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View the documentCase study: Sudan Emergency Flood Reconstruction Program
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Case study: Sudan Emergency Flood Reconstruction Program

Jonathan Brown and Mohamed Muhsin

After a disaster, aid is best coordinated by the recipient country itself. But aid coordination by an outside institution such as the World Bank may be warranted when the country lacks administrative capability, when the disaster is so big that government services are fully occupied for a long time with both relief and normal operations, or when issues of concern to the Government and donors cannot be resolved internally. This is not a matter of the Government giving up its sovereignty. Rather, it is similar to hiring consultants or an investment bank for their expertise in a particular or unusual situation. This kind of aid coordination is probably most effective in the preparation of the reconstruction program if it is clear that the program is that of the Government and not that of the lead donor or of the donors as a group. Aid coordination becomes less effective during implementation, largely because most donors insist on their own rules and procedures for procurement and disbursements.

In August and September of 1988, much of Sudan was devastated by heavy rains and flooding. At the Government’s request, the World Bank organized a multidonor, multisector mission to help the Government prepare a US$408 million reconstruction program to present to the donor community (see box on flood reconstruction funding). The Bank hosted a donors conference in November 1988 to fund the emergency lending program, then helped the Government and donors monitor program implementation. This is a review of the Bank’s experience in that aid coordination effort.


Sudan, with an area of 2.5 million square kilometers, is the largest country in Africa. Its population in 1988 was about 23 million - a heterogenous mix of ethnic groups and religions. Per capita GNP was US$330. Sudan has the natural resources and, more than other African countries, the trained manpower to develop a vibrant economy. But the economy has performed poorly most of the time since independence, and in the past several years has deteriorated at an alarming pace. The main reasons for this state of affairs are mistrust of the private sector and political instability - stemming from a prolonged civil war, poor economic policies, and a weak administration - reinforced periodically by adverse shocks from the weather and the international economy and by the influx of refugees from neighboring countries. By May 1986, when a coalition government assumed power after democratic elections, GDP had grown only 1 percent a year for a decade and per capita income and consumption had fallen well below the 1970s’ levels. In June 1989 the civilian authorities were replaced by a military government.

In August and September 1988, Sudan experienced two separate but related events. First, there were three weeks of unprecedented heavy rainfall, including a 200-millimeter rainstorm August 4-5 in the Khartoum region - more rain in one day than the average rainfall for an entire year. Then there was heavy flooding of the Nile and other rivers, including sheet flooding down wadis that had not seen water in living memory. These events devastated much of the population, particularly in Khartoum and the northern regions, where there was massive damage to agriculture, property, infrastructure, and social services. Some 200,000 homes were extensively damaged or completely destroyed by the floods and rains, which took days to dissipate, in flat areas with impermeable clay soils. About 2 million people were left homeless, more than 80 percent of the schools in the Khartoum area were damaged or destroyed, and farmers along the Nile and in irrigated areas lost substantial productive capacity. Because so much damage was done in so many sectors, and so little reliable data was available, no damage assessment was made, but the general consensus was that it was probably more than US$1 billion equivalent.

Emergency relief efforts began almost immediately after the heavy rains, with the help of the UNDRO/UNDP and the support of the international community and local and international nongovernment organizations (NGOs). Efforts to meet the flood victims’ immediate relief needs - for food, medicine, temporary shelter, and emergency medical relief to prevent epidemics - were successful and no widespread diseases were reported.

The multidonor mission

As it turned its attention from immediate relief to longer-term reconstruction, the Government asked the World Bank to lead a multidonor, multisector mission to help it assess reconstruction requirements, establish a reconstruction program, and coordinate donor reconstruction efforts. The Bank, in consultation with the Government, agreed on several steps. First the Bank mission (working with the Government) waited to outline the reconstruction program until emergency relief efforts were under control, to give highest priority to the Sudanese people’s immediate needs. Second, from Washington, the mission began to establish the framework for a multidonor effort to produce with the Government an Emergency Flood Reconstruction Program (EFRP). This effort involved a series of actions:

(a) Other donors were invited to join a multidonor mission to prepare the EFRP with the Government. A number of donors accepted, including the African Development Bank, the European Economic Community, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, IFAD, the IMF, Italy, Jordan, the United Kingdom, UNICEF, UNIDO, and WHO. The multidonor mission was also in touch with other international organizations (such as FAO and UNDRO) and with other countries (such as the Netherlands and Japan) which eventually helped fund the EFRP.

(b) Local and international consultants (with the financial support of the UNDP) were recruited to supplement the staff of the Bank and other donors and to provide special expertise to the Government and the mission. The United Kingdom also funded consultants to establish with Sudanese officials the nature of the flood and rain events and the probability of their recurring - to help in future disaster mitigation efforts.

(c) The mission determined that because of Sudan’s poor economic performance and weak administrative capabilities, the donors would respond more positively to requests for emergency reconstruction assistance if Sudan’s needs were assessed in detail and Sudan’s implementation capability thoroughly documented by sector. The mission decided to produce a detailed technical document, including equipment lists, which is not usually a priority in emergencies. The Government established special sectoral task forces to assess damage in the sectors served by their ministries, and the Bank and the Government agreed by telex on the kinds of information the donors would need and on a format for their presentation.

(d) Within the Bank, an ad hoc reconstruction advisory group of experts familiar with emergency projects was convened. The Bank named a division chief to lead the multidonor mission and Bank technical and program staff began meeting to coordinate their inputs so that the Government and the mission would be able to produce the EFRP document in the field. This meant agreeing on a common approach to report writing - on such things as the format, costing assumptions, and definitions - and ending up with an outline of the report. The mission was staffed with secretaries and portable computers so that with the help of the local UNDP office it would be able to produce its draft and final reports without imposing a burden on the Government. As for the mission’s organization, a core group of Bank staff - the mission leader, a lawyer, two consultants experienced in Bank, donor, and Sudanese procedures, and the Bank’s senior advisor on emergency lending - would work on the draft EFRP to be discussed with the Government. The core group would review general policy issues with the Government and would handle project implementation issues and disaster mitigation efforts. The Government and mission sector specialists would form sectoral groups to prepare and present their sectoral reconstruction programs to the core group after clearing them with Sudan’s sectoral ministers. Sector groups were established for agriculture, education, health, industry/construction, power, telecommunications, transportation, urban, and water supply. This decentralization of responsibility would allow the mission to cover the nine sectors in the EFRP yet maintain common approaches and standards through the work of the core group. The World Bank agreed that the draft EFRP would be produced in the field without being brought back to Washington for review, thereby accelerating the process and ensuring that the EFRP was a product of the mission and the Government rather than of the World Bank.

(e) It was important to get donor commitments to the EFRP quickly, so before the mission left Washington a donors’ meeting was scheduled for the end of November at the Bank’s Paris office. This put pressure on the Government, the mission, and the donors to produce a detailed document on which prospective donors could make funding decisions. The document would also identify areas in which existing projects with available funds could be reoriented to cover urgent reconstruction requirements - since donors might need some time to make new commitments even in an emergency situation.

Multidonor preparation of the EFRP

A number of sector specialists arrived in Sudan in late September to begin working with the Sudanese, who were already gathering reconstruction data by sector. The main mission - 50 people representing 13 donors - arrived in Sudan October 4. The mission, the donor ambassadors accredited to Sudan, and the Prime Minister and his cabinet met and clearly defined the next steps: preparation of the draft EFRP by the mission and Sudanese ministerial staff, Government review and approval of the EFRP, and submission of the EFRP to the November donors’ conference. So large an area was affected by the flood and rains, and data were so unreliable, that the EFRP was to focus on (1) assessing the damage to productive capacity and essential social services (rather than on economic losses, about which there was much debate), and (2) preparing a two-year reconstruction program that could be implemented and disbursed over a three-year period - given Sudan’s administrative capabilities. This represented a compromise between the Government, which wanted a larger EFRP for a longer period, and the donors, who thought that Sudan’s near-term implementation capability should determine how much funding could be absorbed, even in an emergency.

In the next two weeks, while the subsector groups prepared their parts of the EFRP for submission to the core group, the core group met often with the local donor community to brief them on progress and to solicit their views. Every evening several of the sector subgroups presented reports on their progress to the core group; those meetings were open to all members of the multidonor mission. The core group also undertook several field missions to understand more fully the sector specialists’ submissions. Several donors sent a number of sector specialists, while others were represented by only one or two staff members, so the briefings of the donor ambassadors and the nightly sector meetings allowed the donors to be fully informed about all aspects of the EFRP. Allowing for different viewpoints improved the quality and credibility of the draft EFRP and the donors’ commitment to it - because it was truly a product of the multidonor mission rather than of the World Bank.

Flood reconstruction funding

Jonathan Brown and Mohamed Muhsin

Sectoral funding was allocated as follows:


Local cost
($ millions)

Foreign cost
($ millions)

Total cost
($ millions)





Rural water
































Program coordination and flood prevention








Agriculture: $97.4 million to rehabilitate infrastructure, provide credit and essential inputs, reestablish nurseries to stock perennials, and expand locust and pest control programs.

Rural water: $24 million to replace damaged rural water facilities and install new water systems in rural areas in the northern region where inhabitants of traditionally dangerous villages have volunteered to resettle.

Education: $36.2 million to rebuild 100 destroyed primary schools, import materials for self-help reconstruction of damaged schools ($10 million), and assist higher education ($2 million).

Health: $38.6 million to control malaria and diarrheal diseases, restore drug supplies, and rebuild physical facilities and equipment for health units.

Industry/construction: $50.3 million to increase cement production in Sudan’s major factory (which did not meet demand before the floods for lack of spares and equipment) and $45 million to import building materials.

Power: $34.9 million for power reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Telecommunications: $34.4 million for reconstruction and rehabilitation of a telecommunications network that was in a deplorable state before the flood - to provide Khartoum, secondary towns, and some rural areas with minimum telecommunications service.

Transportation: $33.5 million for highways, $16.4 million of it for the Khartoum-Port Sudan Road.

Urban: Rehabilitation of infrastructure and services in Khartoum and a strategic plan for the city, in which services were minimal before the flood, and large areas unplanned.

Flood prevention: $500,000 to outline the requirements for setting up better data collection and a flood forecast system for the Nile. The EFRP was presented to the Prime Minister and his cabinet and so were three nonsector-specific issues about which the donors felt strongly: (1) equal treatment for southern refugees in Khartoum who had lost housing; (2) restoring a small amount of infrastructure that had been inadequate before the disaster to a higher standard; and (3) favoring more labor-intensive methods in some civil works, especially in urban areas (to create jobs), over the imports of heavy machinery favored by some Sudanese technicians. The Prime Minister resolved these issues and on October 25,1988, the Government formally cleared the EFRP for distribution to the donors in preparation for the donors’ conference. Soon thereafter the World Bank, in its coordinating role, established contact with the headquarters of several donors to clarify EFRP requirements.

Highways was the first subsector group to finish its work. Highways produced a detailed description of the damage to productive capacity and a program for reconstruction in that subsector. The other sector teams followed highways for basic format and standard of quality. The core group concentrated on implementation issues, a major donor concern. It was decided to use existing implementation units in government ministries and agencies, beefed up where necessary. NGOs participated in the relief effort, but the Government was reluctant to channel donor funds for rehabilitation through the NGOs - preferring that their efforts should be freestanding, outside the EFRP framework. The core group agreed with the Government on the following implementation procedures:

(a) The Government would continue its policy oversight of the reconstruction effort through the High Ministerial Committee for Rehabilitation (HMCR), chaired by the Prime Minister and composed of key ministers.

(b) A National Reconstruction Task Force (NRTF) with representatives from all implementing agencies would be created to ensure coordination of the multisectoral EFRP at the technical/agency level.

(c) A National Reconstruction Implementation Unit (NRIU) with a professional staff of Sudanese and expatriates would be established to service the NRTF and the HMCR and to help sectoral implementation units coordinate their work with donors and other government departments. The NRIU was to have access to the Prime Minister through the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, to expedite the resolution of problems in implementation. The Government promised to name - and subsequently named - a highly qualified Sudanese (the State Minister of Finance) to head the NRIU before the donors’ meeting.

The full draft EFRP was completed on October 17,1988 - within two weeks thanks to the preparatory work of the Sudanese and the full integration of all mission subsector groups with their Sudanese counterparts. The EFRP represented a two-year time-slice of a reconstruction effort amounting to US$407.5 million with a 70 percent foreign exchange component (US$285.4 million) in the agriculture, rural water, education, health, industry/construction, power, telecommunications, transportation, and urban sectors and in program coordination and flood warning.

The donors’ conference

A two-day donors’ conference was held at the World Bank’s Paris office on November 29,1988. It was clear from the donors’ reaction that the EFRP document had enabled them to see their contributions in a broad national and sectoral framework that, because of its detail, their technical experts could review in the month before the donors’ meeting. And having most of the donors represented on the multidonor mission had enormously increased their commitment to seeing the process through - at the very time that the donors were rethinking their normal development programs in Sudan because of the Government’s inability to make progress on a macroeconomic adjustment program and on negotiating a settlement of the civil war.

The main challenge of the donors’ conference was to make sure that the full EFRP was funded, because the donors had different sectoral interests, types of assistance, procurement arrangements, and time needed to begin disbursements. EFRP components were merged with available donor funds in two ways. First, subsectoral technical groups met so that bilateral donors could indicate their preferences and make commitments to specific program elements, including lists of major equipment and material. Second, the multilaterals - essentially the African Development Bank and the World Bank - agreed to fund those program elements not taken by the bilaterals. In this way, the main elements of the EFRP were funded - although having two or more donors in a sector increased the burden on sectoral implementation units, the NRIU, and the World Bank (which would assist with donor coordination during implementation). At the other donors’ request, it was agreed that the World Bank would fund the NRIU and would regularly keep the donor group advised of progress on implementation.

As a result of the Paris meeting, indications of donor financing amounted to about US$300 million - including the reallocation of funds from existing projects but excluding some promises of large private contributions from Middle Eastern countries. By and large, the bilaterals were able to make their funding available quickly. The World Bank’s US$75 million IDA credit was approved by its Board of Directors only in June 1989, largely because of the Government’s general instability. The African Development Bank’s US$32 million was approved in January 1990.

Implementation and lessons learned

The World Bank began helping the Government with implementation after the donors’ meeting, largely by exchanging information about donor pledges and procedures. The NRIU was staffed satisfactorily with high-level Sudanese, led by the State Minister of Finance. A 12-person World Bank mission visited Sudan in June 1989 to help with the startup of the Bank’s own $75 million credit - which covered part of the funding for the agriculture, education, health, telecommunications, and urban sectors as well as funding for EFRP coordination and an early warning system for floods. Five World Bank missions, often joined by other donors, visited Sudan between June 1989 and November 1990. Each mission was composed of three of the five members of the original core team plus other sector specialists involved in the first mission. At the beginning, during, and at the end of each supervision mission, meetings were held with the local donor representatives. The missions’ aide-memoire and World Bank telexes summarizing the status of all donor funds were shared with all the donor organizations involved in the EFRP.

The Bank and other donors tried to maintain the same staff on the supervision missions. Just as the original mission could not have been staffed without the financial support of other donors, particularly the UNDP, so the supervision effort benefited from UNDP assistance to finance consultants. The stability of donor personnel was particularly important as the change of government at the end of June 1989 meant that key ministers and high-level civil servants, including essential NRIU personnel, were replaced by Sudanese who needed time and guidance to implement the EFRP efficiently because many of them had not been involved in its preparation.

The implementation phase taught several lessons, some of them relevant to aid coordination generally:

(a) The World Bank can help coordinate aid, especially with quarterly missions to summarize progress and pinpoint key issues, but the Government must feel real ownership of the aid coordination process. At times the NRIU initiated visits to donors, but only irregularly. Often the donors have had to take the initiative to contact NRIU.

(b) Having so many donors, each with different procurement and disbursement procedures, inevitably causes frustration and slows down implementation, particularly when the government’s administration is weak. The Government rarely sends technical staff, who bear the brunt of procurement and disbursement work, to visit the donors to expedite matters. The NRIU has tried to help in this effort but there is no substitute for frequent, direct contact between donor agencies and the sector implementation units - particularly in Sudan, where telecommunications are unreliable.

(c) When it comes to implementation, each donor has its own procurement and disbursement procedures and reporting requirements, so donors are less likely to follow the technical advice of a lead donor than the donors were in the EFRP preparation mission. As a result, aid coordination becomes less effective in maintaining donor cooperation. But the donors want to be kept regularly informed of the EFRP’s progress by both the Government and the World Bank.

(d) The donor efforts that have been most successful in Sudan have been self-contained and have not depended on contributions from more than one or two other donors. Unfortunately this limits the size of a program as most EFRP components are too large for any single donor.

UNDP coordination of disaster and development planning

Seyril R. Siegel and Peter Witham

Many disaster-prone countries are recognizing the need to formulate development policies that are more responsive to the need for disaster prevention and mitigation. Case studies of Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, and Jamaica illustrate how this is being accomplished. The UN system, especially the UNDP, has a special role helping governments strengthen links between disaster planning and planning for development. It will be upgrading the ability of its field offices to support governments in this area, through an extensive training program.

Rapid telecommunications and media coverage have brought to world attention visual evidence of the increasing number of earthquakes, hurricanes, landslides, floods, volcanic eruptions, and prolonged droughts. Increasingly these natural disasters have added to hardship in the lives of population groups already living in clearly unacceptable conditions. In Latin America, for example, the pace of urbanization and industrialization has exacerbated the devastating effect on cities of recurrent natural disasters. Each time disaster strikes, most of those who must be evacuated, lodged, fed, and cared for in temporary shelters are from the lower-income groups.

The effects of natural disasters are magnified by the chaotic and uncontrolled process of human settlement in urban areas. Until recently, environmental impact assessments, risk analysis, contingency programs, and the lessons learned from past natural disasters were rarely taken into account before new settlements were established, so natural disasters were costly to local and central governments (UNDP 1988).

Recent experience around the world illustrates how the effects of disasters can be mitigated by an effective system of predisaster activity (see boxes on Ethiopia, Jamaica, Bangladesh, and Colombia). Some countries are experiencing the same kinds of disaster more often than in the past, and some emergency situations could have been mitigated or even prevented. Several governments are paying increasing attention to disaster-related issues in their development planning.

UNDP involvement

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has long been involved in disaster-related activities, in four ways: as a funding source; as the field representative of the United Nations Disaster Relief Office (UNDRO), and often as executing agent of disaster management projects, through its Office for Projects Services (OPS); and because the UNDP resident representative is often asked to help coordinate disaster relief.

Case study: Ethiopia

Seyril R. Siegel and Peter Witham

The disastrous situation in Ethiopia needs little introduction. In 1988 alone, an estimated 7 million people were threatened by drought. The complex nature of the situation - the effects of drought compounded by civil strife - have posed many problems for development and relief agencies.

Disaster preparedness. In December 1988, a successful UNDP-funded seminar in Ethiopia was hosted by the Office of the National Committee for Central Planning (ONCCP), which has overall responsibility for development planning. This was a seminal event, as until this point there had been little attempt to integrate disaster preparedness into development planning. The links between the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) and the ONCCP still need to be strengthened, however. One possibility is to strengthen the small disaster preparedness unit in the ONCCP. The functions of such a unit should be (1) to evaluate the preparedness and prevention programs of the line ministries, (2) to develop ways to strengthen the National Preparedness and Prevention Plan, and (3) to find ways to integrate disaster prevention and preparedness into other government initiatives.

Relief. A National Committee for Relief and Rehabilitation, chaired by the head of state, includes in its membership the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, the Deputy Chairman of the ONCCP, the Commissioner of the Relief and Rehabilitation Committee (RRC), and the heads of relevant ministries. The RRC is the body primarily concerned with the day-to-day coordination of the government’s relief efforts. Interministerial committees are chaired by RRC officials at all administrative levels down to the awraja. The RRC’s mandate is extensive, but it does not have the authority and resources it needs to implement its mandate effectively.

The UNDP’s role

The UN system in general, and the UNDP in particular, places a high priority on focusing its programs on the relief-preparedness-development continuum. In response to the continuing emergency, the structure of the UNDP office was radically changed in late 1985. Before that date, the UN’s office for Emergency Operations in Ethiopia (EOE) was separate from the UNDP office. The appointment of Mr. Michael Priestley in 1985 as the Secretary General’s Special Representative, the Resident Coordinator, and the UNDP Resident Representative enabled the UN system (with considerable help from bilateral donors) to start building the same type of links between disaster response and preparedness that had been advocated for the government.

In January 1987 a UN Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Group (EPPG) was established in Addis Ababa. Members of the EPPG include FAO, UNDP, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, WHO and the World Bank. Backstopping the EPPG is a UNDP coordinating unit many of the staff members for which have been provided from bilateral sources working on UN contracts. The advantages of this arrangement are that the unit benefits from the multilateral and “neutral” image of the UN, yet bilateral donors can help backstop the coordination effort. The unit’s staffing can be easily adjusted in response to the changing emergency situation. The professional staff has declined from a high of 22 in 1985 (in the unit that predated the EPPG) to six in 1989. The coordinating unit plays a vital role in monitoring the relief activities not only of the UN but of bilateral donors. (EPPG reports are often quoted to the legislative bodies of donor countries.)

The EPPG and the coordinating unit collaborate with NGOs, primarily because bilateral donors have chosen to channel most of their relief activities through NGOs (in 1988-89 as much as 60-75 percent). EPPG is represented at the meetings of the 50-member Christian Relief and Development Association (CRDA).

Linking disaster response and disaster preparedness

Nationwide efforts in rehabilitation and reconstruction must inevitably await the end of civil conflict. The UNDP is helping the government prepare an emergency famine code. Needs that must be counted in this phase include the resettlement of displaced persons. Development activities should be targeted directly at these groups. Reconstruction efforts must tackle the underlying causes of periodic emergencies. Long-term efforts must be tackled through the country’s regular development infrastructure rather than those government agencies responsible for emergency management.

The Conference on Disaster Preparedness and Prevention made recommendations that can only be summarized here. One conference paper, delivered jointly by representatives of the ONCCP and the UNDP, advocated the following measures, among others:

· Use preparedness as a platform for prevention. Food-for-work programs, for example, should be devised with longer-term prevention projects in mind.

· Look for preparedness components within current development programs. Reassess how current development projects can incorporate elements of preparedness.

· Link preparedness and prevention in all future project and program initiatives. The two components should be part of the criteria for virtually all future project and program proposals.

Agreeing about the desirability of such measures may be easy, the paper concluded, but substantial efforts must be made to strengthen institutions, improve communication between them, and provide clear guidelines for implementation. Herein lies the greatest challenge for the government and donors, including the UNDP.

Between 1971 and 1988, US$34 million was spent on 229 activities related to disaster relief, rehabilitation, preparedness, and prevention. Fifty-nine percent of those projects were connected with emergency relief. The $5 million in funds released to finance those projects were drawn from the UNDP’s Special Programme Resources (SPR). Financial commitment averaged $37,000 per project. The other 41 percent of the projects addressed disaster rehabilitation, prevention, and preparedness. Funding of $29 million was financed from SPR and from country Indicative Planning Figures (IPFs). The SPR component for the financing of rehabilitation and/or reconstruction activities amounted to $14 million for 41 projects - usually direct-support, short-term (two- to three-year) projects to meet specific needs emerging from government programs targeted to populations in devastated areas (UNDP/UNDRO 1989).

It is UNDP policy to encourage the inclusion of disaster prevention and preparedness projects in country programs financed by the IPF. Of 50 projects that have been or are being implemented (at an average cost of $280,000), 31 aim to reinforce governments’ ability to plan for disaster.

In 1988, a joint UNDP/UNDRO task force urged the UNDP to include disaster management and disaster mitigation activities more systematically in its program and project cycle. It is UNDP policy to do so, but only recently are governments fully appreciating these links. For the UNDP to help governments conceptually and institutionally link development planning with disaster preparedness, it has commissioned a study on institution-building, to identify lessons learned about how governments are addressing the effects of slow-onset or recurrent natural disasters and to recommend how the UNDP can best cooperate with governments in programs to mitigate the effects of disasters. This study, which is being carried out in three stages (including extensive field studies in three countries), is expected to be completed in January 1991.

The UNDP and UNDRO are about to launch a cooperative effort to train their staffs in disaster reduction, emphasizing the links between disaster reduction and ongoing development. The emphasis will be on training country personnel (UN personnel, NGOs, bilateral donor representatives, and representatives of central government planning organizations) to work as a country team on disaster mitigation and response. About 1,800 people in 50 disaster-prone developing countries are expected to receive training of varying length and content in the next three to four years.

Coordinating disaster planning and relief

Within the UN system, there are formal mechanisms for coordinating predisaster planning and disaster relief. UNDRO’s mandate is to be “a focal point in the United Nations system for disaster relief matters,” but the resident coordinator of the UN system in each host country is responsible for coordinating UN cooperation with that country. In virtually all countries, the UNDP resident representative is also the resident coordinator. In this role, as stipulated in article 8 of General Assembly Resolution A/RES/36/225, “in response to a request for disaster relief from a disaster-stricken state, as necessary, and in particular in disaster-prone countries, the United Nations Resident Coordinator shall, with the full concurrence, consent and participation of the Government, convene meetings of the concerned organs, organizations and bodies of the United Nations system to plan, monitor and take immediate action to provide assistance.”

In any case, the UNDP resident representative is UNDRO’s ex officio representative at the country level. In this dual capacity, all resident coordinators serving in disaster-prone countries have been instructed to form UN disaster management teams. These teams are made up of country representatives of those UN organizations with a specific mandate in disaster management, such as UNICEF, FAO, and WFP. Each resident coordinator has also been instructed to nominate a senior UNDP national professional officer to serve as the “focal point” for disaster management matters in the UNDP office. As the case studies show, the UN team has played a significant role in coordinating the UN response in each country.

Case study: Jamaica

Seyril R. Siegel and Peter Witham

Jamaica lies squarely astride the path for hurricanes and tropical storms, which have caused widespread catastrophic losses. In the past 109 years, the island has experienced 21 hurricanes - an average of one every 5.1 years, the most recent of which was Hurricane Gilbert in September 1988. Hurricanes and tropical storms have been few and far between in the last three decades, but this is a historical anomaly. There is little reason to believe this pattern will continue.

In the same period, more than 35 tropical storms have either made landfall or passed near the island. Some brought much-needed rain, but others caused substantial, generally local, wind damage and brought floods that were especially damaging to agriculture. Tropical storms occur an average once every 2.5 years.

Hurricanes and tropical storms cause most of Jamaica’s catastrophic losses, but the island also has significant earthquake exposure. The earthquake of 1692 submerged the better part of Port Royal and that of 1907 extensively damaged Kingston. Kingston and other urban centers would probably suffer heavy damage should another major earthquake occur.

Recent disasters

On 12 September 1988, Hurricane Gilbert struck the island with wind speeds estimated at more than 140 miles per hour. After the disaster, 810,000 homeless people were accommodated in 1,136 emergency shelters. Forty percent of the island’s housing stock was badly damaged; close to 30,000 mainly low-income units were completely destroyed. Losses were an estimated US$1 billion: $300 million in public infrastructure, $260 million in housing, $200 million in manufacturing, $160 million in agriculture, and $80 million in tourism.

Banana, coconut, cocoa, coffee, and yam crops suffered severe damage and the broiler industry was shattered, with most birds and crops lost. Electricity was severely disrupted as both the generation and distribution facilities were damaged. There was also widespread damage to various public buildings such as schools, hospitals, clinics, and offices.

The hurricane came when Jamaica was beginning a steady economic recovery and the effect of a $1 billion loss on an economy with a $3 billion GDP was severe. Losses in tourism were relatively minor - more in cancellations and lack of services than in damage to physical facilities.

Casualties were relatively light - only 45 deaths were reported - mainly because of an efficient preparedness program administered by the Office of Disaster Preparedness (ODP), the Government’s permanent professional agency responsible for disaster preparedness and mitigation. The island was fortunate that the expected storm surge, which would have caused extensive flooding, failed to materialize.

To understand the events following reconstruction, it is important to know that Jamaica was about to have a general election when the hurricane struck. The upcoming elections played a crucial role in determining the pace at which rehabilitation and reconstruction work was implemented.

Government arrangements

Disaster preparedness. The country’s chief coordinating body for disaster preparedness is the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Relief Coordination (ODIPERC), established in July 1980. Overall policy is contained in a National Disaster Plan. In the event of a threatening, imminent, or actual disaster, ODIPERC assumes the lead in coordinating and activating the plan. It is supported by a National Disaster Committee, parish committees, and emergency services.

ODIPERC was established to create and maintain contingency plans at national, parish, and local levels; to promote public awareness of disaster threats and appropriate responses thereto; to monitor the effectiveness of hazard mitigation strategies; and to establish an emergency response when major disasters occur. ODIPERC has an ongoing program in public information and provides officials with disaster training. The responsibility of ODIPERC’s director is to ensure that contingency plans are developed and activated for national and major emergencies. He advises the prime minister and the minister of local government on disaster preparedness and maintains contact with government agencies, major donor agencies, and private sector groups.

Disaster response and relief. The roles of government agencies, emergency services, and volunteer agencies are clearly defined in the event of a disaster. The security forces and the fire department play a vital role in emergency and recovery situations. The security forces maintain law and order; search and rescue operations are coordinated by the fire department and emergency services, assisted by the Jamaica Defence Force. Government agencies such as the Ministry of Construction (Works), the Ministry of Social Security, and the Ministry of Local Government oversee repairs, rehabilitation, and coordination in disasters. The Ministry of Local Government supports the Parish Disaster Committees that arrange to procure resources (manpower, materials, equipment) in all 14 parishes and ensure their mobilization in emergencies and disasters.

Voluntary organizations such as the Red Cross, Project Accord, and the Salvation Army work closely with ODIPERC and the Ministry of Social Security. These autonomous bodies act as auxiliaries to the established public institutions. Because of their decentralized operations they are in a position to provide effective administrative links regionally and locally. ODIPERC coordinates the activities of these agencies through the Parish Disaster Committees. It supports the agencies by facilitating access to scarce resources and handles requests for external assistance - money, equipment, or technical assistance - so they can function effectively.

The UNDP’s role. Hurricane Gilbert was truly a national disaster. Every one of the island’s 14 parishes was affected. The suffering - particularly of the underprivileged - was exacerbated by the loss of most subsistence-income-generating activities through the destruction of cash crops, soil erosion, widespread flooding and water damage, the suspension of power and water supplies, significantly diminished health and sanitation services, and the suspension of schooling, transportation, and telecommunication services. At the same time, successive structural adjustment programs had resulted in diminished public services, layoffs, and cuts in public spending. With institutional capabilities severely depleted, the government asked the UNDP/UNDRO representative to coordinate relief needs with donor and international responses.

Working with the office of the Prime Minister, the UNDP chaired daily meetings between the donors, local and international nongovernment organizations, the UN system, and officials representing the sectors that had suffered damage. The UNDP and the ODP established a computerized system for tracking and monitoring all relief supplies and ensuring the precise specification of needs.

The UNDP helped the World Bank and other bilateral donors by providing the information and services needed to facilitate the damage assessments on which quick-disbursing reconstruction grants and loans would be based. A geographic information system was established based on earlier work by the OAS, and an interactive emergency information network was put in place in 11 government public utilities and departments to facilitate resource management in the reconstruction phase and in preparation for future disasters.

Several UNDP-financed postdisaster studies were carried out to provide information on which decisions could be made to improve national resource management and to reduce disasters’ negative effects on the economy. The most important of these was “A Catastrophic Loss Insurance Programme for Agricultural Industries, Low-Income Housing, and Critical Public Services.” This study points out that “no one can define with any measure of accuracy precisely which Government installations and services are critical. This would not be so important except for the fact that neither the GOJ [Government of Jamaica] nor the ministries and agencies thereof have an inventory of capital stock and their replacement values. The Government literally does not know what it owns, where it is or what it would cost to replace.”

At the request of the government, the UNDP later redirected its country program using as a window of opportunity rehabilitation and reconstruction for structural changes in national resource management. This strategy has met with limited success, but has set a basis for significant improvement as there is now greater national appreciation of how disasters affect the economy.

Case study: Bangladesh

Seyril R. Siegel and Peter Witham

Bangladesh meets most of the conditions guaranteed to increase a country’s vulnerability to natural disasters. It is a developing country. It depends heavily on its agricultural sector, but remains a net food importer. Deforestation is a serious problem and Bangladesh is the most densely populated developing country in the world, with an annual population growth rate of at least 2.6 percent. All these factors put enormous pressure on arable land and many people live where they are virtually defenseless against tropical storms and storm surges (such as the “chars” in the Bay of Bengal). Moreover, the topography of the country is such that at least 80 percent of the land area is subject to severe flooding. Worse, the country’s major riverine systems originate outside Bangladesh, so the government has little control over the volume of water entering this almost totally deltaic and low-lying country. As a result, the country is subject to both drought and flooding.

Recent disasters

One of the greatest disasters of modern times occurred in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1970 when a huge cyclone struck the country’s southern coastline, killing about 300,000 people. In 1985, another large cyclone hit the southern part of the country and the storm surge killed 10,000. In 1987, the country was hit by the worst floods in 70 years. The immediate death toll was about 1,000, and the IMF estimated that the country’s economic growth rate for that year had been halved. In 1988, the country was hit by floods of even greater magnitude than those of 1987, inundating 53 of the country’s 64 districts and affecting 45 million people - rendering about 25 million of them homeless. Just as the floods were receding, another cyclone hit the relatively less-populated south-west coast, killing about 6,500.

One can only guess at the economic effect of these disasters but at least 30 percent of the population (more than 30 million people) are landless peasants, totally dependent on sharecropping for income. Obviously, the medium-term consequences to them of sudden huge drops in agricultural production are grave. But there are also other costs. The floods of 1987 and 1988, for example, diverted government energies away from ongoing development work toward dealing with the effects of the floods. Thus damage from the floods is measured not only in GNP lost but in development postponed. “We have no margin for disaster,” stated the Secretary of Planning in November 1988. Successive floods undermine investors’ confidence in economic growth and inhibit development. On top of this, the cost of repairing or replacing capital stock was an estimated $1.1 billion for the 1988 floods alone.

Government arrangements

Disaster preparedness. The current (third) five-year plan of the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) makes no reference to the need to link disaster preparedness with ongoing economic and social development. Neither do annual development plans or sectoral plans. But so many people (and all development sectors) were affected by these floods that a disaster preparedness strategy for Bangladesh must encompass not only all government-sponsored development but also society as a whole.

Traditionally, the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation has been responsible for disaster preparedness and response. Two factors have inhibited this ministry’s ability to fulfill its role. First, structurally, it is parallel to the regular “line” ministries, so it has not been in a position to participate in top-level or even sectoral planning. Second, its mandate is in effect directed to postdisaster activities. Current dialogue between donors and the GOB, therefore, focuses largely on the institutional arrangements needed in government so that the following functions can be performed: (1) changing the nation’s development strategies and programs to reflect a proactive rather than reactive response to disasters; (2) taking steps to convert disaster forecasts into effective national and local warnings, which may involve revising government standing orders, simplifying bulletins, broadening communication channels, and mapping local vulnerability; and (3) analyzing the increased risk of disaster as part of environmental impact assessments for proposed projects.

Overall responsibility for macroeconomic planning rests with the Planning Commission; most line ministries have planning cells. The government-based cast of actors must include the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), the Water Master Plan Organization, the Planning Commission, the Ministry of Planning (including probably the External Resources Division and the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division), the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation, and the line ministries (including Agriculture and Forests, Fisheries and Livestock, Irrigation, Industry, Health and Education, Local Government, Rural Development, and Cooperatives). Nongovernment organizations (NGOs) such as the Red Crescent, the Grameen Bank, and the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee must clearly play an essential role in development and implementation of any national disaster preparedness plan.

Disaster response and relief. The country generally expects that in the event of a major natural disaster the presidential secretariat will coordinate the national response (not least the military and civilian relief efforts). This expectation was fulfilled in the 1985, 1987, and 1988 disasters. The immediate response of government - particularly the military - to recent disasters has earned relatively high marks from many observers, although the 1987 and 1988 floods revealed weaknesses in the response of many district and upazilla (subdistrict) administrations.

Rehabilitation and reconstruction. Four donors (Japan, France, the United States, and the UNDP) commissioned studies to examine the lessons to be learned from the 1987 and 1988 floods and to recommend more effective flood protection measures. These studies focused largely on the first of two types of institutional issues: the clear need to coordinate overall and local planning and implementation of any flood control strategy. The relationships between the “water-oriented” institutions are of particular importance in disaster control strategies.

A second category of institutional issues is even more complex - those concerned with the relationships and compatibility between needed physical measures for flood control (particularly the recommended “compartmentalization” approach) and ongoing development. Recent experience in Bangladesh has demonstrated that people will not hesitate to breach embankments if they perceive them as inhibiting the pursuit of their livelihood. Flood control measures must be planned carefully so they do not harm such activities as community forestry and inland fisheries. The whole issue of land use must be addressed. It features prominently in the terms of reference for the main regional studies coordinated by the Flood Action Plan panel of experts.

The UNDP’s role. In the 1985, 1987, and 1988 disasters, both the government and donors asked the UNDP office to help the government coordinate the international response. The local UNDP office chairs and provides secretariat support to the permanent UN Disaster Management Team (DMT), which includes representatives of the Asian Development Bank, FAO, UNICEF, WFO, WHO, and the World Bank, plus technical specialists from such relevant UNDP-assisted projects as flood forecasting and warning and meteorological services. Government officials and NGO representatives attended most of the meetings.

In addition, the UNDP resident representative, with the government’s full agreement, convened weekly meetings to which all donors (at the chief of mission level) were invited. Senior government officials also participated in these meetings. Within the UN system, each organization assumed responsibility for aspects of the disaster falling within its technical competence (for example, WFP for food aid and logistics and WHO for health requirements). The team’s efforts were greatly assisted by consultants fielded by UNDRO. Some donors (notably the United States) used the UNDP as a mechanism for channeling assistance to the GOB, in both relief and followup phases.

In retrospect, it appears that the efforts of the UN system were appreciated both by the GOB and the donors. UN staff (particularly senior national officers from UNICEF and WFP) were in a strong position to provide up-to-date information on needs in the disaster-affected areas. The DMT collated this information and provided it to UNDRO headquarters, whence it was sent out in the form of telexed situation reports (SITREPs). Information gathered from various points in the country was made available immediately to local donor representatives. These SITREPs also included information on relief supplies and funds pledged and delivered by donors.

Case study: Colombia

Seyril R. Siegel and Peter Witham

Throughout its history, Colombia has suffered disasters and calamities with some regularity. The country is located in the Pacific “fire belt” and much of its territory is crossed by the Andes - exposing it to continuous seismic and volcanic risk. Its topographical, geologic, and climatic conditions cause periodic floods and frequent mudslides.

Recent disasters

The 5,400-meter-high volcano Nevado del Ruiz had been relatively inactive since a major eruption in 1945. Then, on the night of November 13, 1985, tremors and blocks of red-hot pumice melted part of the ice cap that crowns the volcano. A mixture of water, pumice, and soil sped down the mountainside, gaining speeds of 30 miles an hour as it descended along the Azufrado River channel and the Lagunilla River, already swollen by heavy rains. The mudflow arrived with such force that it collapsed a natural dam on the Lagunilla and swept away the town of Armero, located about 45 kilometers from the crater, killing about 22,000 of the 29,000 inhabitants. It caused another river, the Gualto overflow, carrying away houses and a bridge on one of the main roads to the Colombian capital, BogotOn the western side of the mountain, another mudslide descended upon the Chinchinoffee-growing area, destroying 400 houses and killing more than 1,000 people. The economic loss to the social and productive infrastructure was estimated at the time to be more than $211.8 million.

This disaster was known worldwide, but Colombia has also been affected by less well-known events such as earthquakes in the Antigua Caldas region (1979) and Popayan (1983) and a seaquake in Tumaco (1979). In September 1987, after several days of heavy rain, a landslide buried 500 people and destroyed 300 houses in Villa Tina, a poor slum in the city of Medellin. And in 1988, winter floods that are common in Colombia’s northern plains were made worse by Hurricane Joan.

Government arrangements

The national system for disaster prevention and assistance. Not until after the tragedy of Armero did the government realize the importance of developing an appropriate policy for preventing and managing emergencies, particularly from natural disasters, or realize that such planning and prevention should be part of national development policies. In 1986, the National Office for Disaster Prevention and Assistance (ONAD) was created within the administrative department of the office of the Presidency of the Republic. In November 1988 Congress approved a law creating the National System for Disaster Prevention and Assistance. In May 1989 the National System was regulated and all related norms were codified in Decree 919, which defined the functions and responsibilities of various national and local public, autonomous, and private institutions.

This far-reaching decree calls upon ONAD to develop a full plan for the prevention of and attention to disasters. This plan is to cover all policies and programs related to all economic, financial, social, legal, and institutional aspects of prevention, response, reconstruction, and development, including education, training, community participation, information and communication systems, institutional and sectoral coordination, scientific research, technical studies, and control and evaluation.

Disaster response. Decree 919 created the National Technical Committee to coordinate the work of national and international organizations, with the support of special commissions and advisory groups. Decree 919 also established a National Operative Committee, a front-line disaster management unit responsible for immediate operations when a calamity occurs.

Regional and local administrations throughout Colombia are beginning to organize local emergency committees to prepare for and handle disasters in each municipality. These local committees helped in 1988 when Hurricane Joan struck the northern coast of Colombia and when the Galeras and Cumbal volcanos created emergencies. Local assistance was significantly improved during that 1988 rainy season - the worst winter in Colombia’s recorded history, affecting 400,000 people in 21 of the country’s 30 territorial subdivisions. The work of high-level and local emergency committees, together with a full public information campaign, created the conditions needed for successful disaster prevention and adequate assistance in providing food, health care, and temporary shelters.

To maintain the basic commodities needed in an emergency, reserve emergency centers are being created in easily accessible locations around the country. The commodities stored in these centers are national property in the custody of local authorities, for use when needed locally. All parts of the national communication system have been integrated into a true emergency network.

Rehabilitation is focused on repairing and improving roads, providing agricultural credit programs for crops, and rebuilding and repairing housing. To reach these objectives, the National Disaster Fund provided more than $7 million, in addition to funds other national organizations provided.

Disaster prevention. Risk prevention, now part of Colombia’s development policy, has been incorporated in the Urban Reform Law as well. National organizations must now incorporate this concept in their development plans, in the design of regional and urban projects or civil works of great magnitude, and in industrial activities that could present a threat of any kind to the population. They must keep in mind that ecological degradation and inadequate environmental protection help precipitate, and worsen, disasters. Government planning offices at all levels must now define and initiate actions aimed at risk prevention and mitigation.

Long-term, high-cost programs to preventively relocate towns and villages located in high-risk areas have begun. First, those parts of the country where danger is imminent must be identified town by town. Several towns in dangerous locations have begun programs to relocate to safer areas. The Urban Reform Law provides the basic legal framework in which this type of activity takes place. This kind of activity is likely to grow in importance.

An alternative is being proposed for the traditional approach of establishing temporary settlements in an emergency. Under the new approach, displaced Colombians are housed in the homes of those unaffected by a disaster who voluntarily offer their homes. A small fee is paid to the host family.

For homes scheduled for partial or total reconstruction after a disaster, the priority is location in low-risk areas. Reconstruction programs are to emphasize community participation and efficient institutional support. The solution for new housing is to provide a basic unit for immediate occupancy, leaving all refinements, additions, and subdivisions for later, under established credit programs. (Gone is the concept of free housing.) In the aftermath of last year’s rains, 2,500 houses are either repaired or being repaired, and 2,000 new homes are under construction.

Important progress has been made in developing a national risks inventory, coordinated by the national Technical Committee. More than 800 of the 1,009 municipalities have provided information. The National Geologic Institute (INGEOMINAS), which operates the National Vulcanologic Observatory, is in charge of volcanic surveillance - seismological and deformation data on Ruiz, Galeras, Cumbal, Tolima, and Machin volcanos. Preliminary risk maps are available for these volcanos and Huila. Aerophotographic surveys of all active volcanos in the country are made periodically. In 1991, a seismic network via satellite will begin operating nationwide, with a receiving center in Bogota and a portable network as well. For this program INGEOMINAS has the support of the UNDP and the Canadian government. The National Institute for Water Management (HIMAT), with technical support from the UNDP, has made substantial progress in systematizing a network via satellite of hydrometeorologic alerts. When this system is operating it will be used to survey the nation’s waterways.

To build the concept of prevention into Colombian culture, a program has been defined to incorporate prevention issues in school programs, both formal and nonformal, at all levels. Efforts are also being made to include in all school textbooks prevention issues appropriate to conditions in each region.

The UNDP’s role

Immediately after the tragedy of Armero and the landslide in Villa Tina, the UNDP was called upon to help the government assess damages, mobilize international support (for Nevado del Ruiz, an international appeal by the UN Secretary General), and implement followup activities. The UNDP (with UNDRO) provides information to the international community. A $2 million project later expanded by the government was approved for rehabilitating and rebuilding the area affected by the Nevado del Ruiz eruption. Part of this project is to improve the government’s ability to mitigate the risks and respond to emergencies. ONAD and the National System for Disaster Prevention and Assistance were created as part of this effort. This project is being evaluated so lessons learned can be shared with other countries.

As a result of the 1988 floods, the UNDP has supported a project to rehabilitate the zones affected in Cordoba. In addition to support for the National Seismologic Network, the Hydrometeorologic Alert Network, and the Volcanic Surveillance, the UNDP is helping to support a project on integrated management of prevention and disaster assistance in the urban zone of Medellin.

With ONAD, the UNDP has given administrative support to developing an UNDRO program for risk management for 60 local and national groups. In this pilot project, a first step in the UN’s International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction work is being undertaken in several high-risk areas: in Cali, on seismic risk; in Tumaco, on tsunamis; in Ibague, on the Tolima and Machin volcanos; along the Combeima River, on sudden floods; in Paz del Rio, on landslides; and in several parts of the country on industrial risks.

One of the most important lessons from the Colombia experience has been that projects to rehabilitate and reconstruct areas affected by disasters should build prevention and risk mitigation programs into development planning.

This case study was prepared in consultation with Colombia’s National Office for Disaster Prevention and Assistance.

The role of nongovernment organizations in Sri Lanka

Austin Fernando

In developing countries, the words “people’s participation” are often viewed as a catch phrase more than a reality. But nongovernment organizations (NGOs) can help make them a reality by serving as catalysts and mobilizers in group formation and activity - as Sri Lanka’s Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation Program demonstrated. NGOs must be encouraged to play this role - partly, perhaps, through training in skills and management, partly through exposure to new experiences directed at changing NGO attitudes. The underlying goal should be to change NGOs from a charity and relief orientation to a development orientation.

In July 1983, violence broke out in Sri Lanka in the wake of conflict initiated by terrorist groups in the north. At first, about 125,000 people were displaced. With further violence in the north and east, the displaced population grew - at one point to about 800,000 - and to some extent migrated from one district to another, its situation aggravated by the efforts of security forces to quell violence. The loss in government assets has been assessed at US$500 million. Losses in revenue and produce probably cannot be assessed with accuracy.

Sri Lanka and India signed an accord in July 1987 and the international donor community responded to the government’s call for foreign aid for reconstruction and rehabilitation with pledges of up to US$493 million made at a Special Donor Group meeting held in Paris in December 1987. This aid was intended to strengthen the peace process and to rebuild affected areas to a state of normalcy.

The donors were basically prepared to work through existing government agencies, although a few - mainly Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) - were also interested in working through nongovernment organizations (NGOs). The total commitment to the NGOs from these countries and organizations was small except for Norway, the UK, and the Netherlands. (Dutch assistance has not yet been finalized, although some assistance has seeped to the affected areas through NGOs.)

NGOs have been used in Sri Lanka’s Emergency Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Program (ERRP) in several ways: through involvement in government-sponsored programs (for example, the Thrift and Credit Cooperative Societies’ involvement in housing); through independent NGO projects or programs (such as grassroots sanitation and nutrition programs); through support to the local NGO community by foreign donors and NGOs; and through activities involving cooperation between foreign and local NGOs. The legal framework in which NGOs function is less restrictive in Sri Lanka than in neighboring countries, so their freedom of action is more or less unlimited. Government policy on NGOs is said to be so positive that it “goes beyond noninterference to a policy of positive facilitation.”

Levels of NGO involvement

Broadly speaking, organizationally NGOs are involved in relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction in Sri Lanka at the village, district or divisional, national, and international levels.

NGOs existed at the grassroots (village) level before 1983 and have by and large continued to function since - some more effectively and some less. Examples of local NGOs include the rural development societies (RDSs), women’s rural development societies (WRDSs), thrift and credit cooperative societies (TCCSs), dairy cooperative societies, funeral aid societies, school development societies, and hospital development societies.

Although sometimes dominated by rural elites or prone to factional politics, local NGOs are in a good position to help affected communities help themselves in reconstruction and rehabilitation activities. The important Multipurpose Cooperative Societies (MPCSs) - although politicized to some extent - have historically been the main suppliers of relief goods in disaster situations. One important NGO created by statute is the Gramodaya Mandalayas, in which almost all accepted NGOs in a village headman’s area are represented.

District or divisional NGOs are typically either new organizations that emerged after 1983 to meet specific relief needs in times of crisis, or NGOs that had existed before 1983 but whose main function or experience had not previously been in relief and development (for example, local Rotary Clubs or Young Men’s Hindu, Christian, or Buddhist Associations). These NGOs are usually better able to involve local communities and to operate cost-effectively than international NGOs.

National NGOs, sometimes with a provincial/district presence, typically have some relief and development expertise. Some, such as the Saukyadana Movement, concentrate on a specific sector - namely, health. Others, such as Sarvodaya or SEDEC, are involved in a wide range of activities such as community organization, income generation, health, and education. More experienced, trained personnel are found in national NGOs, sometimes funded by foreign sources.

Some international NGOs were working in Sri Lanka before 1983, but others began operations after 1983, to assist in relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Some have specific sectoral mandates. Medicins Sans Frontieres, for example, has been providing professional health personnel to four hospitals in the northeast since 1987, besides helping UNHCR repatriate refugees from India. Others have geographical mandates agreed upon by mutual consultation among NGOs or by government requests and help in a range of activities, including housing, health, and income generation. Some, such as Redd Barna and CARE, are largely operational - that is, they run their own projects or programs with their own (mostly local) staff. Others, such as OXFAM, largely confine their role to supporting district and national NGOs through funding and training. Personnel in the international NGOs are better trained and more experienced than personnel in other NGOs.

Limitations of the NGOs

Certain characteristics of the NGOs limit their effectiveness in reconstruction and rehabilitation and these limits must be acknowledged. These limitations include local constituencies, a largely middle-class (male) leadership, an orientation toward relief and charity, financial weakness, and a somewhat diffused accountability.

Local constituencies. Some national or provincial NGOs have bravely tried to work with all communities, but many of the indigenous NGOs have focused on their own local constituencies. The international NGOs are at an advantage in terms of their relative ease of access to all communities, perceived neutrality, and acceptability to all parties in the conflict. Not that they have no bias at all, but accountability to their donors and attitudes in headquarters limit it.

Middle-class leadership. Typically leadership of many NGOs - except for grassroots organizations - is mainly in the hands of an elite. Officers of these organizations tend to be middle-class, middle-aged men - often retired government officials. In areas where such elite groups are scarce, NGOs are scarce too. There are good reasons why this is so. First, most donors - international NGOs, embassies, or High Commissions - need English-speaking counterparts to formulate proposals and prepare project reports. Retired public officials are not only more likely to have the time to take on this sort of voluntary work, but are more knowledgeable about government procedures - and are more likely to know which public doors to knock on or whom to approach to facilitate matters effectively. At a time of largely youthful conflict, donors are reassured by the “respectability” of such leaders. Further, Security Forces more readily give elite leaders access to affected communities.

So it is understandable why an elitist NGO leadership has emerged. In fact, with youths stirring up ethnic conflict, this elitism has been a blessing in disguise, ensuring the smooth execution of projects and programs. But it does mean that some NGOs have difficulty in effectively involving the poorer, more disadvantaged sections of the community in their own rehabilitation and reconstruction programs. Women, for example, who often bear the brunt of the conflict, are also often kept on the sidelines in NGO rehabilitation programs.

Several attempts have been made to establish NGO umbrella groups, to ease the donor agencies’ grant-processing burden and allow for better coordination. But in practice high-profile “super-NGO” bodies have proved vulnerable to pressures from terrorist groups.

A charity and relief orientation. For NGOs that became involved in response to the critical needs of refugees or displaced people, the initial emphasis was rightly on supplying such items as food, clothing, medicines, and drinking water to those affected. This pattern of handouts encouraged a “charity approach” in NGOs, and a “dependency syndrome” in beneficiaries. Understandably, both NGOs and beneficiaries have had problems switching to the slightly harder-nosed development approach that may be required in reconstruction. Because of the frequent need for relief work between 1983 and 1989, many NGOs are structured more for relief work than for longer-term reconstruction work, which requires involving the affected communities in planning and implementation. Relief operations are by their nature apt to be top-down and nonparticipatory. It is not easy to change from being a “giver” to being a “mobilizer” or “catalyst,” the role I believe NGOs could usefully play in reconstruction.

Financial weakness. Most of the indigenous NGOs have no regular source of income. They depend on local donations and grants from international donors for specific relief schemes or rehabilitation projects. Few receive regular financial support to pay their staff salaries and other running costs. Not surprisingly, they rely heavily on part-time voluntary workers and lack the time or staff for the more complex work of reconstruction. Limited funds prevent trained, qualified managerial personnel from getting involved with indigenous NGOs. Strengthening many of these NGOs through training and more regular funding is an obvious need.

Some local NGOs try to develop their capital assets and organizational infrastructure through reconstruction and rehabilitation projects, but because of their inability to pay competitive salaries, some of their most effective personnel leave for more lucrative positions in national or international NGOs that provide services to the ERRP. This higher pay has been possible because the NGOs have received donor assistance under the ERRP.

Accountability. The ethnic nature of the conflict in Sri Lanka affects the nature of NGO accountability. The smaller, relief-oriented, local NGOs are responsible and accountable to a limited community. Organizations such as the thrift and credit cooperatives are accountable to government functionaries as well, as expected by law. District and national NGOs are accountable to the management of foreign or local funding agencies and sometimes to government functionaries coordinating NGO rehabilitation and reconstruction activities. Foreign or international NGOs are accountable to the ministries with whom they register on arrival in Sri Lanka and to their headquarters and funding agencies.

A common feature of accountability was observed in the background in which the NGOs were functioning. With no parliamentarians in many of the affected areas, government officials became the sole authorities and representatives of the people. Their actions were guided by rules and regulations, and to some extent the NGOs were expected to be the medium through which the people’s voice and feelings were represented to government officialdom.

Part of the design of the ERRP was a District Reconstruction Coordinating Committee in which NGO representation was permitted. The designers had in mind the need for the views of affected groups to be reached through such NGO representation. Both government officials and NGOs had an unwritten accountability to such groups. Some conflict arose when more than one group of terrorists in a village, district, or province was interested in being heard and represented. At different times the NGOs were accountable to different groups who made inquiries about any diversion of funds.

Contributions of the NGOs

Despite these limitations, the NGOs have greatly helped in Sri Lanka’s relief and reconstruction program in the last seven years. Whenever there have been major outbreaks of violence or natural disasters such as floods or earthslips, NGOs have helped meet the immediate relief needs of the affected. In times of emergency, many indigenous NGOs - Sarvodaya, SEDEC, LEADS, and Saukyadana, to name a few - routinely tend the sick, remove the injured to hospital, and help install water and sanitation systems, among other activities.

NGOs have also filled gaps in government services when these have been interrupted by conflict. Medicins Sans Frontieres has provided doctors and nurses in severely understaffed hospitals in the north and east. Save the Children Fund’s (UK) training and support of rural health assistants has compensated for the shortage of government primary health care workers in many areas. CARE’S seed paddy production program has made up for shortages created by drought and interruption of the Agriculture Department’s regular programs.

NGOs have helped the government and UNHCR with the immediate resettlement of refugees and displaced people returning to their home areas. Sarvodaya, OXFAM, Redd Barna, and SCF (UK), among others, have helped speed up the rehabilitation process by providing temporary shelters, cleaning drinking water wells, and providing seeds, agricultural implements, fishing nets, and other items needed for resettlers to resume their occupations.

NGOs have also provided valuable assistance at times when the government could not easily move into affected areas (for example, providing food during the Vadamarachchi operation). They have supplemented government programs (for example, by upgrading housing and sanitation) and have supported families entitled to government benefits (such as widows entitled to death assistance).

How NGOs can help in reconstruction

Now that NGOs are involved in long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction, what roles can and should they play? Areas in which they can be particularly helpful include housing, income-generation programs, the most-affected persons scheme, small-scale reconstruction, vocational training, counseling and reconciliation services, and special assistance to women.


Under the ERRP’s Unified Assistance Scheme (UAS), formulated by the government, affected families with monthly incomes below Rs 700 are eligible for a grant of Rs 15,000 per house (about US$450). The National Housing Development Authority makes payments to beneficiaries at different stages of construction, although in some cases building materials donated by donor governments are supplied instead of money. In some areas beneficiaries have difficulty finding needed building materials such as bricks, tiles, and door and window frames. NGOs could help beneficiaries find or produce building materials. One possibility is to organize the salvaging of materials from debris, the collection of sand, or the operation of community brick kilns or carpentry workshops. Another possibility is to organize the community to make use of materials already available from donor governments. Some NGOs have already tried getting building materials to beneficiaries, or producing building materials in certain areas, but much more could be and has to be done.

Timber for building houses has been expensive and in short supply so there have been attempts to illicitly fell trees. Law enforcement on timber felling has been understandably weak and damage to the environment has been overlooked. NGOs and government authorities may have to educate the population on the dangers of this practice. Community forestry could be developed to prevent environmental degradation. It might be possible to mobilize women for this type of activity.

The Red Cross’s changing role

Jurg Vittani

The League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was founded in 1919 to coordinate international assistance for natural disasters. Increasingly its mandate has been extended to preventing disasters, including those resulting from human actions and degradation of the environment.

What is commonly called the “International Red Cross” is in fact a rather complicated federation of independent components that serve as auxiliaries to public authorities. The idea of the Red Cross was born on a battlefield. In 1859 Henry Dunant, a citizen of Geneva, was a chance witness of one of the bloodiest battles of the nineteenth century, near Solferino. Moved by the horrifying sights, he spontaneously organized help for hundreds of suffering soldiers. Back in Geneva, he wrote a book about his experiences, A Memory of Solferino, in which he suggested creating national relief societies that, in peacetime, would train voluntary members who would supplement the army medical services in wartime. Dunant also proposed that the wounded, and all those taking care of them, be regarded as neutral - even on the battlefield.

In 1863, specialists from 16 countries met in Geneva, adopted a resolution, and agreed on a founding charter defining the Red Cross’s functions and working methods. This led, in 1864, to the first “Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field.” Since then, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has brought protection and assistance in time of conflict, in all situations requiring a neutral intermediary.

The League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - the world federation of the 149 current National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - is the second component of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The League was founded after the first World War, in 1919, when everybody hoped that there would never be another war. Since its foundation, one of the League’s main tasks has been to coordinate international assistance for natural disasters. The League has coordinated more than 750 relief operations since 1919.

The changing nature of disasters

When the League’s Secretariat in Geneva receives an appeal for international assistance from a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society in a disaster-stricken country, after an on-the-spot assessment of needs, it relays the resulting appeal to its member societies. They in turn respond with contributions in cash, kind, or services. On the average, in the last 10 years, the Secretariat has received an appeal for international assistance every 10 days. Out of more than 750 interventions in the past 71 years, more than 30 percent were for floods, and not quite 15 percent were for earthquakes, followed by drought-induced famine, typhoons or cyclones, and refugee operations.

The number of interventions because of environmental degradation has increased regularly in the last few decades. The League’s founding fathers would undoubtedly have referred to such events as “Acts of God.” Nowadays the League sees them increasingly as “Acts of Man”: the ruin of the environment, the destruction of forests, rapidly progressing desertification, and pollution of the atmosphere. Our environment is degenerating rapidly because of the technical revolution. The population explosion is also a problem. These are problems the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies cannot tackle. They are the tasks of government. The League’s principles and rules clearly state: “Prevention of disasters is first and foremost the responsibility of the public authorities.”

The changing role of NGOs

As the world’s largest humanitarian organization, with more than 250 million members and well-trained volunteers in 149 countries, the League and other nongovernment organizations (NGOs) can fulfill their role as auxiliaries to the authorities. As early as 1972, in Stockholm, in the first UN Conference on the Human Environment, the League - as spokesman for the NGOs in the plenary meeting - stressed the importance of timely and adequate assistance in natural disasters. Recommendation 18 from that conference is of particular importance to the League. It stresses the importance of observational systems and communication networks for disaster detection and warning - and particularly mentions close cooperation with NGOs.

In the late 1960s, with the aid of the Nordic Red Cross Societies, the League had already started to build a cyclone-warning network in what was formerly East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). In Cox’s Bazar - an area hit often by cyclones and one of the most densely populated areas in the world - the Red Cross built a radar cyclone-tracing station and equipped Red Cross first-aiders with transistor radios and alert equipment (such as sirens and fire rockets) with which they could warn people. So-called “killas” (artificial hills) were built, upon which people could take refuge from approaching tidal waves.

After a devastating typhoon in 1977 that left more than 10,000 dead, the Red Cross built cyclone shelters in Andhra Pradesh. Between cyclone seasons, they are used as community centers. If the typhoons that hit that region in 1990 (with wind speeds higher than those in 1977) caused far fewer victims, it is certainly because of the preventive measures that had been taken.

In several African countries, the Red Cross is still actively involved in tree-planting operations, to prevent increased desertification. Red Cross youth play a particularly active role in such activities, combining practical action with educational programs that stress the importance of a healthy environment for future generations. Last year the National Red Crescent Societies in North Africa actively helped public authorities fight locust invasions. In overcrowded refugee camps in Africa, where overcutting of fuelwood represents a serious environmental problem, the Red Cross has provided alternative forms of fuel and promoted the testing of solar energy. These tests have not yet provided a final solution to the problem. Let us hope that in the not-distant future technical developments will help stop the vicious circle that results in degradation of the natural environment.


The two main ERRP programs designed to help poorer affected groups generate incomes are the Productive Enterprise Grant (of Rs 4,000 for families with monthly family incomes below Rs 2,500 whose livelihood has been interrupted) and the Microenterprise Loan Scheme (under which government loans of up to a maximum of Rs 5,000 per borrower are available to district-level NGOs for onlending at 4 percent to affected people for income-generating schemes).

NGOs cannot directly handle the Productive Enterprise Grant (PEG), which goes directly to the beneficiary, but they can help beneficiaries prepare viable projects, initiate and organize group activities, purchase inputs, and market outputs. For instance, NGOs could help beneficiaries organize tractors or livestock for plowing in difficult areas, to maximize use of the PEG for agriculture (cattle herds were wiped out during the long conflict). They should be sure of enough supplies to make such a scheme manageable before participating. For activities such as fishing - which often cannot be done individually but requires joint participation for the purchase of boats, nets, and other equipment - NGOs can help mobilize and organize the fishermen or support existing fisheries cooperatives (people’s organizations). The NGO’s role should be that of a catalyst, not a provider.

Larger NGOs can also help with marketing - not by marketing produce themselves (for which they are usually not equipped), but by encouraging links with MPCSs and other local organizations and traders and by helping farmers and fishermen develop effective marketing strategies. To help compensate for the unpredictable, they could help organize manageable processing activities such as dry or salt fish production or paddy processing. In the Polonnaruwa district, MPCSs have fared extremely well in paddy processing. The added value gained by processing can be recycled to the affected population.

NGOs were slow in taking up the microenterprise loan scheme because of administrative difficulties and lack of expertise in project formulation. But now some local NGOs that have close contacts with national and international NGOs have come forward to participate in the scheme. With the changing attitude of donors such as the IDA - which, incidentally, funded this microenterprise loan scheme - toward using NGOs in rehabilitation, this opportunity to make the microenterprise loan scheme successful could be a starting point for more assistance, even in other fields of development.

The international and large NGOs could do more to strengthen and mobilize the smaller, grassroots NGOs to participate in the PEG and the microenterprise loan scheme. These smaller NGOs are more likely to be effective in getting people to participate in sustainable long-term reconstruction. Some work has already been done in this area. The Federation of Thrift and Credit Cooperatives Societies (TCCSs), for example, has sponsored and trained local TCCS branches, to revive effective credit mechanisms in affected areas. Priority must be given to credit management training. If operation of the loan scheme is unsuccessful, donors such as IDA who boldly ventured to try out the loan scheme through NGOs would be discouraged from doing so again. Also, this credit was meant to support youths who have given up education and job possibilities. Its failure would mean one more frustration to draw them back to the jungles. Every effort should be made to prevent that happening.

Learning from traditional responses

Charles Sykes

To improve communications and technology in disaster reduction strategies and sustainable development, NGOs and local groups should be involved in the planning and design of disaster mitigation programs and projects. Their knowledge of basic survival responses and practices - which multilateral and bilateral donors and northern NGOs have tended to ignore - should be the base for externally assisted disaster mitigation projects in the 1990s.

CARE was founded as a relief organization 43 years ago so North Americans could help the people of war-torn Europe, but its primary focus has long since shifted to development and relief in the low-income countries of Asia, Africa, and Central and Latin America. Support - under the banner of CARE-International - now comes from seven European and two Pacific countries as well as Canada and the United States.

Of the tens of thousands of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) in international and national development, few, if any, have as their primary purpose the prevention or mitigation of disasters. But an increasing number of NGOs are carrying out small to medium-size projects with a disaster mitigation dimension. Numerous projects focus, for example, on:

· Reforestation of fragile lands.
· Halting desertification.
· Erosion control.
· Improved housing in vulnerable areas.
· Hillside terracing.
· Introducing fuel-efficient stoves.
· Integrating agriculture and forestry practices.
· Road repair and maintenance.
· Immunization and oral rehydration.

Many of these projects address the inextricable link between disasters and natural resource depletion. The worst victims of this link are the environmental refugees from fragile lands, lands that have been severely depleted by overgrazing, fuel needs, and adverse climatic conditions.

One of the most challenging tasks of disaster mitigation for developing countries, NGOs, and multilateral and bilateral donors alike is how to fence off or protect ongoing development projects and programs during disasters. If development is viewed as a linear process and disasters as an interruption of that process, the challenge is clear: how can those resources be best used to shorten the interruption? More interesting, how do we best deploy relief resources to protect rehabilitation and development?

Most NGOs would probably look for answers to those two questions in the disaster-prone areas themselves, with the communities and people most likely to be affected. There, the first question we must ask is, what traditional forms of mutual aid and self-help are practiced in emergencies and under stress? Significant resources are available from the international community, but we have seldom assessed the resources made available by clan, tribe, kin, and community, which represent the first aid administered - well before external assistance arrives. With few exceptions, our first order of business in vulnerability reduction and mitigation is to learn from traditional responses and strengthen local capabilities.

In 1968, after severe flooding in the Chittagong district of what is now Bangladesh, CARE was engaged in a self-help housing reconstruction project using soil-stabilized blocks, working with local cooperatives. During floods, cyclones, and tidal bores, the home serves as a refuge for family, animals, and seeds for the next planting season. In the community motivation phase of the project, CARE prepared articles for the local newspaper to promote community support, and commissioned a local bard to set lyrics to music about the project and travel to local villages singing the praises of self-help housing. While the articles were being read by urban elites, the bard was far more successful in disseminating the message to the rural communities at the heart of the disaster.

Bangladesh was hit by devastating floods again in 1987 and 1988. This time, a Bangladeshi NGO, the Grameen Bank, responded with housing loans to its creditworthy borrowers, principally poor landless women. As a national development institution, the Grameen Bank’s purpose is to improve the conditions of the rural poor. By building housing loans into its menu of productive credits to the poor, the Grameen Bank has dramatically altered the conventional wisdom that improved housing is simply a highly inflationary component of social welfare. In a disaster-prone country such as Bangladesh, adequate housing protects both the family and its limited but critical productive assets. The Grameen Bank also provides preparatory housing loans for the purchase of the land on which the house is built. The Grameen Bank provides the institutional lending base for the poor to effectively participate in disaster mitigation at the most basic level. A good deal can be learned from the work of developing country NGOs, much of it applicable in more affluent countries.

During the famine in Ethiopia in 1985-86, CARE worked with Borana and Gabbra pastoralists in the Sidamo region to bring animal populations into balance with scarce water resources. Lengthy discussions with tribal leaders and careful analysis of available water resources convinced us that the affected pastoralists had already pared their herds back to a level consistent with declining water resources. This was not a new experience for the herdsmen. They recognized they all had to make sacrifices and had done just that, without external assistance or advice. CARE’S role then became one of supporting their wise decision by helping them rehabilitate wells, build ponds, boost calf production with improved fodder, acquire farm tools, and develop and market handicraft products.

More attention should be paid to training and education about disaster mitigation - that is, to translate science and technology into the vernacular. We must find out what traditional forms of self-help and mutual aid are practiced in times of stress and build on that knowledge. External assistance organizations must reevaluate their starting points. Local NGOs and communities in disaster-prone areas are too seldom consulted or involved in the planning and design of disaster mitigation programs and projects. Too often, they are simply “objectified,” thus ensuring responses and solutions that are not sustainable


Under the MAP scheme, families whose breadwinners have been killed in the conflict are eligible for assistance of up to Rs 50,000 per deceased breadwinner. NGOs have helped potential beneficiaries in some areas with the paperwork involved in filing claims. Few have been able to help widows use the money as productively as possible - despite the fact that some NGOs have provided some victims of conflict with the useful service of counseling, a service the government cannot provide. Combining the MAP and microenterprise project loan schemes could improve the long-range economic viability of many families. It is a pity this has not taken place as expected.


The ERRP allows communities plenty of scope for undertaking small-scale contracts - such as repairs to minor irrigation schemes, village roads, and small public buildings. Rather than leave small contracts to outside contractors, communities or groups could undertake these projects - possibly through existing organizations such as RDSs, cooperatives, and Gramodaya Mandalayas. This would ensure more accountability for the quality of the work and possibly earn profits for community organizations, allowing them to strengthen their operational and organizational capability. It may be necessary to provide technical assistance at the field level, but NGOs have a responsibility to be sure that the community or administration can take over such technical assistance when the NGO withdraws from operation.

It is possible for NGOs to organize groups that have benefited from PEG or MAP schemes. NGOs or government officials have not seriously considered the opportunities available under the Cooperative Law to mobilize the members to register a cooperative society or under the Companies Law to organize two people to float and register a company as a mechanism for long-term or permanent economic rehabilitation. Using and upgrading existing systems would be easier than creating new organizations. One advantage of organizing groups for local reconstruction projects is that the ERRP encourages the kind of income generation such projects would entail - in terms of carpentry, masonry, skilled and unskilled labor, and the like.


There is a great need for vocational training for many reasons. First, many vocationally trained personnel have deserted their vocations and conflict areas. Second, many youths who have returned to the mainstream lost between six and 10 years of their education, so they will not be qualified for public and private sector jobs requiring normal qualifications. Third, launching a rehabilitation and reconstruction program as large as the ERRP calls for skilled workers. Fourth, the ability to earn a decent living will tend to bind people to a normal life pattern, rather than to a return to militancy. Thus, the social benefits of vocational training cannot be underestimated.

Some NGOs have launched programs toward these ends. CARE has sponsored skill development in such areas as masonry and carpentry in the Northern Province, and the World University Services of Canada (WUSC) has a program in the Eastern Province to develop such vocational skills as typing and shorthand. It may be possible to combine these efforts with UNHCR programs run through the National Youth Service Council and the Department of Labor. Combining MAP and PEG assistance schemes with vocational training could really help the target groups that need training - and could be done using existing mechanisms.


The ERRP was designed partly to improve the assets, earning capacity, and quality of life of the affected population - to give affected families an opportunity to have better homes and access to better drinking water, sanitation, and health services. Hardest hit in the conflict were women, children, and the poor - as conditions for women were not good even before the conflict.

NGOs - especially established local and international NGOs - could be supportive of women. They could help women-based organizations make more credit available to women and educate them about women’s rights, population control, sanitation, general and special production technologies, and how to prevent environmental degradation. They should improve access to training and help raise awareness of the problems women might face. Some NGOs have already taken the initiative: SCF (UK) in sanitation and health, WUSC in vocational training, and OXFAM in agricultural programs. These efforts should be accelerated. NGOs should seize this opportunity to chip away at male dominance of development and to strengthen women’s role in it. The government should help but NGOs could play an enormous role in improving women’s productivity and quality of life.


People who suffered the trauma of terrorism and counter-terrorism often have severe psychological problems and need counseling. A group of medical doctors in Jaffna has held seminars to evaluate this problem but there is no government program to rehabilitate men, women, and children who have been physically and psychologically affected. Therapy programs are needed that government institutions are not equipped to provide. NGOs must fill this need.

This is a sensitive problem, so an action plan must be carefully prepared, participants carefully selected, and personnel well-trained. Well-established NGOs and international NGOs may be qualified to undertake this activity or bring in qualified personnel from abroad. The Sri Lankan government is deeply committed to finding a lasting solution to its problems through political negotiations, but political negotiations should be followed by a reconciliation process - and that will take time. It is not too soon to plan for it now.

The need for an NGO consortium

In Sri Lanka’s Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation Program, relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction are interconnected. NGO activity has been geared toward relief and rehabilitation but NGOs could help get local people involved in reconstruction projects and rehabilitation programs.

As a developing country, Sri Lanka needs government guidance on development activities and strategies, in rehabilitation and reconstruction or otherwise. NGOs have worked well with the government but it is not clear that a durable dialogue has been created either among the NGOs or with the government. Ad hoc behavior seems to prevail. Regular structured meetings would formalize the coordination that exists between concerned ministries and national NGOs and between district government authorities and district NGOs.

An effective NGO consortium could help NGOs think beyond their corporate images. An existing NGO consortium has been reasonably effective in coordinating NGO relief work, but less effective in coordinating long-term planning of rehabilitation and reconstruction. Corporate images sometimes take precedence over cooperation. The ERRP has provided an opportunity for NGOs to develop and for NGOs to encourage community participation and development. NGOs could perform valuable services in reconstruction. So far their performance has not lived up to its full potential.

Japan’s outreach

Kenzo Toki

As a nation continually threatened and beset by earthquakes, typhoons, and floods, Japan has developed considerable expertise in - and a full array of advanced hardware and software for - disaster prevention, response, and recovery. And as the world’s second largest economic power, it has recognized and accepted its responsibility to share that expertise with and offer economic assistance to developing nations crippled by disasters.

Japan’s government has helped other countries with grants, loans, technical assistance, and cooperation with international organizations. Several government ministries and agencies are deeply involved in international disaster prevention. Those engaged in technical assistance and funding for cooperative efforts include the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), established in 1974 to provide technical assistance and help in the socioeconomic growth of developing nations; and the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund, credits from which promote industrial development and economic stability in developing regions.

Cash grants, together with technical assistance, are the pillars of official development aid. Grants are made for general aid, fisheries, cultural purposes, food and food production, and disaster relief. Of the $1.2 billion Japan budgeted for aid to other countries in 1986, $10 million was distributed as disaster assistance grants. Much of this aid goes to Asia but Japan also extended aid to Cameroon (after a volcanic eruption that emitted poisonous gases) and El Salvador and Ecuador (which were struck by major earthquakes).

In addition, Japan is generous in funding and endowing UN organizations deeply involved in disaster planning (contributing about $100 million in 1986). Japan also makes loans as direct yen-denominated government credits that the recipient country is obligated to repay, but at low interest rates. Loans made through the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund, for example, have been used for civil engineering works for forestation and flood control.

Various government agencies help train personnel from developing countries in the basics of disaster prevention. The Japanese government also provides machinery, equipment, and training needed in technical cooperation centers such as Indonesia’s Volcanic Sabo Technical Center and Peru’s Center for Earthquake Disaster Prevention Measures. The recipient nations bear the cost of building construction and operations.

Japan is particularly in a position to share information about its experiences with and experiments and research done on:

· Land protection (through reforestation and flood control).

· Meteorological observation and warning systems and disaster prevention information and communication networks.

· Methods for assessing disaster, such as identifying danger spots and testing for earthquake resistance.

· Disseminating advice (under the Basic Disaster Countermeasures Law) on disaster prevention.

· Setting up disaster prevention systems.

· Firefighting and flood control.

· Recovery work.

· Earthquake forecasting and warning systems.

In 1985, after Mount Nevado del Ruiz erupted in Colombia and a major earthquake devastated Mexico City, Japan provided funds and dispatched medical teams as part of the Japan Medical System for Disaster Relief (inaugurated in 1982). The direct relief work provided by Western nations proved to be far more effective, however - which heightened awareness in Japan of the need to establish a better framework for dispatching rescue and relief personnel. In 1987, Japan developed a plan for more swiftly dispatching appropriate Japanese Disaster Relief Team personnel to help nations crippled by natural disasters.

Japan’s private sector provides assistance through the Japanese Red Cross and other volunteer organizations. Japan’s Red Cross Society engages in humanitarian and disaster relief projects. Volunteer organizations provide help for refugees and others in need - in particular, victims of severe African drought.

Managing natural hazards

Stephen O. Bender

Natural hazard management is one of several environmental concerns awaiting integration into development planning. Rapid population growth, particularly among the urban poor, makes it urgent that governments reduce the vulnerability of economic production and service infrastructure. Planning agencies - working with research and engineering organizations and disaster response agencies - must first identify vulnerable elements of the population and of lifeline networks, sector facilities, and proposed investment projects. They can generate that information using geographic information systems, remote sensing, the community, and existing planning mechanisms. Then they can integrate that information into their development planning. But many countries need help doing this. Working together, the development, scientific, and engineering communities and the agencies in charge of disaster preparedness and response must provide technical assistance, training, and technology transfer to countries vulnerable to disaster.

The 1990s are the self-proclaimed “Decade of the Environment.” Natural events and the hazards they pose are part of environmental problems to be addressed during the decade.

Natural events help sustain environments: shaping the topography, depositing volcanic soils, flushing estuaries, watering the land, exposing buried resources, disposing of combustible materials, and keeping cycles of regeneration in motion. But natural hazards are also part of the environmental problems to which society is increasingly attuned. They damage the habitats of endangered species, expose and heighten the impact of the degradation of natural systems, and spread human damage to the environment in uncontrollable ways.

Natural hazards are a global concern that should hold our attention because they affect such large portions of the earth’s surface and population. The international development assistance community should adopt the issue of disaster mitigation as its own and bring to it a greater sense of urgency, because a great deal of money is spent repairing and replacing what natural disasters destroy or damage - yet the risks of disaster are amenable to study, mitigation measures are available, and actions to reduce vulnerability immediately benefit the populations that might be affected by disaster.

Few constituencies exist for preventing natural disasters, despite their frequency, high cost, and predictability. Constituencies abound to prevent or mitigate other environmental problems - particularly those affecting wildlife and wildlands - of which the risks and consequences are far less certain. The threat of nuclear war appears to be greatly diminished, for example, yet enormous energy goes into antinuclear campaigns. We are uncertain about global warming, but conjecture about its impact is bringing about policy changes that affect long-term economic policy. We are unsure about the effects of the ozone layer’s depletion and are not certain if sea levels will rise, or how much. Calls for preserving the biodiversity of species are based on theoretical arguments, not measurable risks. And we don’t know how much it would cost to resolve the political causes of tropical deforestation or what benefits that resolution would yield.

Not that these issues should be ignored, but they get headline attention although the risks associated with them are uncertain. The forgotten issue is increasing human vulnerability to the natural hazardous events that have occurred repeatedly and are certain to recur, often because of human activity - including development, the goal of nations.

Natural hazards are consistently ignored in discussions of the environment. Yet of all the environmental issues they are the most readily predicted in terms of place, time, severity, and probability of occurrence. And their impact is the most certainly and effectively mitigated. Moreover, of all hedges against risk, natural disaster mitigation is the most dependent on changing the way development takes place. Methods already exist for identifying vulnerable populations and capital investments and for defining and implementing appropriate mitigation measures.

The endangered poor

The world’s poor are increasing in number faster than the general population. And the poor (half of whom are children) are the most vulnerable to disasters because of the buildings in which they live and the sites upon which those buildings are constructed. More than 80 percent of all international funds for nonemergency disaster mitigation (preparedness and response) in developing countries, and more than 90 percent of all funds spent on all types of disaster mitigation, go to saving lives in an emergency and replacing lost investments later. Most of these activities are in direct response to the needs of the poor. The rest goes to support nonemergency preventive efforts - through development planning and implementation - to reduce vulnerability to loss of life and property.

Lives can be saved and the economic effects of disaster reduced:

· As an emergency response to injury and damaged property immediately after an event.

· By reducing the vulnerability of basic service and production infrastructure (nonresidential structures).

· By reducing the vulnerability of human shelters and settlements.

In developing countries, priority is given to the first two activities, pursued through local, national, and international mechanisms. But it is up to citizens - particularly poor citizens - to reduce the vulnerability of their own domestic environments. Like all populations, the poor depend directly on their environment to live: for air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, fuel to bum, clay to make bricks, and wood for roofs. To meet their basic needs, they change their environments, using free natural goods and services as much as they can. If they deplete the goods and services available in one area, they move to another - often in the hinterlands, where those goods and services are often poorer in quality and insufficient in quantity. The way the poor acquire food, fuel, building materials, and building sites - not for cash, and with no value added - is often at odds with the best management practices and with social, legal, and economic norms and policies.

The poor need safe building sites. But the supply of building sites relatively invulnerable to natural disasters is scarcer than the demand for them and no system exists for increasing the natural supply. Indeed, there is evidence that human activities - particularly for development - decrease the number of less vulnerable sites. And even at zero opportunity cost, with the poor providing their own labor, it is almost impossible to transform a vulnerable building site into a less vulnerable building site. Except in the way a shelter and its immediate surroundings are designed in response to site-specific natural hazards, it is generally beyond the efforts of individuals to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters.

Managing change

Apart from postdisaster emergency response, the steps that must be taken to save lives and reduce the economic impact of natural disasters are best taken collectively as part of general environmental management. Those steps should begin with public sector policy, and public and private actions to protect productive natural systems, and basic service and production infrastructure. Humanitarian assistance in emergencies and efforts to reduce the vulnerability of shelters and settlements must be accompanied by efforts to reduce the vulnerability of infrastructure. Longer-term efforts to prevent disasters through development planning and implementation must be a higher priority in environmental management.

This will require technical cooperation between the development community, the scientific and engineering research community, and the agencies in charge of disaster preparedness and response. Together these three groups must provide technical assistance, training, and technology transfer - regionally, nationally, and internationally. The public sector must provide continuity, support, and more focused direction than it has provided in the past, and should encourage the increased participation of the private sector.

The activities outlined below should be given a high priority in development planning. Some are already under way in some regions, if only at the demonstration level.

Technical assistance must be supplied in development project preparation. The following activities are recommended for all development projects but should be mandatory in postdisaster reconstruction programs because receptiveness to disaster prevention is highest in that period.

· Country overview documents should be prepared for each developing country, giving a history of natural disasters in that country, describing natural hazards and their relationship to natural resource and environmental management issues, identifying basic technical documents available and key professionals and national institutions to be consulted, and providing related information about the population, infrastructure, and natural resources. Much of the information needed to prepare these documents is available. The documentation for Latin America and the Caribbean could be prepared in two years.

· Sectors should be assessed nationally for their vulnerability to natural hazards. Sectoral assessments should indicate what investment projects are under way to mitigate losses according to defined mitigation strategies. They should also indicate which sector components are vulnerable, with no significant short- or medium-term possibility of reducing that vulnerability. Assessment models for priority sectors exist or are in preparation. The information needed should be generated by the country overviews, which the assessments will supplement.

· A brief on natural hazards should be included in initial project documentation for all capital investment projects - drawing in part on the country overviews. Much of the information already exists and processes are in place to begin this activity.

· Each phase of project preparation should address issues of vulnerability reduction. The final loan document should define and approve a specific vulnerability level and measures to take to achieve it.

Training - in skills, knowledge, and attitudes - must accompany technical assistance.

· Technicians in developing countries should be trained to prepare and update the country overview documents. They should participate in regional and then national workshops as each country progresses through the series of activities. Training models exist in Latin America and the Caribbean.

· Professionals from selected sectors should be trained in techniques for assessing vulnerability as part of natural disaster mitigation programs. Regional workshops should be followed by national assessments as countries complete the activities described in the section on technical assistance. Training models exist in Latin America. Regional sectoral agencies should be trained in techniques for continuing program development, as applicable.

· Professionals involved in project preparation for different sectors should be trained in how to use information on natural hazards in formulating sector investment projects. Basic training materials and instructors are available.

· Professionals involved in sectoral planning and project identification should be trained in natural hazard assessment and sectoral planning to fortify their understanding and use of information on natural hazards in sectoral policy, programs, and courses. Courses should be offered in:

(1) Integrated planning for large river basins, with emphasis on basic infrastructure (energy, transportation, and water resources) in regions near international borders.

(2) Integrated management of urban watersheds, with emphasis on reducing natural hazards and on using natural resources to meet the needs of the poor for food, fuel, safe building sites, and building materials.

(3) Assessment of landslide areas, with emphasis on areas where there are urban settlements or energy, transportation, and production infrastructure.

(4) Assessment of desertification processes, with emphasis on integrated river basin development, food production, forest management, and expansion of settlements.

Technology transfer should be part of technical assistance and should generate the subject matter for formal training activities.

· Techniques for managing information about natural hazards - both manual and computer-based approaches - should be made available for staff in charge of national planning and project formulation. Experts on selection and installation of relevant technology are available.

· Both manual and computer-based techniques for mapping information about natural hazards, natural resources, populations, and infrastructure should be made available to staff in charge of national planning and project formulation. Experts on the selection and installation of relevant technologies are available, particularly to match mapping needs with existing country experience and equipment.

· Emergency information management systems should be made available to both emergency preparedness and response agencies and to other appropriate national agencies, including those responsible for critical infrastructure (health, energy, transportation, public safety, communications, and the like) - for use immediately before, during, and after a natural disaster-

Case study: Taiz Flood Disaster Prevention and Municipal Development Project

Alcira Kreimer and Martha Preece

The Taiz Flood Disaster Prevention and Municipal Development Project represents an important step forward in urban development. For the first time, environmental protection and prevention have taken precedence over other types of investment - in a project that aims, among other things, to improve drainage systems in one of the Yemen Arab Republic’s major cities. One aim of the project is to prevent recurrent floods from disrupting the city’s economic activity, damaging roads and other infrastructure, and plugging up sewers with sediment and refuse, causing water contaminated by garbage and human waste to overflow on the streets. Another aim is to organize a unit within the Ministry of Municipalities and Housing to coordinate that ministry’s activities with those of the National Committee for Natural Disaster Mitigation and Emergency Relief. What began as an effort to upgrade urban services and strengthen government institutions developed into an integrated approach to urban development. It incorporated the urgent need to resolve an environmental crisis into longer-term plans to reduce the city’s vulnerability to natural disasters and improve its ability to service a rapidly expanding population.

Taiz, the second largest city in the Yemen Arab Republic and its principal trading and agricultural processing center, suffers many of the problems of rapid urban population growth. The population of 150,000 (about 12 percent of YAR’s total urban population) is growing more than 15 percent a year and has more than doubled in the past five years. A survey undertaken during preparation of an International Development Association (IDA) project revealed that about 28 percent of the homes in the project area and nearly 280 shops are flooded every year, and 32 percent of the homes are flooded every 10 years.

The last severe flood occurred in March 1982, when three days of consecutive rain caused widespread damage. Events of this magnitude occur once every 20 years or so, but floods that cause moderate property damage and disrupt traffic for two to three hours occur five to 10 times a year. With moderate flooding, sediment accumulates up to one meter deep at major intersections. Streets erode substantially and in many places underground utilities (water, sewerage, and electricity and telephone lines) are exposed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic. About 15 percent of the 5,134 households in the project area, or 770 households, live below the poverty threshold, and an equal number of families live within 10 percent of it. These homes and small-scale businesses are generally hurt most by the floods. The annual direct loss from floods is about YR 29.24 million (US$2.7 million), mostly in property damage to and missing stock from households and shops.

Flooding directly affects the “Old Town” and the areas immediately north of it, but they also suffer the indirect costs of production losses caused mostly by the destruction of physical infrastructure (such as roads, canals, drainage, and electric power networks). This important market and commercial area provides jobs for people residing in other neighborhoods.

Not only does the flooding of roads and the deposit of sediment, boulders, and refuse disrupt traffic and business activities, but it is costly to clean up and repair damaged infrastructure. Cleanup and road reconstruction cost an average YR 1.8 million a year (US$170,000) for the project area, which is grossly insufficient to restore the street pavement, given the budget constraints of the Taiz Branch Office (TBO).

The city’s vulnerability to disasters

Three factors make the Taiz area vulnerable to natural disasters: (1) environmental degradation, caused mostly by the unplanned expansion of human settlements; (2) poorly maintained infrastructure and services inadequate to cope with increasing demand; and (3) the managerial and financial weakness of regulatory and policy institutions, which result in inadequate planning, programming, budgeting, and technical staff.

Rapid growth and scarce resources have made it difficult for national and local institutions to deal with the pressures that urban development exerts on the environment. High-income housing and road construction are extending onto steep hills, destabilizing the slopes and increasing soil erosion. Depleted of their weight-bearing capacity, these unstable lands are unsuitable for residential development. Moreover, wadis (drainage courses) are being used as roads and houses have been built on the floodplains, so there is little protection against floods. Residential neighborhoods have sprung up over the original drainage channels, which have been transformed into main streets of residential areas. Erosion, degradation of the land, and reduction of the soil’s absorptive capacity have weakened the region’s resistance to catastrophic flooding.

Attempts have been made to drain rainwaters from some major streets by providing drainage channels, but these measures are insufficient, and authorities often use sanitary sewers to discharge water runoff. This increases the health hazards caused by floods, as sewers plug up with sediment and refuse, causing water contaminated by garbage and human waste to overflow on the streets. The accumulation of urban wastes outstrips the city’s ability to collect and dispose of them.

Rapid urban population growth in the 1970s and early 1980s brought major changes in urban land use and the uncontrolled, haphazard, inefficient spread of informal housing in urban areas. Despite the government’s struggle to cope with escalating demand for urban services, their provision lagged behind demand. Weak local institutions were not prepared to handle development pressures. And recurrent floods in Old Taiz hampered every effort to provide municipal infrastructure. Contributing to the deficiencies in urban service have been (a) the absence of urban land management policies and a formal land registration system, (b) the failure to fully recover the cost of urban services, which eroded the government’s ability to finance such services, and (c) building standards that are unrealistic because much of the population cannot afford them. YAR has struggled to establish the basic institutional framework for urban development and to keep ahead of the backlog in urban services, but it has been handicapped by inadequate funds and a lack of qualified technical, administrative, and managerial manpower.

Government strategy

Until 1979, government intervention in the urban sector was ad hoc, with different agencies implementing their own projects independently. In 1976, the Ministry of Public Works (MOW) initiated the preparation of master plans for the YAR’s five main cities. Those plans were an appropriate framework for directing urban growth, but they proposed standards that exceeded the urban agencies’ financial and implementation capabilities.

The main problems are accelerated urban growth, inadequate basic infrastructure, and weak managerial and financial capabilities in the urban agencies. The government’s strategy in the urban sector is to provide essential municipal infrastructure and to strengthen central and local institutions.

IDA activities in the urban sector

Aware of the country’s difficult economic situation, the mounting pressure of urban problems, and the poor coordination among ministries and agencies responsible for planning and implementing investment projects, IDA’s short-term strategy in the urban sector is a well-targeted project work addressing central and local institutional and structural weaknesses (urban infrastructure maintenance, municipal resource mobilization, land registration, and housing finance) requiring a minimum, directly recoverable investment and making maximum use of existing resources. By building on the achievements of the first two ongoing urban projects, this project aims to prepare the groundwork for broader policy-oriented sectoral involvement and to set the stage for long-term urban development by creating a viable administrative system that will delegate more responsibility to the municipalities while maximizing private initiative.

The Taiz project grew out of discussions between the director of the Taiz Branch Office of MMH and an IDA mission carrying out an urban sector study in YAR, in February 1984. Initially, the project was to address problems upgrading the Old Town of Taiz, to develop serviced land suitable for low-cost housing, and to improve urban transport in Sana’a. The project was to include funding for a major study of flood control, with physical implementation deferred until a later phase. But a feasibility study carried out under the Second Urban Development Project (Credit 1441-YAR), completed in 1988, concluded that flood control should take priority over any other type of improvement - as failure to control the floodwaters from the main drainage system could wipe out any investments in urban upgrading.

Because of YAR’s economic problems, it was agreed to divide the project into freestanding phases of construction, and limit project implementation to the most essential flood control structures. Urban upgrading components were to be postponed until after the flood control works were completed.

The objectives of the Bank-financed project were to address the problem of flooding in the city of Taiz, to finance the implementation of cost-recoverable infrastructure investments, and to correct structural weaknesses in the central and local government through technical assistance and training and policy reform. The project covers the “Old City” (Medina), an area of about 100 hectares in the valley and foothills of Jebel Sabir, and the adjacent area to the north (about 80 hectares). Three drainage courses pass through this area. Surface materials are alluvium (sand and gravel) to varying depths in the valley and rocky outcrops in the south where groundlevels rise. The main residential area of multistory houses was built to the south on steep slopes. The old marketplace occupies the flatter alluvial section at the northern edge of the Old City.

Estimated cost for the project is US$22.25 million equivalent (YR 267 million), of which US$15 million equivalent represents the foreign cost component (or about 67 percent of total project costs). IDA will finance all of the project’s foreign exchange, and the government will finance the local cost (US$7.25 million equivalent).

The Ministry of Municipalities of Housing (now the Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning) is responsible for the physical planning and administration of the five main cities and of the secondary towns. The Taiz Branch Office is the ministry’s local operating arm for both the city of Taiz and the surrounding smaller cities and rural areas in the Taiz Governorate.

The ministry’s core unit, the Physical Planning Department (PPD), prepares master plans and issues buildings permits. PPD’s work is hampered by a shortage of trained personnel in middle-level positions, lack of reliable physical and socioeconomic data, financial constraints, and no overall strategy for urban planning and management. The department has a physical plan but it does not take an integrated approach to preventing and mitigating natural disasters through appropriate urban development and spatial planning.

The Urban Development and Housing Department (UDHD) is in charge of formulating and implementing objectives and strategies for national urbanization and housing programs. UDHD was responsible for the execution of the two previous IDA-financed projects and will be the implementing agency on the Taiz project. Its operational and policymaking capabilities must be strengthened, especially at the municipal level. Its technical and managerial staff is its main weakness; it needs training to improve its engineering and planning capabilities and to strengthen its delivery of urban services.

The National Water and Sewerage Authority (NWSA) provides water and sewerage, the Yemen General Electricity Corporation (YGEC) provides power, and the Highway Authority is in charge of interurban road construction and maintenance. YAR also has institutions for land survey and registration, health and education services, public transport, cooperatives and popular participation, and housing finance (the Housing Credit Bank). All capital projects and maintenance activities are centrally prepared and approved.

Project design

During project preparation several design standards and drainage routes were considered. The basic design for all of them incorporated drainage channels and box culverts through the built-up sections of the city, sediment and boulder traps upstream, the channelization of secondary wadis originating from Cairo Hill (south of the project area), and soil conservation measures.

Two alternative flow parameters were considered for the design of hydraulic structures. The minimum acceptable protection was for the type of flood that occurs only once every five years (a 1: 5 year flood), and the economically acceptable maximum protection was for a 20-year flood. The narrowness of the streets limited the design capacity that could be economically provided. It was concluded that a hydraulic system designed to carry all of the flows of a 20-year flood and about 90 percent of a 50-year flood was the least-cost alternative that would yield the maximum possible protection against any reasonable risk to human life.

Several drainage routing alternatives were studied to determine the least-cost solution that yielded maximum benefits and adequately protected life and property. Economic costs and the ability to preserve historical buildings were among determining factors in the selection of flood control designs for the three main local wadis (Seena, Al Nassar, and Madam).

The project provides

· The flood control structures needed - open channels, box culverts, and sediment and boulder traps - to protect the parts of the city most affected by floods (Wadi Seena, Al Nassar, Madam, Al Kamet).

· The restoration of street pavements, the terracing of unstable slopes, and surface drainage footpaths in narrow streets (to control erosion).

· The purchase of maintenance equipment for roads and flood control works.

· Technical assistance for strengthening the Ministry of Municipalities and Housing and its main branch offices.

· Technical assistance for project construction management.

· The introduction of a new municipal resource mobilization policy initiated under an ongoing urban project.

· The implementation of project cost recovery.

· The preparation of a future urban development project.

· Staff training for MMH and its main branch office.

Because of financial constraints, the project was to be implemented in several phases, with essential flood control works provided first to protect other investments, including the urban upgrading that would enhance land development in areas bordering the wadis. Further urban upgrading will be considered when it becomes possible to mobilize local funds.

Disaster prevention a development priority

The Taiz project represents significant progress in IDA’s approach to urban development. For the first time, environmental protection and prevention took priority over any other type of investment program in YAR and environmental considerations are integrated into the planning, management, and coordination of urban investments. Implicit in project design is the recognition that poor planning and inadequate urban infrastructure result in degradation that puts people at risk from natural hazards.

The project aims to improve the human and natural environments by preventing sewage overflows and by minimizing hazards now posed by domestic refuse, sand, gravel, and boulder that floodwaters deposit on main streets.

In a remarkable effort to incorporate disaster prevention and mitigation strategies into national and municipal development planning, the project contemplates improving the Physical Planning Department’s ability to integrate natural disaster mitigation and warning systems into urban development of the major cities. It also contemplates strengthening MMH and its municipal branch offices to improve service and operating efficiency and to help MMH establish and organize a Disaster Preparedness and Relief Unit to coordinate the ministry’s activities with those of the National Committee for Natural Disaster Mitigation and Emergency Relief.

Writing an action plan for disaster preparedness in Africa

Idris M. Nur

Many African countries suffer from drought, desertification, and other disasters that have created acute, large-scale food shortages in some countries, mounting food import bills, and increased dependence on food aid. Limited agricultural production inhibits Africa’s economic and social development and sustains the specter of famine and malnutrition. Many African countries, UN agencies, regional and international donors, and other organizations have made significant efforts to combat disasters in Africa, but each country must prepare its own disaster preparedness and response plan. The elements that should be included in such a plan are outlined. Disaster does not necessarily require costly services and equipment. Rather, it requires sensible analysis of possibilities with a view to determining how authority and responsibility for action should be delegated, what local human and material resources exist, and how they should be earmarked and deployed.

In Africa, the main causes of disaster are drought, locusts, wars, civil strife, floods, cyclones, food shortage, epidemics, and technological failure. Disasters have become the order of the day in Africa. They occur more often than they used to and are deadlier and more destructive. Disasters in Africa have caused disability, displacement, epidemics, health hazards, psychological problems, famine, malnutrition, and the deterioration of the environment.

Disasters take a severe toll on the world’s poorest continent. As a result, African countries suffer many deaths and development goals are often set back years. Population growth, urbanization, and development have increased vulnerability and the possibility of even greater tragedies.

Disasters in Africa

Climatic changes brought heavy rains in the late 1980s, but many African countries still suffer from drought and desertification. These and other disasters in the 1980s have led to acute, large-scale food shortages in some countries, mounting food import bills, and increased dependence on food aid. Limited agricultural production inhibits economic and social development and sustains the specter of famine, hunger, and malnutrition.

Africa’s population is growing 3.3 percent a year but growth in food production has not exceeded 2 percent and has decreased in per capita terms. At 26 percent, Africa’s urbanization rate remains the highest in the world, so the limited labor supply in rural areas has become a major problem. Increased demand for agricultural output to meet basic nutritional needs is a challenge to available resources. A disaster can endanger food supplies and thus the affected population’s nutritional status.

Bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections are capable of causing epidemics of disastrous proportions. Control of cholera, malaria, meningitis, and yellow fever is far from satisfactory in Africa. Surveillance and control technologies are not as widely and effectively used as they should be. National capabilities must be strengthened and technologies adapted to the national health systems. Africa’s health problems are exacerbated by a food crisis the proportions of which have grown because of the vast migration of people from rural to urban areas. This crisis is reflected in young people whose body weights are too small for their ages and in the malnourished people who fill refugee camps and swell the ranks of displaced persons.

The African continent has been vulnerable to many kinds of natural disaster. Drought has hit the Sahelian zone 20 times since the sixteenth century. The prolonged drought Africa is now experiencing is moving quickly beyond the Sahel toward southern and eastern Africa. Usable pastoral areas in arid and semiarid regions have been reduced an estimated 25 percent since the drought of 1968. It is generally believed that drought occurs somewhere in Africa every year, that drought affecting large areas of the continent occurs twice or more each decade, and that widespread, protracted drought occurs once every 30 years.

Today most desertification is caused by escalating human and livestock populations, overgrazing, expansion of agriculture, and demand for fuelwood. About 450 million Africans burn about 300 million cubic meters of firewood each year. In the first half of the 1980s, an estimated 742 million hectares - about 26 percent of Africa’s land area - were undergoing desertification. The desert is creeping into the land area at the rate of 6 million hectares a year.

Severe storms, heavy floods, and torrential rains have caused considerable damage to crops, physical infrastructure, and transport systems in Djibouti, Malawi, Somalia, Tanzania, and the Sudan. Between 1987 and 1989, 21 countries and 3.2 million people were affected by floods and 326 were killed.

Earthquakes are rare in most African countries. Exceptions are Algeria, where risks are high, and Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zaire, where they are lower. Volcanos erupted in Zaire in 1977 and in Cameroon in 1983 and 1986 (Lake Nyos). Seasonal disasters such as cyclones are confined to the Indian Ocean islands and coastal countries such as Mozambique. Snowstorms occur only in Lesotho.

Toxic wastes made headlines in mid-1988 when tons of toxic waste from outside of Africa were disposed of in African countries. This sparked off protests in and out of Africa by governments, international organizations, and environmental groups. Containers carrying toxic wastes are often corroded by the substances within, which then escape into the surrounding soil and work their way up through the food chain from the soil to vegetation and crops, or from the water system to reservoirs and household water, which humans ultimately consume. Exposure to radioactive materials is particularly harmful to human health and inflicts irreversible damage on the ecosystem, affecting agricultural production and related activities. So industrial waste that requires handling by sophisticated technology contributes to Africa’s environmental crisis.

Current prevention and preparedness efforts

Many African countries are intensifying their efforts to mitigate disasters. Countries such as Ethiopia and Senegal have established early warning systems that serve not only their own but neighboring countries. There are a number of integrated programs to combat disasters in Africa. Some have been undertaken by disaster-specific African organizations, others by nondisaster-specific development organizations. In addition, some United Nations organizations and specialized agencies have disaster-specific programs, including the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the UN Disaster Relief Co-ordinator (UNDRO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the UN Statistical Office (UNSO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the World Bank. National and international nongovernment organizations (NGOs) - particularly the Red Cross and Red Crescent - have made significant efforts to combat disasters. Some of these organizations can make resources available on request by national governments when a disaster strikes. Significant efforts to control insect pests and diseases have been made by such intergovernment organizations as the Common Organization Against Desert Locust and Granivorous Birds (OCLALAV), the Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA), and the International Red Locust Control Organization of Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSE).

Disaster planning

Disaster preparedness - the readiness to predict, prevent, respond to, and cope with the effects of a crisis - should not be limited to short-term measures undertaken during a warning period before the disaster strikes. Those measures must be supported by legislation, contingency planning, national operational planning, emergency funding arrangements, the education and training of the general population, and the technical training of those responsible for emergency operations and the stockpiling of supplies. Each society is responsible for preparedness, but it also requires the commitment of the world community.

It is not possible to prescribe uniform national preparedness or contingency plans for all African countries because their resources, administrative structures, and infrastructure vary widely. It is not even appropriate to recommend the same guidelines for all disasters in one country because each disaster has its own peculiarities. Planning for disaster preparedness is a two-stage process. First, an outline plan should be prepared, identifying the types of hazards to be addressed and the procedure to be followed. Then comprehensive plans should be developed to deal with the management needs for specific disasters.

Disaster preparedness and response are usually multisectoral and interdisciplinary, requiring the involvement of a number of ministries, sectors, and areas at the same time. When guidelines for action do not exist or are inadequate, a disaster has a worse effect on the country and its people than it need have. In small countries, the guidelines for action can be executed satisfactorily at the national level, where the main business of government is managed. In larger countries, guidelines should be geared to regional, state, or provincial action because normal day-to-day government business is managed at those levels. Dealing with disasters should basically be an extension of normal government functions.

The central government’s role is to initiate the program of disaster preparedness. The local administration is then responsible for implementing it and maintaining its effectiveness. But the effectiveness of government and nongovernment disaster relief operations can be greatly enhanced by developing community responsibility, understanding, and skills.

Disaster preparedness is the sensible analysis of possible disaster scenarios with a view to determining how authority and responsibility for action should be delegated, what local human and material resources exist, and how these can be earmarked and deployed. This precautionary planning should be complemented by a program of public education and training, so that all members of the population understand what is being done, what they must do, and how to do it. Preparedness involves strengthening institutions and expertise and creating stockpiles of food and supplies.

Countries vulnerable to disaster need to establish a mechanism to focus relief operations, coordinating activities at different levels. It is important to establish a national disaster management unit headed by a minister or a senior officer and affiliated with the office of the president or prime minister on a permanent standby basis. This unit helps with preparedness, advance planning, coordination, and organization of relief programs. The unit’s specific functions depend on the country’s vulnerability to disasters and the availability of resources. Figure 1 suggests how such a unit would help formulate a plan of action to mitigate disasters. The same structure could be used for operations.

The coordinating committee should be composed of senior officers representing all ministries dealing with food and medical supplies, imports, employment, storage, meteorology, and anything else relevant to disaster relief. The committee could be assigned the task of watching over the supply situation, receiving relief aid, and identifying any logistical, administrative, financial, or supply constraints. The committee could also identify activities at the local level, prepare a local plan, and periodically review implementation of the relief program. Some countries may need to establish a subcommittee for disaster management and planning at the field level. This subcommittee would study village life thoroughly and recommend how best to draw on village resources and traditions in mitigating disasters.

Figure 1 Suggested structure for drafting a disaster mitigation plan

Preparing an action plan for disaster mitigation

The action plan should identify who declares that a disaster exists, who should release financial resources, and what its objectives and limitations are. It should be a practical document. The emergency plan could also be integrated into such development projects as the Primary Health Care (PHC) Program. There is no standard plan for disaster mitigation plan, but certain elements are essential. Generally, the plan must:

· Be written with the active cooperation and participation of those who will be required to execute it.

· Be simple, easy to read and understand, tested, revised regularly, updated every two to three years, and easily accessible to those who need it.

· Clearly define the situation for which it was designed and the magnitude of the threat.

· Show how the efforts of different organizations and institutions are to be coordinated.

· Use existing structures rather than create new ones.

· Identify available resources in each key area (manpower, equipment, and finance), so it is easier to figure out what else is needed.

· Specify local factors needed to respond to disaster.

· Spell out a command-and-control structure, including the procedure for collecting and receiving information and disseminating warnings.

The following elements are needed in a disaster plan of action:

· Introduction: state national policy, describe the general concept of disaster preparedness, and describe the potential for disaster. The purpose of the plan is to state national priorities. These should be identified early in the action plan. Who authorizes this plan?

· State how this plan relates to other plans.

· Describe the country (region, state, province) in terms of its climate, topography, industry, demography, government organizations.

· Provide a brief history or review of local natural events or disasters (by type), and indicate what the potential is for further natural events or disasters or for technological disasters (or other disasters generated by human action).

· Identify the main requirements for dealing with disaster in terms of people, equipment, material, funds, public institutions, legislation.

· Identify planning groups for different levels and sectors. Name emergency coordinators for key sectors such as health (medical), public works, police, fire brigade, power, reserves, transport, communications.

· Plan organizational structure:

- Allocate roles and tasks at all levels.

- Specify how to arrange for and manage international assistance.

- Spell out how to coordinate planning and organization.

- Formulate policies on who makes appeals (to whom, for what?), who determines needs, and to whom information should go.

- Identify who is responsible for seeing that the plan is viable.

- Identify who is in charge of legislation, financial measures, organization, community participation, declaring that there is a disaster, communications, survey and assessment of the situation, logistics, procurement of supplies, distribution of supplies, evacuation, training and public education, and the protection of data and cultural heritage.

· Spell out how the following will be done (by whom, when) in disaster-prone areas:

- Plan logistics.

- Use indicators to predict disaster.

- Preposition food, medicine, and other supplies.

- Establish an early warning system.

- Establish an international communication system.

- Manage logistics for mobilizing local people and reaching isolated people.

- Distribute food, medicine, and other supplies.

- Initiate reforestation.

· Spell out how these support measures are to be carried out:

- Training at different levels.

- Public awareness programs.

- Financial procedures.

- National budget reserve.

- Deployment of supplies.

· Identify preparedness measures (general, national, provincial, or regional). Plan training and public awareness programs.

· Plan communications.

· Plan operational control and coordination. Identify who is in charge of:

- Coordinating operational control.

- National emergency operations center.

- Provincial or regional emergency centers.

· Plan warning arrangements. Describe generally and spell out:

- From which agency warnings will originate.

- How warnings will be transmitted.

- How warnings will be disseminated to the general public.

- How to broadcast warnings in different languages.

- Who should be notified, and how, in different service areas such as the police, fire brigade, medical, reserves, public works, power, and transport.

· Describe how plan should be implemented. List stages of implementation.

- Describe counterdisaster operations.

- Establish a suitable operations center that can coordinate the emergency responses of many services.

- Put through legislation needed for emergency power.

- Identify ongoing technical cooperation programs that can facilitate development of national disaster programs and objectives.

- Spell out how and who to activate emergency operations centers at different levels.

- Spell out how to control and coordinate operations.

- Spell out what happens for the duration of the disaster operations.

· State what the policy is for recovery and who is responsible for the recovery program.

· Identify who is responsible for postdisaster review and indicate how they are to review the plan and organization in light of actual operations during an emergency.

The plan should contain (possibly in annexes):

A distribution list of essential relief items.
A list of definitions and abbreviations.
A list of resource people.
A functional diagram, showing organization and lines of responsibility and cooperation.
Duties and responsibilities of the national disaster management unit.
Detailed information on the warning system.
Precautionary measures to be adopted on receipt of warning.
Outline for public awareness program.
Outline for international assistance arrangements.
Outline for training.
Allocation of roles and tasks to resource organizations.
Clearances, if required.
Map references.

Strategy for regional and international cooperation

Natural disasters are often a regional problem, and often require regional solutions. So it is important to reinforce and strengthen regional disaster mitigation efforts in Africa. The following steps to be done jointly by international organizations and local governments would strengthen cooperative international and regional efforts to mitigate disasters in Africa:

· Organize a regional meeting on disasters in Africa to identify national, subregional, and regional project priorities and help implement them.

· Identify African regions susceptible to specific types of disaster and assess expected losses. This will facilitate the development of regional strategies for disaster response and planning.

· Make technical assistance available for subregional and regional studies on disaster mitigation. The threat of slow- and rapid-onset disasters is greater in Africa than on other continents and the implications are worse.

· Design and organize programs of counterdisaster education and training to develop national capabilities to plan for the disasters that strike Africa and to manage effectively when they do.

· Strengthen the ability of the Pan African Centre for Disaster Preparedness and Response (in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) to deal with all disasters in Africa and establish networks in different subregions to help it in that effort. Promote subregional and regional cooperation in an integrated approach to disaster reduction. Evaluate the performance and problems of such sub-regional bodies as CILSS and IGADD and suggest ways to improve cooperation among them.

· Study ways to streamline procedures for getting emergency aid to disaster-prone land-locked African countries.

· Help develop applications of existing knowledge, close critical gaps in knowledge, exchange and disseminate information, provide technical assistance, and facilitate the transfer of adaptable technology.

· Help individual countries plan and implement an effective national program for mitigating disasters that includes hazard prediction, risk assessment, disaster preparedness, and disaster management.

· Create expertise and assemble the resources needed to reduce the death toll from disasters. Help replace old approaches with an integrated approach to managing disasters.

· Supplement and reinforce existing structures to combat disasters.

· Develop scientific research on different types of vegetation suitable in drought conditions.

· Promote the participation of African scientists in international scientific programs on the environment.

· Support pilot integrated land-management operations and practices, test research results, and develop ways to disseminate the results to the people.

· Develop a multiple-service database and train national personnel to handle it.