Responses to Human Intensified Natural Disasters

Responses to Human Intensified Natural Disasters

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At last our language is catching up with reality … There’s no such thing as a ‘natural disaster’.

It is also now widely recognised that changes in our global climate exacerbate climate hazards and amplify the risk of extreme weather disasters. Man-made climate change is resulting in an increasing number and intensity of natural disasters.  It is also making extreme weather events more intense and long-lived. Specific events are becoming more likely and can be more damaging due to man-made climate change.

Who is most affected?

Between 1995 and 2015, according to the UN’s disaster-monitoring system, the greatest number of natural disasters occurred in Asia.  Extreme weather disasters affect all countries, both rich and poor. However, those with the lowest incomes, living in less robust housing, with more debts than savings, and poorer health are disproportionately affected by disasters.  Furthermore, their lives and livelihoods will be far more negatively affected after a disaster. People in poorer countries are at least five times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather than people in rich countries.

It is also clear that those living in poverty are the hardest hit by man-made climate change despite being the least responsible for our climate crisis!

Due to the social, political, and cultural context of many societies around the world, women are often disproportionately affected by disasters. Women are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less access to basic human rights like the ability to freely move and acquire land, and face systematic violence that escalates during periods of instability. So during and after a disaster, women are at increased risk of being affected by gender based violence and are increasingly vulnerable to sexual violence.

Responses to Human Intensified Natural Disasters 3

How has Action Village India responded?

Many of the communities where the Indian partners of Action Village India work face a growing likelihood that they will face more frequent and harsher disasters. Enduring poverty and inequality and often weak social and physical infrastructure put these women, men and children at greater risk of facing challenges after a disaster has hit.

When Cyclone Fani hit Odisha in 2019, thanks to a mass evacuation beforehand, the loss of life was limited, but the loss of livelihoods afterwards was significant and enduring.

Action Village India enables supporters to express solidarity with communities where Indian partners work that are affected by disasters.  We also work to support projects and programmes that integrate resilience ahead of disasters.  Our initiatives increasingly integrate climate adaption into the development process.

Above all it is important to contribute to building more resilient households and communities before disasters. Contributing to more just, equal and inclusive communities is a fundamental part of this.

Wherever in the world they live, this generation has something in common: they are the first for whom climate disruption on a planetary scale is not a future threat, but a lived reality.

—  Naomi Klein, ‘On Fire: The burning case for a Green New Deal’

The rapid evacuation of more than one million people saved countless lives when Cyclone Fani pummelled India’s eastern coastline in early May. But a relatively low death toll hides extensive damage to infrastructure and livelihoods – underscoring the need to build more resilient homes and communities that can withstand future storms.

Two months after Fani made landfall in Odisha State, tens of thousands of fishing and farming families in the worst-affected areas are still waiting for help to rebuild, and some are leaving their damaged nets and fields behind in search of work [source].

Case Study

Post Cyclone Fani Response

Partner: Regional Centre for Development Cooperation (RCDC)
Project Area: Orissa

On 26th April 2019, Cyclone Fani hit the Indian state of Odisha and left behind a trail of devastation and acute suffering. Thousands of homeless fisherfolk living on the banks of Chilika Lake, whose livelihoods were already under threat due to commercial fishing, ecological degradation and tourism, suffered huge losses and their lives were set back even further. The project area of the Securing livelihoods and land rights project was severely affected. Through AVI’s support, RCDC and GJS was able to provide relief support to the communities and links with other agencies were enabled. GJS mobilised the community of 1620 households for accelerating the restoration work with new spirit. The volunteers from RCDC and GJS started cleaning activities in the village and involved young women and men in the process. Roads were cleared, households cleaned and tube wells sanitised. The debris was burnt, and an awareness programme was held on community sanitation and drinking water. In addition, relief packages were provided to 1620 households, low-cost housing was provided to 150 families and 3500 mosquito nets were distributed.

Post Kerala Floods Response

Partner: Kerala Gandhi Smarak Nidhi & EKTA Parishad
Project Area: Kerala

In 2018, Kerala faced one of the worst crises in her recent history because of the severe floods that started on 16 August 2018 which happened due to unusually high rainfall during the monsoon season. Over 483 people died, 140 are missing and about a million people were evacuated. According to the Kerala government, one-sixth of the total population of Kerala was directly affected by the floods and related incidents. Both KGSN and Ekta Parishad, in collaboration with Cesci, provided relief support in the months and even years after the floods. Initial relief consisted of food supplies, clothing, sanitary materials and groceries and later: income generating activities such as skills and tools to grow organic fruit and vegetables, provision of tailoring machines and milk animals and activities such as soap and umbrella making.

Post-Cyclone Gaja Response

‘Partner: Association for Sarva Seva Farms (ASSEFA)
Project Area: Tamil Nadu

The 16th November 2018 will long be regarded by the population of Alangudi Block as a most inauspicious day, as that was when the area was devastated by Cyclone Gaja. Fortunately, due to the government’s early warning system, only 64 human lives were lost. Nonetheless, the animal deaths were countless, and financial ruin affected the whole area. ASSEFA has been working in this area since 2008, and was thus in a position, to provide support more rapidly than the government or any other NGO. ASSEFA’s relief support included milk distribution to children under one year old, pregnant women and the elderly. They supplied 10,804 litres of milk to 21,602 families. ASSEFA also repaired 50 homes and provided safe drinking water to the affected villages. Initially ASSEFA brought the drinking water in tanks but later a Reverse Osmosis (RO) water plant was installed.

Current Project Funders

  • Action Village India Core Supporters
  • Zephyr Charitable Trust
  • Westcroft Trust
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