5 Ways We’re Helping Bangladesh Become More Disaster Resilient

Movies, Pocketbooks and More: 5 Ways We’re Helping Bangladesh Become More Disaster Resilient 2017-01-08T14:08:05+00:00

Bangladesh is one of the most disaster prone countries in the world. In particular, the coastal region in the country’s southwest is often impacted by cyclones, tidal surges, and salinization of agricultural land and aquifers. These shocks threaten life and the environment, and destroy livelihoods. Preparing communities to manage these risks is essential, but we’ve found that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.  However, working closely with local communities in Bangladesh, we’ve found solutions that make a difference.

PCI Bangladesh disaster simulation

Disaster Simulations

There’s no better way for a community to prepare for the stress and dynamic challenges of an actual disaster than by bringing the entire community together to simulate it – walking everyone through exactly what to do and where to go in case of an emergency.

Simulations are one of the most successful and even fun ways of helping communities prepare for disasters – success that’s proven through pre- and post-simulation assessments.

Each simulation is run by the community’s PCI-trained disaster management committee, and thousands of community members join in, pretending to be injured, lost, or in need of help after a disaster. Not only are simulations an effective way for a community to prepare for a disaster, but they also strengthen community bonds and communication, a common theme throughout our approach to disaster risk reduction.

PCI Bangladesh DRR pocketbook

Disaster Pocketbook

It’s no surprise that the more you know, the more you can do. For Bangladesh, the more information a community has about disaster risk, the better equipped they are to prepare for and manage one when it happens. The information in the pocketbook has two simple goals:

  • Reduce stress of people in an emergency
  • Keep people alive through an emergency

Using clear language and vivid illustrations, the pocketbook provides numerous tips about what to do before, during, and after a disaster, such as: “Teaching girls and boys how to swim saves lives during floods and tidal surges,” and “Store rainwater that can be drank after a disaster.” Ultimately, it’s about working together to reduce risk, and keep each other safe in a storm.

Cyclone – The Movie

Everyone loves a good movie, and films are a great way to get important messages out to folks in rural areas who may have low literacy skills. So we produced a video to reinforce disaster response and mitigation messages and further educate the vulnerable communities we work in.

Act to Survive highlights the importance of being ready for a disaster, filmed in the very communities we work in and featuring local citizens as the stars. It identifies different types of disasters, when they occur throughout the year, and what to do to prepare for each. For cyclones in particular, it helps communities understand the warning levels for the Bangladesh’s disaster alert system – understanding that is crucial for preparations. And just as in the disaster pocketbook (above), the film emphasizes that “humans are humanity, life is for life.” By working together and learning lessons from previous disasters, communities can keep themselves safe.

Typically, we package our presentation as a double feature, with Act to Survive, followed by a popular Bollywood or Hollywood blockbuster in Bengali. Folks like this mix of information and entertainment, too, and it helps the messages stick.

PCI Bangladesh shelter assessment

Shelter Assessment

Emergency shelters are key to surviving a disaster regardless of where you live. In Bangladesh, the need is so great that there have been hundreds of shelters constructed in the past ten years. But what if a shelter can’t actually stand up to a disaster?

The roof blowing off a shelter doesn’t provide a lot of protection. Walls made of mud have a hard time standing up to flooding. Lack of gender dedicated latrines can keep women away in conservative rural areas. We’ve assessed over 100 shelters in Bangladesh to determine how safe they are, what types of disasters they could protect people from, and how to improve them for the safety and comfort of the community.

We take those assessment results and help support community efforts to build and/or improve shelters. With this information, they can and advocate their local government to provide improved shelters and facilities, properly constructed, to protect them in times of crisis.

PCI Bangladesh risk atlas map

Risk Atlas

How often do you use a map in a given day? Do you know where the nearest hospital is and how likely it is that the area will flood in heavy rain?

In disaster prone areas of Bangladesh, we’ve developed a series of maps to tell the communities just that. We took maps of schools, hospitals, and churches and overlaid them with maps of flood plains, erosion areas, and drought patterns.

Armed with this information, and lots of local knowledge, we figured out which areas were at greatest risk, and helped communities determine what to do in case of a disaster. When cyclones and tidal surges strike, families now have a shelter plan if the river rises, and know which roads to avoid to keep them safe, secure, and out of harm’s way.