Phub Dem | Paro

Bhutan is vulnerable to many natural disasters like earthquakes, flood, glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF), landslides and forest fires.

It, however, lacks necessary data information systems, response plans and coordination to respond to emergencies.

To ensure and strengthen national capacity towards disaster preparedness and response, the technical working group involving various stakeholders involved in disaster response has undergone three-day training on a 72-hour rapid assessment approach in Paro.

The training is coordinated by the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) with support from the World Food Programme (WFP).

WFP has been supporting the government in setting up and implementing the assessment approach to estimate the impacts of a disaster and enable a response within 72 hours.

The 72-hour rapid assessment enables a country to respond to a disaster within 72 hours, providing initial impact assessment in a sudden on-set disaster scenario to fill in the initial information gap immediately after the disaster.

It will be implemented as part of the emergency preparedness and response initiative to develop and strengthen the capacity of government and partners to prepare and respond to shocks.

According to the monitoring and evaluation officer with the World Food Programme, Udaya Sharma, the initial discussion about the 72-hour rapid assessment started in 2017. WFP is currently training the technical working group.

He said that by July this year, the rapid assessment approach would be in place.

The 72-hour rapid assessment approach, he said would be applicable following a sudden-onset disaster, such as a cyclone, earthquake or flood ravaging the whole country disturbing the communication networks and need for information becomes critical.

The approach would provide critical information to fill the initial information vacuum in the first three days after a disaster based on the most recent information and pre-disaster secondary data.

WFP’s emergency preparedness and response officer, Laksiri Nanayakkara, said the method offers a solid basis to make operational decisions even in highly complex situations, with information being refined through continuous updates as new data becomes available.

DDM’s director, Jigme Thinley, said the country was not well prepared for the disaster.

He said if one can effectively use the golden period post-disaster, the government can minimise the loss of life and property.

He said that it was essential to have details of every settlement in the country to allocate resources and relief immediately. “Recording the pre-crisis structures, population and other details will ensure an effective response.”

Although many countries have well-established procedures for carrying out emergency assessments, Laksiri Nanayakkara said that it often did not provide quick information to guide decisions that need to be made in the first 72-hour.

He said that the 72-hour approach did not aim to produce a perfect, comprehensive assessment, as that is simply not feasible right after a disaster but seeks to give a “best estimate” snapshot in the first few hours to inform initial budgeting and logistical decisions. “For instance, estimates on number and location of people that require life-saving food assistance, a priority of resource allocation and where to send the search and rescue team is essential for early response.”

The technical working group involves officials from the Department of Roads, National Land Commission, Ministry of Agriculture and Forest, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, Desuung office and National Statistic Bureau.

At the end of the training, a representative from different stakeholders drafted a standard operating procedure specifying the role and responsibility of each agency while undertaking the 72-hour rapid assessment approach.