DRM - Community Volunteers Instrumental in Bihar Flood

DRM - Community Volunteers Intrumental in Bihar Flood
Kiran Devi, a community volunteer in supaul, Bihar

The strength of disaster mitigation and management depends on the level of community involvement. UNDP’s Disaster Risk Management (DRM) project has been able to mobilize volunteers through the initiative. This sense of civic engagement has proven an asset during the recent floods in Bihar.

Kiran Devi, a frail and shy woman, can display strength and resilience when facing a disasterNo one would ever guess that Kiran Devi, a frail and shy woman, can display strength and resilience when facing a disaster. But the 35 year old homemaker with two children was one of the community volunteers that made a difference during the Bihar floods.

Highlights

  • Mobilized community volunteers to strengthen disaster mitigation and management
  • Conducted training sessions on search and rescue and other disaster management techniques
  • 150 volunteers trained by the project were able to provide support in the aftermath of the Kosi floods in 2008

“People poured into Duwania Chowk (Supaul district, Bihar) in the hundreds and thousands. I think I would have made food for at least 2000 people whose homes and lives were washed away by the flood. Families just sat crowded in the front of my house and they kept coming, even in the night. Together with my neighbours, we made food for them. You couldn’t but want to do something when you saw their devastated expressions”, says Kiran. She becomes animated as she remembers the days when the Kosi River came roaring into their lives. However, the dreaded Kosi did not stop her from wading through 4 feet of water and also carrying food for people in camps about 3 kilometres away from her home.

Kiran has also undergone first aid training as part of UNDP’s disaster risk management (DRM) project in the latter half of 2007. Master trainers who were trained in the state capital Patna were deployed to train volunteers at the community level. In Supaul, training sessions in first aid, search and rescue and other disaster management techniques were concentrated in Pratapganj, Basantpur and Raghopur blocks (each block is a group of villages). Kiran was trained in Pratapganj. She says, “I was able to help several people because of my first aid training. I tended to the injured.”

She has a daughter and son, who are in high school. When asked if she has taught them how to administer first aid, she laughs saying “not yet; I think it should be introduced in the school syllabus.”

There is a tone of disappointment in her voice when she says that it would have been nice to get some recognition from the local government for her work during the floods. But she is most pleased because the people who she helped have not forgotten her, “A lot of people have returned to their villages. And whenever they pass by this town they make sure to visit me. We have a cup of tea and talk for a while. That gratitude makes me feel good.”

It is volunteers like Kiran who can make disaster management more effective. In Bihar’s Supaul district alone, there are 150 such volunteers who had put their lives on the line to save others.

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