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Natural disasters can have disastrous consequences for economic activity, property, human welfare and natural resources. These events greatly affect the productive sectors of the economy, not to mention the impacts on communities, in particular the poor. Since natural disasters have become quite frequent, countries face situations where scares resources that were earmarked for other developments have to be diverted for reconstruction and relief projects. As a result for the developing countries, the economic growth recovers slowly after any major disaster. If sustainable development is to be achieved, countries will have to take effective measures to manage natural hazard risks.

There is a need to effectively manage disaster risk. This means we need to closely coordinate the various activities of different sectors and participation of all sectors in the economy: national disaster agencies, sector ministries, business and private sector organizations, as well as community level organizations. Since the lower strata of the societies and communities are often more vulnerable to natural hazards than the population at large, their active involvement in risk reduction, based on local knowledge and measures tailored to local conditions, offers to complement national disaster management initiatives. The role of local actors – municipal governments and communities – is being increasingly recognized.

Understanding CBDRM:

Community-based Disaster Risk Management is part of the comprehensive Natural Disaster Risk Management Program which aims to reduce the socially constructed vulnerability of the community by involving it as active participants in a disaster management program. There is also a broadening consensus that it is cost-effective to train and educate communities about risks they face, provide them access to resources and knowledge, and to develop community-based preparedness and mitigation programs. It has emerged as a complement to structural mitigation (dams, dykes, levees, etc.) and even certain types of non-structural mitigation programs.

A community-based disaster risk management program does not follow a standard course of action or a master plan. Instead, it is a series of action plans that allow methods to be less normative, standardized, and intervention mechanisms more innovative and improvised. The key issues are creating access to resources for protecting shelter and livelihoods, greater knowledge and choices for hazard mitigation, and reducing socio-economic vulnerability. It is important to remember that vulnerability stems from risk and the incapacity of households and communities to respond to, and recover from, shocks. It has two sides: an external side, that is the natural hazard (severity and frequency), and an internal side, that is the capacity and resilience of affected communities (asset endowment and insurance mechanisms).

Community-level Vulnerability Assessment and Disaster Preparedness

vulnerability assessment (VA), a most critical exercise in disaster preparedness. VA provides the basis for disaster preparedness at the community level by identifying important community concerns such as livelihood and consumption, housing and social infrastructure, and gender and intra-household relations. Though different methods of carrying out VA have evolved, it is critical that they adapt to local conditions, and include all the relevant socioeconomic indicators of well being.

Access to Resources for Community-based Mitigation

It is important to identify and enlist the resources that communities need to reduce their vulnerability and adopt mitigation measures. Access to resources can be secured through financial mechanisms and incentives, as well as economic programs. An appropriate mitigation strategy is based on a balance between market-based instruments and public-funded programs. An ideal community-based mitigation program has no standard prescription; it takes into account the vulnerability of a community and the feasibility of different mitigation strategies and instruments.

Planning and Implementing a Disaster Management Program at Community - level

The basic approach to designing and implementing community-based disaster management programs is of utmost importance. It reviews the process and the tools of participatory risk assessment, methods of analyzing hazards, hazard exposure and community vulnerabilities. It then derives the main ingredients of a community response plan and mitigation program from the assessment and an analysis of available resources. The presentation emphasizes the importance of networks, and training and education programs, which provide people with more information and a better understanding of risks and risk reduction mechanisms. A certain level of standardization must be introduced through curriculum and course material, trainers’ competence, and levels of certification. At the same time, such an education process also needs to draw upon grassroots experience, traditional knowledge and local practices.

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