Saving children & FAMILIES in Emergencies

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1 Saving children & FAMILIES in Emergencies Save the Children s Disaster Risk Reduction Activities Case studies and success stories June 2013

2 The project The OFDA-funded Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Project s goal is to strengthen the capacity of communities, local civil-society organizations, and key government authorities at the district, provincial, and national levels to reduce disaster risks through mitigation, preparedness, early warning and resilience; and to respond rapidly and effectively to emergencies, thus preventing the loss of life. This project, implemented in three phases, covers six provinces of Balkh, Jawzjan, Saripul, Bamyan, Faryab, and Uruzgan, with prepositioning and emergency response activities in Kandahar and Kabul. The project is designed to equip communities with the necessary skills, knowledge and resources to prepare for, mitigate the risks of, and respond to, disasters while always keeping the safety of children at the centre. Key activities include establishing Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) who are trained in DRR, Early Warning Systems (EWS), planning and designing mitigation activities, Child Protection in Emergencies (CPiE), emergency preparedness planning, first aid and basic search and rescue skills. CERTs are responsible for identifying safe areas in the village, and instructing people on how to be safe in an emergency. In order to facilitate children s participation in DRR activities Children s Councils are also established. These Children s Councils are made up of both boys and girls and are trained in similar topics to the CERTs, as well as how to disseminate these messages to other children. The project has also piloted the establishment of Child Protection Committees (CPC) and Role Model Women s Groups. Both are trained in child protection concerns in non-emergency and emergency times, as well as how to monitor and respond to child protection issues in the event of an emergency. These mechanisms help the community ensure that children s needs are met and that women also receive key DRR messages. Another component of the project is improving the capacity of district and provincial level government, and civil society actors, including local non-governmental organizations (LNGOs) in minimum standards for emergency response, how to conduct rapid emergency assessments, as well as broader concepts of DRR, risk mitigation, emergency preparedness and CPiE. Finally, this project enables Save the Children to provide emergency relief to disaster affected families in eight targeted provinces. By pre-positioning emergency relief items such as hygiene kits, household kits, blankets, shelter tool kits, plastic sheeting, and children s clothes, in six strategically located warehouses, Save the Children is able to rapidly respond to the emergency needs of families affected by conflict, flooding, earthquakes and severe weather. The third phase of the project, which will be completed in September 2013, will reach 113,728 beneficiaries directly in some of the most disaster-prone communities in the northern, central and southern regions of Afghanistan. Despite this, there are still many communities regularly affected by disasters with little or no knowledge of how risks can be mitigated in the long term that have not been covered.

3 Aria, 18 years old Arya is in the 12th grade and she has been working with Save the Children as a volunteer member of the Children s Council for DRR in her village for the last three years. Her mother, who is the head of the village and a member of Role Model Women s Group for DRR, originally encouraged her to join the project after realizing that it was beneficial to her village. Arya goes to school in the morning, but at least two times a month she sits in the Children s Council meeting to discuss child protection, safety during emergencies such as flooding and landslides, health and hygiene concerns, and other issues that are relevant to her village with other members. Arya is member of Children s Council, OFDA-DRR, Balkh I am Arya. I have been working with Save the Children for three years and I think my work has changed me and other people in my village. Before, I was scared to go to a meeting or talk about my village s problems. Now, I have gained this courage because I work with the Children s Council. People in my area didn t know how to act during an emergency. Everyone would panic and do things that would hurt them. Now, they know what their priorities should be during a flood or other emergency. They know who they should save first and where the safe location is. Before the DRR project, floods would destroy people s houses because water would overflow the canals, but now with help and instructions from Save the Children, people have cleaned the canals and destruction has been minimized. In this process the work of the Children s Council was essential as it delivered messages about child rights so that children would be protected during and after emergencies. More than 2,000 children in the neighboring villages have learned about their rights because each of our 30 Children s Council members took the responsibility to share what they learnt with other children. We also made sure we reached out to women and girls so 18 out of the 30 members of the council are girls. I want Save the Children to work in other parts of the country as well, because its work has had such a great impact here and there are many other places that need the same kind of help and protection in case of emergencies. Most people outside my village still do not know how to save themselves and their children in case of an earthquake or a flood. Arya speaks about the importance of expanding the DRR project to other areas in Afghanistan. Sholgara is one of the districts in Balkh province that has so far not been covered by Save the Children s DRR programming. Sholgara is regularly affected by flooding and other natural disasters. When flooding affected many communities of Sholgara in April 2013, families were in need of emergency support, and had limited capacity to cope with the situation. Using its pre-positioned stocks of relief items in Mazar City, Save the Children was able to provide rapid assistance to the affected families.

4 Flood in Shulgara District, Balkh In April of 2013, more than 160 families were harmed by a strong flood in Sar Aseyab village of Sholgara district. There was no CERT in the village to raise the alarm and warn community members, nor to coordinate the rapid evacuation of families, conduct search and rescue or administer basic first aid. With pre-positioned supplies from the OFDA-funded project, Save the Children worked closely with other humanitarian actors, government and community members to provide help to families affected by the flooding. After a rapid assessment of the damage with other agencies and government departments, Save the Children distributed blankets, shelter tool kits so families could begin rebuilding their homes, hygiene kits, household items, and plastic sheeting. These items were intended to support families who had left their homes due to flood damage or lost their property and assets in the flood. However, despite the fact that several months have passed since the flood, more than ten families in the village who had lost their houses, still live under tents or with neighbors. Even though the donations and support by Save the Children were highly appreciated by local villagers, many pointed to the need for more sustainable ways to help their communities in cases of natural disasters in the future. Assistance shouldn t be only provided in the aftermath of a disaster, but the risks mitigated and the community prepared before a disaster happens, so that the impact is limited, therefore the expansion of DRR activities into other flood-prone areas is necessary and welcomed. Ali Akram has been the head of the village for 17 years expressed his thanks to Save the Children for the timely help during the emergency, but asks for more sustainable work to raise the awareness of families in his community.

5 Ali Akram,45 years old I am Ali Akram. I have been the head of Sar Aseyab village for 17 years and I have never seen a flood as bad as the one this spring. More than 160 families in our village were harmed and displaced by the flood and needed immediate assistance. The families received blankets, plastic sheets, hygiene kits, household kits and shelter tool kits, from Save the Children and this kind of help was absolutely necessary at that time. This made the people s situation seem more normal to them and created a sense of stability at a time when everything was being destroyed by the flood water. There was enough help combined with the donations of other agencies to help people survive for a month before they could restart farming and working. Thankfully, no people were killed during the flood, but we lost some cows and sheep.

6 Akhlaqi, 50 years old is a resident of Sar Aseyaab Village. He and his wife have ten children and they were one of many families that benefited from Save the Children s support. His family is one of those who still hasn t been able to rebuild their house which was destroyed by the flood. The donations we received were enough to save us from death and sustain us for a few weeks. My house was completely destroyed and I lost a cow and a sheep so we had no source of feeding ourselves other than the donations that were given to us. We received items like oil, blankets for every member of the family, shoes for everyone and shovels. We were out of our house for nearly two months before we could fix some parts of our house and return to it. The help we received was fast and timely, but certainly not enough or sustainable. What will we do the next time there is a flood? he asked. One possible answer to the question asked by Akhlaqi and many others in Sholgara is the expansion of the DRR program into their area. If Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and Children s Councils were present in the area, they could prepare people better on how to respond during an emergency. In Faryab, the DRR program has empowered people in rural areas to protect themselves sustainably. Shah Bibi, 45, is a resident of Hazara Qala in Faryab. Shah Bibi speaks of the great impact the CERT has had on her village: Before if there was a flood, we would stand by the river and gather fish or wood, now we know that we shouldn t do that to avoid drowning. We should prevent our children from going close to flood water. All the villagers know this now because of the CERT s work. As soon as one person knows that there is a flood coming, they warn everyone else so we can evacuate to the identified safe areas.

7 villages participated in a simulation exercise for flooding in Sajadian village, Balkh.

8 Zahra Hossainy another resident of the village, is fifteen years old. I remember when the CERT members came to our house to inform us about which area to go to if there is a flood. I am sure they have saved many lives in our village, she says. However, Amina thinks training the CERTs is not enough and the village needs new and safer bridges so that people can continue their work and commute to their farms after floods because most often the bridges are completely destroyed by water. Save the Children has supported us to build a flood protection wall in Hazara Qala in order to protect people s houses and land in the event of flooding in future. Sufi Qurban is 79 years old and he lives in Hazara Qala Village. His house is on the top of the hill and one of the first houses to face the floods each year. In the spring of 2012, when a flood hit the village, his house was completely destroyed. His doors and windows were swept away by the flood waters. One of his cows also disappeared. Sufi Qurban s four sons are among the volunteers who are helping build the flood protection wall to protect the village during future floods. The flood that comes through the river over the hills destroys our crops, our land and our houses, Sufi Qurban tells Save the Children, however now, because of Save the Children s help and governmental help, the people know how to notify each other before a flood comes. For example, people from villages that are closer to floods, call us here and warn us. Then, the mosques are used to spread the message. People call each other. There are about 400 houses that are affected by the river flooding every year, but my house is closest to the water so this wall will be a great help to my family, which is why my sons have volunteered to help build it. This makes me very happy. Save the Children s DRR project in Faryab has been successful in gaining public support by involving local people in the CERT, Children s Council, Role Model Women s Group and other community-oriented awareness-raising activities. The creation of a protection wall in Hazara Qala by Save the Children will prevent harm to hundreds of families and houses in future floods. The CERT members have helped mobilize religious leaders, teachers, and educators in raising the awareness of women, men and children on safety during emergency situations such as floods. The project s activities have been able to bring great changes in many districts and villages of Faryab Province, however there are still many disaster prone communities without access to life-saving skills, knowledge and information. Expanding the project could help many more communities by empowering local people to be more effective first responders to emergencies and take responsibility for making their villages safer places.

9 Written by: Noojahan Akbar Photographs by: Mohammad Zubair Shirzay Save the Children

10 We are the world s leading independent organisation for children. Our vision is a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation. Our mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives. Save the Children P.O. Box 642 Kabul, Afghanistan (reception)

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