Spotlight on the Start Fund
Handicap International and Plan’s joint 1% learning activity Nepal
Developing a Joint Emergency Contingency Plan after Floods in Mid-Western Nepal:
Summary of report following the Learning Activities led by Handicap International and Plan in December, 2014
In August 2014, floods and landslides affected the western part of Nepal. The Start Fund was alerted on September 8 and responded in 71 hours. Two projects addressed WaSH, health, shelter, education, protection and food security & livelihood needs, mostly implemented through local partners of Handicap International and Plan – such as Forum for Human Rights and Disabled Nepal, Centre for Victims of Torture and Radha Krishna Tharu Jana Sewa Kendra (Bardiya).
The response to the disaster, in which government, UN and INGOs were involved, was disjointed and slow, despite years of investment in disaster risk management at local and national level. This realisation led different stakeholders involved to critically reflect what went wrong and why. There was a learning event for Clusters and Resident Coordinator s Office in November 2014 resulting in a document called “Reflection Exercise of the Cluster Response”. In parallel, a separate consultation in the areas affected engaged communities and DIPECHO partners working in the flood areas with findings captured in the report “Learning lessons from disaster in Mid and Far Western Region”.
The Start Fund followed up on these learning exercises through its 1% learning budget, which Handicap International and Plan accessed jointly to help bring partners together to develop a joint emergency contingency plan.
Learning from the response
The objective of the 1% learning budget was to support the INGOs involved in the flood response in the mid-west and in disaster management, to analyse the quality and challenges of this response and plan for future disasters - in a way that fosters better coordination and collaboration amongst INGOs and with the UN and Government. Two events were organised to address this.
The first session gathered 30 participants from INGOs, the Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium, the International Federation of the Red Cross, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development. The objective of this was specifically to improve our preparedness work. It built on the conclusions of a recent consultation carried out by DIPECHO partners, as well as the exercise done by the Clusters. The second session gathered directors from 10 INGOs who have an emergency mandate. The objective of this was to establish basic principles for good joint internal preparedness and a coordinated response across INGOs.
Looking at lessons learnt from DIPECHO and Cluster exercise
Photo Credit: © Sarah Blin, Handicap International
Part I – Improvement of the DRM Framework
The first workshop, “Learning from the floods: towards better preparedness and response”, aimed to take stock of the findings of previous exercises to commonly agree on core key actionable learning to shape future practice. It gathered representatives of national and international NGOs involved in disaster preparedness and response in Nepal. The workshop aimed to:
- Take stock of other learning exercises: Participants checked the challenges, suggestions and reflections identified in previous learning exercises by the Clusters and DIPECHO partners and added insights and learning they felt were missing.
- Prioritise what is most essential to act on: Participants went through a series of groups discussions with the objective of selecting the issues that they found most relevant to act on, in order to improve disaster preparedness and response in Nepal.
- Turn priority issues and learning into actionable commitments: Participants had to rephrase their learning points into commitments for actions based on these.
- Identify what is in place/enabling, and what is preventing/lacking to turn priority commitment into action: For each priority action identified, participants had to discuss what is in place and what is lacking to make them happen. They discussed this thinking both on the limitations and opportunities for both I/NGOs and Government.
- Identifying key policy asks: The workshop finalized with a plenary discussion in which participants put forward what they considered key policy asks relevant to improve disaster preparedness and response in the country.
Four actionable commitments based on learning
The workshop led to four core commitments for action based on learning from the floods. These four actions represent the consensus achieved amongst participants during the workshop.
Two other commitments were discussed by participants:
• Ensure Village Development Committee keep updated pre-disaster prone data of Most Vulnerable People in most disaster prone areas & District Development Committees has updated data on a quarterly basis (and should be readily available for respondents).
• Base response plans on assessments and information that considers the special needs of all the affected population, and ensure coordination between community task forces and security forces.
What is lacking? What is in place?
Participants discussed how each of the actionable commitments can be best supported by Government and I/NGOs and agreed on: what key factors prevented or were lacking in order to turn commitments into actions, what was in place to support their realization.
Key policy asks
Based on the work done, participants had the chance to put forward their key policy asks. They were captured and agreed by all participants.
• A Disaster Management Act with a dedicated DRM authority at the national level
• A clear incident and command system
• Improving the preparedness system
• Mobilise the money in the Disaster Fund
• Accept that there are still big capacity gaps in the government – have willingness to learn
• Strengthen accountability for government staff (there is already awareness of it amongst high ranking officers)
• Ensure appropriate quality of relief items purchased
• Government to value the role of the civil society
• Define what the one door policy is, clarifying the roles of the different stakeholders
• Improving local governance (with election of local representatives).
Part II – Improvement of INGO Coordination
The second learning event supported by the Start Fund, “Contingency Planning across the Humanitarian Community,” took place on December 8, 2014 and aimed to establish basic principles for good joint internal preparedness and coordinated response across INGOs. Summarising the lessons learned, the contingency plan reflected on “an over-engineered system that gave us overconfidence but in fact lacked substance”. The discussion highlighted that:
“Our Contingency is based on the premise that the capacity gaps in the UN and GON noted in the recent floods will not be solved fast enough if we want to achieve quality response in the near future. A suggestion to define a timeline before we step in could be defined. The experience of responding as a consortium has not been easy, more leadership can help improve for a future response. As a principle, joint fundraising in response is to be encouraged – but we need to clarify ways of doing so.”
An action plan was developed at the meeting in which tasks were divided for: staff and wards mapping, joint training and simulation, the assessment tool, sharing plans, HCT representation, joint proposal for preparedness, file sharing and communication when disasters occur. This included actions to:
• Create and maintain a single common map of GPS coordinates of all staff in Kathmandu Valley to establish a roster system for protection and response (Plan) and a single common map showing fields of expertise, stock prepositioning and geographical areas of intervention (Mission East)
• Establish cycles of training events in First Aid, Search and Rescue, Fire fighting for all INGO staff in the valley (HI)
• Organise a joint simulation exercise (WVI, CARE, SCF)
• Decide on a single assessment tool (WVI)
• Develop a proposal for funding to finance joint preparedness (SCF, CARE)
• Upgrade existing communication and coordination mechanisms in the Association of International INGOs and towards the HCT to adapt to emergency response
• Share each other’s’ plans (safety plans, disaster response plan and business continuity plans).
These two events allowed the humanitarian community to reflect critically on years of work on disaster risk management and to analyse key gaps, especially in assessment skills and tools, understanding vulnerability, government capacity to respond and thinking collectively when preparing and responding to disasters in Nepal. The INGOs, under the umbrella of the Association of International NGOs, will continue to meet and strengthen joint action for preparedness and response.