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Effectiveness of Flood Early Warning System to Reduce Economic Loss at Four Communities

Bangladesh Red Crescent
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Bangladesh is ranked as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and flood is a recurrent disaster that affects the country almost every year. The intensity of flood damages increased in many parts of Bangladesh, especially in the northern parts, in the last few years due to climate change and other disastrous phenomenon. The country had faced two mega floods in 2017 and 2019 which made huge damages among the affected communities. A total of 7 million people in Bangladesh were affected by the flood in 2019 and the numbers of flood affected people in 2017 were about 6 million. Considering the flood vulnerability, Bangladesh Red Crescent Societies (BDRCS) is implementing community-based resilience programmes to enhance the capacity of the flood vulnerable people to cope with flood and other small-scale disasters. Integrated Flood Resilience Programme (IFRP), one of the interventions of BDRCS, is being implemented at four communities of Nilphamari and Lalmonirhat Districts supported by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), Republic of Korea (RoK) and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). The programme was launched in March 2018 and will be phased out in February 2021. International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been providing technical support to implement the programme. The goal of the programme is to strengthen community resilience for effective and efficient response to multi-hazards and climate-induced phenomena of the targeted community people. The objectives of the programme are to build the capacity of communities to reduce the loss of life and livelihoods in recurrent disaster through community-based approaches. Identifying the vulnerability and initiating different interventions for the community people help them to cope with future disaster and flood situations. For that, Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) was developed by BDRCS at the four communities under the programme in collaboration with Community Disaster Response Team (CORT), Community Disaster Management Committee (CDMC), Unit Disaster Response Team (UDRT), Community Organizer (CO) and Upazila and District Water Development Board. The FEWS was introduced as a necessary step to minimize the flood loss of the community people and their livelihoods and properties.

The study was conducted to examine the effectiveness of developed flood early warning system under IFRP to reduce the economic loss during the flood in 2019 at the four communities. The study included the objectives to assess the effectiveness and results of the FEWS in reducing the impacts on assets and income of the community people, measure the capacity of CORT and CDMC volunteers in disseminating the early warning messages and assisting communities to respond to flood. Additionally, the study accumulated some practices and key learning of the community people, Red Crescent volunteers and other stakeholders for reducing flood vulnerability of the four communities. The study was done to demonstrate the flood early warning system be as exemplary and replicable in other flood-prone areas so that the loss of flood can be reduced, and community resilience is achieved in future. The study was conducted after the period when the community people just experienced the impacts of flood and recovered from the flood situation. The study was collaboratively conducted by BDRCS and IFRC with the supports of two Units. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were used. Two surveys; one household survey and another survey on CORT volunteers were conducted for the study. Beside this, some FGDs and Klls were also conducted.

It was found that around 78% of the households of the four communities were inundated by the flood in 2019. The study identified that the CORT volunteers got different types of trainings from the inception of the programme that made them capable to respond to flood and other types of disasters. The CORT volunteers received trainings and orientations on First Aid, search and rescue, gender sensitivity, mock drill, contingency plan, VCA and PASSA/making flood resilient houses etc. All the CORT volunteers received trainings on flood early warning dissemination mechanism which made them efficient in taking measures for the community people before and during flood. Beside this, some of the CORT volunteers got trainings on community engagement and accountability, disaster risk management and constructing flood resilience latrines. From the beginning of the programme, it was attempted to enhance the capacity of CORT volunteers so that they can play a significant role for community people during flood and disaster period. About 70% of the CORT volunteers helped women, children and people with disability in taking preparation for flood in 2019. During the flood, all the CORT volunteers of four communities worked for their own community. During the situation, about 54% of the CORT volunteers did miking to make community people alert. They also helped pregnant women, maternity women and elderly people and people with disability before and during flood so that they could take safe shelter and other necessary preparation.

About 98% and 93% of the community people received flood early warning messages from CORT and CDMC volunteers respectively. It was found that the developed FEWS and endeavours of CORT and CDMC volunteers had significant impacts to reduce the loss of flood to community people's assets and lives. Being frequently informed by the CDMC and CORT, about 83% of the community people were able to shift their valuable properties to safer places which significantly helped them to reduce the loss of flood. The community people preserved and shifted assets like cloth, rice and food before the flood. About 59% of the households preserved and shifted money whereas 51 % did the same work for saving important documents and papers. About 32% of the households preserved and shifted utensil for cooking and domestic cattle at safer places before the flood. Beside this they shifted corn, dry straw/food of domestic cattle, medicine, fuel for cooking, bicycle, seeds, TV, motorcycle, auto and van at safer places before the flood within their own houses and other places where flood water did not affect. The study revealed that the average household loss by the flood in 2017 at four communities were BOT 41,705, which was reduced to BOT 14,327 during flood in 2019 due to the contribution of establishing FEWS and endeavours of BDRCS volunteers and IFRP team. The study identified that at every community, the loss was not as much of than the previous big flood (2017). About 66% of the economic loss reduced as the result of introducing the FEWS at four communities.

It was found that 41% of the households needed 6 to 7 days to recover after the flood in 2019. Only 30% of the households came back to their normal life and income generating activities within 1 to 3 days. Beside this, a significant portion of the households needed 4 to 5 days and 8 to 14 days to recover from the flood situation. The CORT volunteers mentioned that their reputation at the communities increased as they had greatly contributed for the community people during the flood in 2019. Now, the people at the communities treat them especially as the dedicated volunteers. The community people now think that the CORT volunteers have the skill to work during flood that they got through different trainings, orientations and programmes arranged by BDRCS. This type of recognition also motivated the CORT volunteers of four communities. The CORT volunteers informed that they want to work the same way for the community people in future. The CORT volunteers will continue their endeavours pre, during and post period of flood to make the community people alert and reduce the level of loss from floods.

Some significant recommendations were accumulated from the study so that the FEWS can be made more effective and replicable in future at the programme areas for building community resilience. The recommendations suggested on some the issues like implementing Contingency Plan effectively, providing more logistics supports, ensuring effective response and better coordination and more advocacy network in future programme activities. Finally, the study revealed and concluded that flood warning system is a key mechanism for ensuring community resilience.

The system should be introduced at the areas where the programmes on community resilience are implemented. Through the FEWS, the community people are more aware to take preparation before flood, respond during flood and recover as soon as possible after flood. Through the mechanism, the economic loss due to flood can be reduced as the community people will protect their assets and shift these to safer places by getting right time information. So, introducing and replicating the early warning system is highly recommended for the flood-prone communities around the world.