PCI takes a different approach to natural disaster relief. Instead of just responding after disaster has struck, we focus on minimizing vulnerability to disasters wherever we work. We engage communities in rebuilding their lives, and we help strengthen their resiliency to shocks and disasters to come. Relief-only solutions provide good optics but are extremely limited in sustainably addressing underlying conditions. They can also disregard local capacity and ingenuity, creating dependency on assistance, and unintentionally resulting in more negative impacts.
We embrace communities as partners rather than merely victims, enabling us to increase our efficiency and effectiveness. We believe the work must be customized to each culture where we work, so communities can view PCI’s humanitarian assistance as a strategic long-term investment and partnership, rather than temporary relief or an emergency reaction once the damage is done.
In many cases, strengthening resiliency involves helping communities build financial reserves to use in the case of a future emergency. For example, in the Afar region of Ethiopia, PCI has worked with poor, rural women to improve their local coping ability before the predictable onset of drought. Over 80% of women are now saving $28 or more per month, which will help sustain them during periods of drought. This figure is compared to only 25% saving that amount prior.
In one of the areas of Port-au-Prince hardest hit by the 2010 Haiti earthquake, it is estimated that one of PCI’s target communities is saving over $140,000 a year by more strategically managing water access and distribution. These additional resources are now available for use by the community to improve sanitation in their neighborhood. This sustainable system of water and sanitation will help the community stay healthy and strong in the face of new emergencies including cholera, hurricanes, or future earthquakes.
Similarly, in Bangladesh, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Liberia, and Malawi, PCI is working with communities to reduce their vulnerability to all types of shocks that put communities at risk. PCI is committed to this approach in the world’s regions that are most prone to natural disasters.
PCI reached nearly 1 million people under a groundbreaking program titled Cross-Sectoral Strategies for Risk Reduction in Bihar, India from 2008 to 2011. Anil Sinha, Vice Chairman of the Bihar State Disaster Management Agency, congratulated PCI by stating that this program “is a commendable testimony to working closely with the communities and also engaging youth in mitigating disasters.”
“We didn’t just clear out rubble. We cleared out old attitudes in order to rebuild a healthier community.”
– PCI/Haiti staff doctor