5 Dec 2022

The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society wins the 2022 Averted Disaster Award

The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society has been working to establish anticipatory action since 2015. These efforts were recognized at this year’s Understanding Risk forum, where it won the Averted Disaster Award for its support to vulnerable communities ahead of successive climatic events that struck the country in 2020. 

“The Averted Disasters Award is a big one for the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, [and] recognition of our wonderful work,” said Ekram Elahi Chowdhury, director of its Disaster and  Climate Risk Management Department. “In Bangladesh, we started an [anticipatory action] pilot in 2015 and, after working hard all these years, we see the successful results today.”

The Averted Disaster Award aims to highlight successful risk-reduction interventions that are otherwise invisible. As one of the ten most disaster-prone countries in the world, Bangladesh is highly exposed to severe monsoon flooding and cyclones. Through the Averted Disaster Award, we hope to shed light on impactful programmes like this one, so they may be replicated, adapted and scaled up in other communities that need them.

David Lallemant Assistant professor, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and co-founder of the Averted Disaster Award

Acting ahead of cyclones and floods

Ahead of Cyclone Amphan, which reached Bangladesh in May 2020, staff from the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society encouraged people to move to cyclone shelters. During past hazards, people were reluctant to go to shelters, partly due to the poor conditions. To address this, staff and volunteers: distributed drinking water and food; provided first aid services; handed out lights and candles to improve security at night, especially for women; and shared materials (e.g., masks, hand sanitizer) to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases. These actions aided the 36,365 people who went to the cyclone shelters.

Just a few weeks later, monsoon flooding hit the country for several weeks. The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society activated its EAP for Floods and the funds provided (134,317 Swiss Francs) were used to implement early actions before the floods peaked. Actions included: early warnings for people in at-risk areas; unconditional cash grants of 4,500 Bangladeshi Taka (around 53 US dollars) to nearly 3,300 vulnerable households; the evacuation of 70 households, along with their moveable assets and livestock; and first aid for around 150 people injured during in the floods.

While these two hazards still had a devastating impact on many people’s lives, the actions implemented by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society undoubtedly helped many people to avoid the worst impacts. “All these actions strengthen the capacity of society and community, as well as community members, to prepare themselves for their risk management,” explained Professor Chowdhury Mohammad Sarwar Jahan, a managing board member at the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society. “This approach will [also help] the community to cope with new risks.”

The anticipatory approach of forecast-based financing is proving to be highly effective at averting the impacts of floods and cyclones in Bangladesh… Increasing resilience in disaster-prone zones is the key to navigating our current climate crisis.

Maricar Rabonza Risk analyst and PhD researcher Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Created in 2021, the Averted Disaster Award is an annual competition that seeks to bring visibility to successful disaster risk management programmes and policies around the world. These often go unnoticed precisely because of their success: in the world of disaster risk management, success means ‘nothing happens’ and, as a result, policymakers and society at large can undervalue the importance of proactive intervention. The Averted Disaster Award sheds light on these successes to recognize the outstanding work of those who invest in measures that keep our communities and world safe.

Rivers of Hope - the 2022 Averted Disaster Award winner

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