Ready when disaster strikes

by Ilan Vuddamalay on Sep 13, 2016

Population migration in recent decades has left Indian cities bursting at the seams. At the last census, 76 million people were living in urban slums - more than 8 million of them were children under six years old.

C&A Foundation and Save the Children India are asking the question: what kind of future awaits these children? And, crucially, how can poor urban communities build resilience, so they are prepared if and when disaster strikes?

Speaking at the 6th International Disaster and Risk Conference in Davos in August, Ray Kancharla, National Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Manager for Save the Children India, shared the progress being made through C&A Foundation-funded programmes in the slums of Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Patna.

The conference brought together more than 470 experts in the field of integrative disaster risk management, including representatives from the UN, universities, NGOs and the private sector. Ray argued the case for prioritising mothers and children in urban resilience planning.

DRR is now a key focus for Save the Children globally, and in India it has special relevance, says Ray: “India is a highly disaster-prone country so we have established DRR and Climate Change Adaptation as a specific pillar of focus, alongside our other priorities like child protection, education, health and nutrition, child poverty and child rights governance."

Committing millions of Euros to build resilience

Over three years, C&A Foundation and Save the Children's DRR Innovation Programme is investing EUR 4.5m into urban resilience-building programmes in India, Bangladesh, China, Mexico and Brazil, while testing approaches and building evidence in the field.

But what makes the partnership really special is the strategic approach to DRR and resilience-building established last year.

“There are few organisations investing in the resilience agenda to the extent C&A Foundation is, and we want to express our deep appreciation for that," says Ray.

“Last year, Save the Children India released a flagship report called The Forgotten Voices - The World of Urban Children in India documenting the plight of mothers and children in urban slums, and this partnership is a wonderful opportunity to innovate urban resilience with a child and mother focus."

Three strands of action

The programme rests on three key pillars. The first is Child-Centred DRR within communities, which involves risk mapping, analysis, planning and establishing task forces at the school and community level, as well as government and stakeholder engagement to scale up programmes and make them sustainable.

The second action stream - Comprehensive School Safety - focuses on the wellbeing of children, teachers, support staff and school management committees, including parents. The programme surveys school building structures and engages stakeholders in the issue of child safety.

The third area looks at technology innovation and how digital tools can transform schools into community knowledge centres that foster a culture of disaster preparedness.

“Technology can really assist with programme sustainability," says Ray. “We are providing schools with a computer, screen for teaching and solar power back up, and we are digitising our risk mapping using Google Maps.

“Some of the schools still do not have access to computers, so creating a School Disaster Management Resource Centre helps to expose children to digital technology. At the same time it establishes a resource, not only for disasters, but also with quality learning material about protection, education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation."

The goal, ultimately, is to enable children, mothers and communities to become resilient to disaster shocks and everyday risks, by making sure:

  1. Slum communities and schools have a local resilience plan and implementation is led by local children resilience committees/child protection committees
  2. Schools, Early Child Care Centres and institutions that function as care-givers have a resilience agenda
  3. Mock drills take place at slums and school level
  4. Line departments mainstream resilience into schemes and programmes.

Save the Children India is also looking at other avenues for building resilience, including sustainable livelihoods and making sure education can continue in spite of disasters.

“All of this involves engaging communities and community-based organisations, which are the ultimate duty bearers for local mothers and children," explains Ray. “As an NGO, our resources are limited and we are trying to take a holistic approach, working through local partners so we can establish sustainable community preparedness.

“Our framework agreement with C&A Foundation helps us to work in a dynamic way and all the while we are measuring outcomes and innovations so we can learn lessons and hopefully scale up our DRR efforts in vulnerable urban communities."

To find out more about the work on resilience by Save the Children and C&A Foundation in India and Bangladesh, see a case study on tailor and homemaker Nisha Mukhi, as well as the Children & Resilience report.