Disasters Video story

Raising the flag ahead of disasters

Volunteers take the initiative to help their community learn and prepare for cyclones.

The town of Paikgacha is located in one of the most disaster-prone areas of Bangladesh. Set between two major waterways that wind through the country’s sprawling southern coastal region, Paikgacha is under frequent threat of cyclones and other extreme weather events. These deadly and destructive storms make life extremely difficult for the families who live in this shrimp farming community. The road to recovery often takes time, and even then, the threat of the next disaster always looms overhead.

A programme run by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) aims to help towns like Paikgacha not only survive each storm, but to make them far more resilient through sustained disaster preparedness activities and investment in sustainable livelihoods. In short, the Coastal Disaster Risk Reduction Programme trains community members in disaster preparedness, early warning systems, post-storm response so that people’s homes, families and livelihoods become less and less vulnerable to each successive storm.

Nurjahan Akter is a valuable member of this community. She is a Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) volunteer and a community organizer for this project. One of the activities she organizes is bringing several women together every month for courtyard sessions where they learn about disaster risk reduction and community-based health and first aid. “We discuss a different topic each month and arrange quizzes to keep the participants motivated,” she said. “We try to explain every topic in detail to keep them informed.”

Building start-ups for socioeconomic autonomy

In addition to strengthening the connections among community members, programme (also supported by the IFRC and the American Red Cross) also aims to reduce people’s socioeconomic vulnerabilities through cash-for-training activities. This is one of Nurjahan’s favourite activities. She helps women learn about homestead gardening, cattle and poultry rearing, and fish farming so they can start their own businesses. She also provides a close follow-up with each of the participants to ensure success and sustainability.

This activity is not just about giving women the opportunity to find new sources of income. It is also about empowerment. “Giving women financial assistance gave them the chance to be independent, just like the men in the community,” she explained. “Now, they are proficiently running and managing their own business ideas.” Nurjahan goes the extra mile to ensure that these women have proper business plans and structures in place to help them get their start-ups off the ground.

The challenges posed by the climate crisis on vulnerable communities are clear and are increasing. For people like Nurjahan, it is important to ensure that people and communities have the knowledge they need to establish a culture of preparedness and to strengthen their own community networks.

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This story was produced and drafted by Mustakim Billah Muhit
– a talented, dynamic and creative storyteller from Bangladesh Red Crescent.

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