The Hoar flood response in Bangladesh
A better response through local participation
The northwest of Bangladesh has been hit hard by flooding this year, especially the last few months. Many people are left marooned and deprived of basic elements to live, such as shelter, clean drinking water and food. Disaster response in these areas is of the highest importance to enable them to continue their daily lives. The Empowering Local and National Humanitarian Actors (ELNHA) project supports local and national humanitarian organizations to play a bigger role in these responses, as they are the most equipped to effectively and successfully drive these operations. In September 2017 local disaster relief organization Gana Unnayan Kendra (GUK) received a grant from ELNHA’s Humanitarian Response Grant Facility (HRGF) to design and implement their own response to the flood in the poverty- and disaster-prone district of Kurigram.
Kurigram is a small district in Northwest Bangladesh, that experiences a high risk of sudden flooding and river bank erosion. Most of the area gets submerged during the monsoon, which has a huge impact on daily life. Most of the people are left marooned and are extremely vulnerable by not having access to clean drinking water or food. This occurs several times a year and the damage afterwards is huge.
This year the situation is extreme. The district has already been flooded three times and the water crossed 20 centimetres above the danger level. Around 150,000 people in 200 villages are left marooned. Most of them are sheltered at the road or at government emergency disaster shelters. Children can’t attend school and mobility is very limited.
Relief organisation GUK and the HRGF grant
Community led disaster relief organization GUK has been working in the poverty and disaster-prone areas of northwest of Bangladesh since 1985. Keeping gender, equality and humanitarian response in its heart, the organization has implemented different development projects at eight districts, among which Kurigram. In these sort of situations local knowledge, experience and networks are crucial for an effective and timely disaster response. However, some time national or local organizations face challenges to respond effectively because they only have limited access to funds directly. They often only work as subcontractor for international NGO’s.
The ELNHA project identifies these challenges of LNHAs and aims to empower them by strengthening their capacities, helping them gaining a (stronger) voice in agenda setting and decision making and gaining access to direct funding. In response to the Kurigram Flood, GUK applied for a grant through the ELNHA HRGF and, after a competitive process, received a grant of 54,99,620 BDT, to design and implement their own response project as responsible contract holder. With the authority to disburse the find under their management.
The distribution of the grant
Mr. Rokonuzzaman Zillula (Mr. Rokon) works at GUK as a coordinator of Disaster Management in several districts in the area and is the focal actor for the Kurigram HRGF flood response. He has been working in this area with GUK for 6 years. This has helped him to get to know the challenges of the areas and plan accordingly to mitigate the risks and effects of the floods. “I have trained 200 volunteers directly on disaster management during my years of service in this area. Since the people in this locality struggle mostly with flood, river bank erosion, drought, cold spell, and seasonal food crisis almost every year, I trained local people to be more aware and involved in any crisis response needed.”
Regarding the Kurigram response, he has 13 active volunteers working in the field directly, and they are experienced and skilled to locate the vulnerable people and collect data. They are either employed or third level students and all very committed. They work in shifts to support GUK’s emergency response. “We are in touch every other day and if crisis arises they are our joint power to reach the affected people as fast as possible and provide them with the needed support.” After receiving the grant, GUK appointed 4 internal staff members to work on this response directly. The goal was to reach a thousand households with an emergency hygiene kit and a unconditional multipurpose cash grant of BDT 4000. The team is are responsible for the implementation and disbursement of the HRGF by following a proper procedure. The team has a focal person, program officer, monitoring officer and finance officer.
They set a community consultation meeting on the implementation of the fund disbursement to the affected people, involving local community, partner organizations, local NGOs, and local government. Before calling the meeting, they have carefully segregated data from the union council Partner organizations and other agencies, that have already supported several affected people, to prevent overlapping. At the meeting, they identified the most vulnerable localities for immediate support, agreed on what are the kits that they would be distributing would contain (soap, sanitary cloths etc) and where distribution would take place. For security reasons (risk of unrest during distribution) and a transparent cash transfer to the affected people, the cash support was concealed until the distribution day. The volunteers collected data and completed primary listing on the people who needed support. They were given a slip with which, together with their ID, could get their kit and money at the distribution day.
The organization’s experiences
Mr. Rokon says that he has a clear vision of the needs and how to disburse effectively. The program kept his team members engaged in every layer of the preparation. His capacity to deal with challenges, that was developed through dealing with different situations in the area through the years, tuned out to be very productive for this response. He also believes that his leadership capacity and organizing skills have improved by leading this response. His network with local government and other existing non-governmental organizations has improved, going from personal to organizational level. He and his team successfully build a relationship of trust with the local people and with the funding agency, to ensure quality service without monitoring. “The voice of the community is included and heard during the community consultation. This was the best part of this program. This was the first time that could show and use my capacity in the field of designing and managing a quality disaster relief project. This response has my full participation”.