Bangladesh is widely recognised as a country that is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to its geographical position and low-lying flat topography. Within the past 15 years, the country has experienced an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. A lack of awareness and coordination among the general people about disaster preparedness, climate change and its impact makes the Bangladeshi population even more susceptible to the effects of natural disasters.
Providing relief to disaster-affected populations was one of the very first missions BRAC began its journey with. Emerging from the need to address disaster management more effectively, the disaster management and climate change (DMCC) programme was initiated in 2008. Since then, it has been working to minimise the effects of climate change and reduce the vulnerability of exposed populations, helping Bangladesh become a disaster-resilient country. With the aim to improve the country’s coping abilities to natural disasters, DMCC is working to build capacity and competence, both at the institutional and community levels.
BRAC’s disaster management and climate change programme (DMCC) began with the following objectives:
• To enhance BRAC’s institutional capacity to respond to natural disasters
• Build capacity at the community level on disaster risk reduction
• Increase adaptability and coping ability in natural disasters by conducting predictive research, information transfer and education in relation to climate change and natural disasters
In order to enhance BRAC’s institutional capacity, the most significant initiative taken by DMCC has been the compilation of the standard operation procedures, or SOP. It holds a set of disaster management protocols during an emergency in order to ensure quick response and effectiveness. DMCC has also conducted trainings for BRAC staff from all levels to streamline and professionalise disaster management.
The programme has also taken many initiatives to build community capacity. Trainings have been conducted at the grassroots level and community outreach efforts to spread awareness have also been implemented. Disaster-resilient structures in the southernmost regions of the country have been built, further equipping communities to tackle disaster impacts.
Increasing adaptability and coping ability is also an important measure that is being addressed in various ways. Relief assistance is highly prioritised for disaster-affected areas after the emergency. Alternative livelihood options are given to vulnerable households to ensure sustainable living. Additionally, access to safe water and sanitation support is another important activity. DMCC is also focused on provision of psychosocial counselling and training to help communities cope with stress in the aftermath of disasters.