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Project made communities resilient to disaster

Ramshikhajhala, Khallatole community is an island surrounded by the Simali and Kandra rivers. These rivers can swell to dangerous levels during the monsoon season, cutting off the more than 200 households and threatening their homes, croplands, schools and lives. Regular classes are stopped, people are unable to leave the island to access health facilities or markets for food or other necessities. Moreover, in case of emergencies, people are compelled to cross the flooded river, putting their lives at risk in the process.

In response to this problem, the ROTA-funded project SRSD, is supporting schools to protect their buildings and playgrounds through mitigation measures and building the capacity of students, teachers and Junior Red Cross Circles (JRCs) on DRR and mobilizing them to take action before, during and after such life-threatening disasters. Over the past two years, the SRSD project has supported a multi-hazard building, 4 spurs of gabion walls for riverbank protection and has plans to prepare bio-dikes in future. Likewise, teachers and students have been trained in life saving skills, have prepared DRR plans for their schools, have established DRR clubs in their schools and have participated in awareness raising activities in their community on the effect of disasters and how to deal with them.

Children demonstrating the use of lifejackets; students teaching their parents; parents engaging in preparing lifejackets (From left to right)

Although the project mainly targets teachers, students and school administration to build resilient schools through awareness, training and mitigation, most community members have only basic information about how to deal with extreme disasters. Assessing the high level of risk for these communities, the SRSD project has also incorporated activities to make aware and train these community members on life saving skills through the schools and with those students trained by the Project. Sarita Dhami, JRC vice president, shared her experience on life saving skills training, “During the training, we learnt some techniques to prepare and use life jackets. We shared this with our parents, but at first they didn’t trust us. So, we demonstrated the life jackets by using them in a nearby river to show them how they worked and that they could actually save lives. After seeing our demonstration, they believed us. Furthermore, they were enthusiastic about preparing more life jackets for the coming monsoon.” In pre-monsoon season, community people have started gathering, learning and preparing life jackets. Kul Bahadur, a member of the Community Disaster Management Group reflected, “Now that these life jackets have been tested and we know they work, we want to preserve them for the coming monsoon. We also decided to make a DRR resource center in our community so that people can easily access the life jackets and other materials when we really need them.” He further added, “For other necessary equipment, we will coordinate with the schools where MC has supported first aid and life saving equipment.”

Youths and children are making their parents aware of the risks and how to minimize or deal with them through transferring skills and technology to increase the resilience factor of their own communities against disaster. With students learning and promoting this proactive approach and their parents and other community members starting to see the practical results, the schools and communities in Ramshikharjhala are now becoming safer. Students are regularly attending classes, and in case of emergency, there are life jackets made up of local resources, like plastic bottles, tires and banana chunks, which people can use. In such a way, Mercy Corps helps people turn the crises they confront into the opportunities they deserve. Driven by local needs, the SRSD project has been providing the tools and support they need to protect and transform their own lives.

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