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Bangladesh Floods 2016 - Review of Surge Practices

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Executive summary

This report presents the results of the third tracking mechanism on the surge response to the devastation caused by floods in Bangladesh in July – August 2016, and is part of the Start Network Transforming Surge Capacity Project. The aim of the mechanism is to track changes to surge practices by examining instances of surge deployment by the 11 operational consortium members (“agencies”) in the course of the project. Members of the project’s research team, Lois Austin, Sarah Grosso and Glenn O’Neil, compiled this report, with the support of the consortium agencies.

The report draws on information derived from desk research, interviews with three people from agencies and their local partners and an online survey of seven agencies. For each instance tracked, the mechanism envisaged a rapid review focusing on the agencies’ practices. As such, the report does not aim to cover the full scope of the surge response to the floods.


Context Densely populated, with an estimated 165 million inhabitants, Bangladesh is considered to be among countries that are most vulnerable to natural disaster and the impacts of climate change. Bangladesh has one of the world’s largest and most active NGO sectors. It hosts United Nations (UN) agencies and most large international NGOs (INGOs).

Disaster management and preparedness enjoys the support of the government down to the local level.
Deployment and response The emergency response benefited from the presence of NGOs and government staff across the affected districts. Ten agencies of the Transforming Surge Capacity Project actively responded to the floods. A Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) coordinated by CARE Bangladesh formed the basis of the response plan for the affected districts.

Agencies reportedly relied 100% on their national staff for the surge response; no agencies reported surging in staff from outside of the country.

Although agencies stated that the majority of staff deployed were male (73%) rather than female (27%), they often focused on female-led response at the local level. The majority of agencies were active in the food security/livelihoods sector, with the use of cash programming tools being central to the response. The agencies’ response expenditure ranged from US$ 25,000 to US$ 725,000, with funding provided by the Start Network being key for the consortium agencies. In general, they did not receive sufficient funding for the response to the floods and their aftermath.

Collaboration All the eight consortium agencies surveyed and/or interviewed worked mainly in collaboration with others.

According to the agencies, the existing plans, partnerships and networks encouraged a collaborative approach between governmental and non-governmental actors. This was seen in the joint RNA that served as a basis for the response of many actors.

Challenges The agencies mentioned lack of adequate funding to meet all the identified needs as a key challenge.

As such, they were concerned that communities would run into difficulties in their efforts to rebuild themselves through sustainable livelihoods. Several agencies mentioned that permission was needed from different authorities to access the affected areas. This at times slowed the response and compounded challenges in reaching remote communities. Although many agencies benefited from pre-positioned stocks and in-country supplies, they mentioned the need to purchase materials in the capital, Dhaka, rather than close to the affected areas. Several agencies cited challenges in finding and deploying trained staff for the response.


Best practices and lessons learned were identified in the fields of assessment, community and women-led responses, funding and early recovery. Recommendations included:

Deployment and response

• Humanitarian actors, national and local NGOs, communities and governments are encouraged to work together in the assessment phase to facilitate a coordinated and effective response.

• Agencies should give priority to deploying more female staff and supporting women-led responses at the local level to increase the quality and effectiveness of responses.

• Donor governments and agencies should be encouraged to continue and increase their rapid funding for the responses of national and local NGOs in crises similar to the floods in Bangladesh.
Staff and set-up • Agencies are encouraged to further integrate surge skills training for staff and partners within their existing capacity building approaches.

• Agencies should place further emphasis on building partnerships with local NGOs and civil society organisations, as part of emergency preparedness, to facilitate surge response. They can do this, for example, by training existing staff in surge skills and making pre-arrangements for the rapid release of emergency funds for local partners.


• Agencies are encouraged to review their collaboration at the national and local levels in other countries in light of the positive examples seen in the Bangladesh floods response.

Early recovery

• Agencies are encouraged to review their exit and early recovery strategies to ensure that affected communities are able to rebuild themselves by way of sustainable livelihoods.

• Donor governments and agencies are encouraged to allocate funding for early recovery through national and local partners.