supported national authorities in needs assessment, updated the media and the public about the health situation and major health thrusts, and urged donors to support the health sector and helped to raise substantial sums of money. It has supported post flood research and supports the establish- ment of an EHA information system.

In India, when the state of Orissa was hit by a series of cyclones, including a supercyclone in October 1999, it caused severe damage in 14 of the 30 districts. Over 15 million people were seriously affected. WHO was a key member of the UNDAF assessment team to Orissa where it provided technical support in the initial rapid health sector assessment. WHO chaired the daily health coordination meetings, and maintained a daily health sector management sheet for monitoring. WHO, together with Medicine Sans Frontiers, worked out a system for epidemiological surveillance which was used by all agencies.

The Organizatiion provided technical assistance, including guidelines on the management of ARI, diarrrhoeal diseases and acute malnutrition. Together with UNICEF, WHO recommended an urgent measles vaccination campaign, and to address the issues of nutrition, WHO brought in a nutritionist from WHO Headquarters. WHO also introduced the supply and management system SUMA to help streamline emergency supplies.