How early-action can reduce risks
Bangladesh is considered one of the leading examples of having a progressive disaster management system for climate-induced disasters. But it was not always the case for the country. In the last decade, the government and other agencies have made a visible shift from a reactive approach toward the Preparedness, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Build Back Better strategies.
The success of Bangladesh Government’s disaster management strategy, which adopted DRR principles; anticipatory and climate adaptation through the Cyclone Preparedness Programmes(CPP) has been a success. This adaptive modality has made CPP a widely recognized and used program for early action and preparedness in the country.
Over the years there have been many definitions of preparedness developed and the summary tends to state it as ‘long-term development activities to strengthen the overall capacity of communities to respond to disasters’.
Yet, as the impact of climate change becomes increasingly evident through the amplified frequency, magnitude and impact of disasters. The vulnerability and risk of such events are also amplified at greater terms. Thus from the previous experience, it is observed that these long-term development schemes require support from empirical data and analysis of the overall landscape.
This will help to develop scenarios that will allow the communities to take action before the disaster occurrence, which refers to anticipatory early action to disasters.
Most severe disaster events are foreseeable, and a proactive anticipatory approach can lead towards a more timely, efficient and secure solution for responding to and reducing exposure to the risk. Skilful forecasts of an impending disaster can allow the prevention of the effects and allow timely preparation for the impacts.
To develop a forecast-based early action (FbA) mechanism there are two factors essential to the plan: firstly ‘forecasters’ who will predict and paint the scenario of risk and secondly ‘humanitarians’ or ‘DRR practitioners’ who will take anticipatory early action to reduce the imminent risk of people.
Incorporation of these factors into practice requires swift cooperation between the actors involved. There is still some gap found in the practice of this methodology in Bangladesh due to the lack of proper coordination between the actors and understanding between the parties.
Since 2017, FbA is receiving prominence among DRR practitioners as a risk management strategy that can help minimize the impact of shocks on vulnerable populations and their livelihoods, enhance the quality of emergency preparedness, response and recovery efforts.
Over the years different modelling approaches have been developed which includes impact modelling method, threshold method, qualitative method, climate sensitivity method, etc. Many practitioners use multiple sources and models of forecast and early warning to identify the triggers and threshold of early action.
For an effective FbA model, it is important to identify the actions required to respond to anticipated hazards and connect them with the vulnerability of the at-risk population.
Though there are several advantages from adopting anticipatory early action modality, the probability of inaccurate forecasting of risk, target group and impact etc, can work as a barrier for adopting this methodology.
Also, the availability of funding for post-disaster phase humanitarian assistance relief activity largely dominates the disaster sector which limits the scope of implementing forecast-based early action. Apart from that, another barrier for forecast-based early action is the institutional and political barriers, as there is the possibility of the actions going in vain due to lack of accuracy in the forecast.
A research conducted by Start Network had identified that the national forecasts are often overly technical which is not comprehensible for its users. To take actions at a more local level, more precise spatial data is needed to generate accurate forecasts. Furthermore, to ensure practical usability by local actors these technical forecasts must be translated into a comprehensive user- friendly language.
In this regard, Start Network with the help of its global members has been working with researchers and practitioners since 2016 to scale up the forecast-based early action. FOREWARN is developing a network of global and regional level experts to enable informed anticipatory actions by humanitarian actors.
Global and National level FOREWARN (Forecast based Warning, Action and Response Network) expert groups have been assisting the humanitarian organizations to take more risk-informed early actions. UN and other humanitarian organizations also have been piloting FbA strategy in the ground with the support from technical institutions and have built up different platforms to allow forecasting to be integrated into the humanitarian effort.
It is also necessary to recognize the government as one of the crucial stakeholders for this mechanism to be established within the country. Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), World Health Programme (WFP), CARE, Start Network, Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC), CEGIS along with many others are leading the pathway for the integration of forecast modelling and development of FbA modality to take early action, which will be triggered by pre-specified risk criteria.
Management of disaster should be an evolving process that continuously embraces the change in societal needs and climatic events. Thus when modelling FbA, it is essential to consider the impact of climate change. Therefore, Bangladesh’s response to disaster should work towards preparedness and anticipatory early action rather than continuing to act after the impact of the disaster devastates the communities.
Marwa Tasnim is working in FOREWARN Bangladesh as a Partnerships Officer, her research interest lies in Climate-induced disaster management methodology and resilience approach