Case study: Practical Action in Bangladesh

An example of how Zurich addresses community flood resilience is the ‘From Vulnerability to Resilience: Household Preparedness’ project in Bangladesh. The Z Zurich Foundation supports this five-year project, which is run by the development organization Practical Action.

One example of how we already address community flood resilience is the ‘From Vulnerability to Resilience: Household Preparedness’ project in Bangladesh. The Z Zurich Foundation supports this five-year project, which is run by the development organization Practical Action.

The project, now in its final year, works directly with 2,000 very poor households and indirectly with an additional 6,000 families. Its aim is to increase the resilience of these communities against disaster by equipping them with the skills, knowledge and technologies they need to better manage the risks they face, as well as ensuring they are able to grow enough food to eat all year round. Preparation for flood disasters is a major focus.

Community-based organizations play a key role in implementing the project, supported by skilled volunteers. They discuss a variety of issues at their regular meetings, such as disaster preparation plans, early warning systems and opportunities to improve people’s livelihoods and protect their crops. These skilled volunteers organize regular practice drills to increase awareness within their communities about the benefits of early warning messages for disaster preparation. As a consequence, around 95 percent of the people in the surrounding communities received early warning messages and were prepared when floods hit during the summer of 2012. Volunteers also rescued people and their possessions using boats to take them to shelter on higher land.

Skilled volunteers monitor water levels by setting up water gauges at different points in flood zones. At least 300 houses and 250 acres of village crops were saved from flood water, while no livestock or other property was lost.

Other highlights in 2012 included closer cooperation between 200 skilled volunteers with government departments. This strengthens the ties between participants and local disaster management authorities, while enabling volunteers to represent the interests of their villages and encourage vital improvements.

Measures to help householders have included building raised foundations for houses to keep them above water levels, and providing safer drinking water and sanitary latrines. Wells have been installed to provide sustainable sources of fresh water for drinking, cooking, bathing and washing. Families have been trained in improved methods to cultivate vegetables and protect animals, so that they are able to continue producing vegetables while rearing livestock and poultry during floods, significantly increasing food available for consumption.

Farming programs have increased family incomes and raised standards of living, particularly during periods of flooding. As a result, the migration of men seeking work during the rainy season has been reduced by 80 percent.

Community-based organizations are being strengthened and provided with new resources, including offices that can be used as community centers. While there is much more work to be done, this project is beginning to gain traction: four of the community-based organizations have received official recognition and are now registered with the government.

Disclaimer: Views expressed on this page and in the reports are not necessarily those of the Zurich Insurance Group, which accepts no responsibility for them.

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