IDEP-USAID program empowers Balinese

IDEP-USAID program empowers Balinese

Features – April 29, 2004

Jenny H. B„ckstr”m, Ubud, Gianyar

In Balinese mythology, Bedawang Nala, the “world turtle”, dwells in the underworld — he carries Earth on his back and his restless stirring produces earthquakes.

This year it seems Bedawang Nala has been more restless than usual, with two earthquakes shaking Bali in just four months; one on Jan. 2 and the other on April 17.

Indeed, the whole nation has experienced many natural disasters this century. From 1901 to 2000, figures show, the country experienced 257 natural disasters, the majority of which were floods, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.

Other natural disasters included landslides, storms, drought and tsunamis. About 60,000 people died and more than half a million people lost their homes in disasters during this period, which affected a total of 16 million Indonesians.

The island of Bali is featured three times in the top-25 list of the total fatalities of natural disasters in the country: 15,000 people were killed in an earthquake in 1917; 1,584 people were killed when a volcano erupted in 1963, and 78,000 were others affected; and 573 people were killed in an earthquake in 1976, which affected 450,000 others.

In October 2002, another disaster hit Bali in the form of a terrorist attack in which two nightspots were bombed and 202 people killed. A non-governmental organization (NGO), the Indonesian Development of Education and Permaculture (IDEP) foundation was one of many organizations which volunteered to assist in the aftermath of the bombings.

Although observing the bomb site shortly after the explosions — and the immediate response of the local community — IDEP staff still asked what could have been done better.

“The bomb site at Kuta was situated close to support facilities and governmental support organizations, such as search-and-rescue, ambulance and fire brigades, and so the community could get support quickly,” project director Graeme Stevens said.

“But many villages are not so fortunate and would have to depend on their own people and their training and skills for the first few hours.

“The volunteer relief effort for the Bali tragedy made it clear that communities play a fundamental and important role in crisis management and recovery. As the hours after a disaster occurs are crucial for saving lives and minimizing injuries, a well-managed and prepared community can be a key factor in saving lives, and reducing suffering and the loss of resources. In the case of socially sparked disasters or preventable natural disasters, communities may even be able to dispel the circumstances that cause a crisis.”

Thus, out of the experiences of the Bali tragedy, the IDEP formed an initiative to provide local communities with the tools and knowledge on how to manage a crisis, and how to prevent or reduce the damage of a potential crisis.

In July 2003, the IDEP launched a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded community-based program for managing disasters through the three phases of mitigation, response and recovery.

Five types of disasters were considered, namely: tsunamis and coastal storms, landslides, volcanic eruptions, social unrest, and terrorism.

The program was developed in conjunction with international and local researchers to ascertain the best combination of “world and local best practices” in crisis response and included a hands-on manual for communities on how to assess their area regarding its specific needs and potential dangers.

It was thus designed to enhance the capabilities of local communities to create their own strategies and plans, and to further reduce any potential causes of crisis. Such causes include an unsustainable use of the environment, or the lack of communications within and between communities.

“We believe that through local empowerment, permanent results can be achieved — to start from the bottom up — from village level — and give people the tools they need,” executive director Petra Schneider said.

Another issue addressed in the crisis-management program was the role of women, who together with children and the elderly are the most vulnerable group in disasters.

Schneider said that this factor, combined with the tendency of women to be incredibly resourceful, underlined the need for women’s involvement in the crisis-management program.

“Women are usually more aware of individual needs; they network well and are very supportive and connected with each other in their everyday lives,

“They will always find a way to pull through,” she said.

Stevens said figures showed that for every dollar spent on prevention in Indonesia, US$7 were saved on recovery. The IDEP was formally established in Bali in 1999 with the objective to directly empower local communities to improve their own living situations through sustainable resource management.

Now that the piloting and evaluation process has been completed, the IDEP is working to establish a network with other NGOs, and seeking donors so that it can disseminate information kits to the community.

“It is all work for nothing, unless we get the material out there to the people,” Stevens said.

IDEP expects the material, including a manual for crisis prevention and management, posters and comics covering various disaster situations, to be ready for distribution within a few months. Meanwhile, the IDEP will be presenting its disaster-management program at a workshop in Jakarta on May 7, organized by the Indonesian Society for Disaster Management (MPBI).

Dr. Puji Pujiono, secretary-general of the MPBI said the workshop, which would be attended by various government officials and UN representatives, would provide a forum for the many NGOs that “clearly had shown very interesting initiatives regarding community-based crisis management”.

The ideas and programs presented by the various NGOs at the MPBI workshop will be discussed further at a regional forum for disaster management in Bangkok, Thailand, from May 10 through May 11.


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