CARE disaster response preparedness enables quick response to Bangladesh floods

CARE disaster response preparedness enables quick response to Bangladesh floods

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On June 23 heavy rains in southeast Bangladesh caused severe flash floods across three districts. With over half a million people affected, CARE is already on the ground ready to assist over 5,000 of the people worst affected by the floods. This quick response has been largely thanks to disaster preparedness planning and the pre-positioning of emergency stocks by CARE Bangladesh.

According to CARE staff on the ground in Cox’s Bazar – the worst hit district - this is the worst flooding the southeast part of the country has seen in over 60 years. The continuing downpours over the last few days have left many homeless and destroyed people’s crops and other livelihoods. CARE staff report that many people remain trapped by the rainwaters. Large numbers of the displaced have taken shelter high in the hills, as well as in cyclone shelters, schools and community centres, with many more still camping out in the open in market places and highways.

CARE has been working on food security projects since the early 2000’s in some of the most remote areas of Bangladesh. A key element of these projects has been in building disaster preparedness and resilience within communities and local government. CARE has been working very closely with local district government; providing training to disaster response volunteers from among the local community and developing contingency plans for floods and other natural disasters. CARE has also worked with the Government to repair, improve and set up emergency shelters in schools and outdoor spaces for people displaced by natural disasters.

“It is a success for all humanitarian actors that the number of dead and injured is far less than it would have been 10 or 15 years back for this level of flooding, and this is thanks largely to the efforts put into disaster preparedness,” says CARE Bangladesh Assistant Country Director, Arshad Muhammad. “We are happy that the Government is taking control and leadership in this situation. The timely early warning helped save lives, and organisations such as CARE have been able to work with Government to respond in the shortest possible time,” he adds.

CARE has already begun moving pre-prepositioned food stocks and water purification sachets (provided by USAID and Proctor and Gamble respectively) to the affected areas and has begun registering people to begin distributing much needed food and water purification early next week.

“The fact that we had the necessary relief items pre-positioned, trucking contracts in place and staff and partners on the ground, in the area, ready to respond has meant that we have been able to respond quickly” says Arshad; “now we can start moving on to identify the specific and ongoing needs of people,” he adds.

Safeguarding the rights and dignity of women and girls in disasters such as this is crucial as they are usually the worst affected. CARE makes sure that at least half of all disaster response volunteers dealing with communities are women and has made sure in its capacity building work with local government that women’s specific needs are prioritised in emergencies. All distribution points are women friendly and are equipped with toilets and easily accessible breastfeeding facilities.  As Arshad says; “sensitivity to women’s needs are prioritised throughout the emergency response; from the preparedness phase to needs assessments to the actual distributions.”