Strengthening disaster management at grassroots

Workshop: In what could be one of the biggest achievements for department of disaster management (DDM) in terms of capacity building, its local level disaster preparedness will be strengthened soon.

This is because each dzongkhag now has full time disaster management officers.

The new appointment is expected to bridge the gap between local and national level disaster preparedness and assessment in Bhutan for which the department is undergoing a reorganisation.

The new appointees are undergoing a four-day orientation program, supported by UNDP, Bhutan.

At the opening of the orientation programme yesterday, UN Resident Coordinator Christina Carlson said that one of the key recommendations of the Nepal Post Disaster Needs Assessment following devastating earthquake on August 25 was the need for a uniform system of disaster management systems at the grassroots level.

This recommendation surfaced as it became clear that local systems and actors were not sufficiently able to respond to events in their areas.

Although there was effective coordination at the national level, she said, confusion, non-uniformity of damage assessments, incomplete or inappropriate reporting and adhoc or no relief support at the local levels rendered the national arrangements ineffective.

“It is important that everyone here leaves with a clear understanding of Disaster Management Act along with national level systems in place and what your roles and responsibilities in the districts will be before, during and after disasters,” she said.

It is important, she said because in the aftermath of a disaster, these officers will be faced with many demands for information from many different sources, at a time when they will be juggling many different demands and responsibilities, both professional and personal.

“Much has been accomplished but a lot more still lies ahead,” she said adding that the United Nations is committed to support Bhutan to strengthen institutional mechanisms at all levels and to introduce policy and regulatory tools for effective implementation of national priorities for disaster management.

Briefing participants about the recent commitment by Bhutan and other countries on working towards a better world through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she said, one of the 17 goals aims to significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters. It includes water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor people in vulnerable situations.

This workshop, she said is a step towards this direction for Bhutan.

During the recent Organizational Development exercise, Royal Civil Service Commission has found that the dzongkhag tshogdu secretaries were underutilized. They were also the disaster focal person in the dzongkhags.

Following the OD findings and DDM’s earlier requisition to National Disaster Management Committee for need of full-time disaster management officers at the local level, RCSC approved the proposal.  Soon DDM will complete the Terms of Reference for the officers, in consultation with department of local government and submit to the civil service commission.

DDM director, Chhador Wangdi said that the Disaster Management Act mandates having fulltime disaster management officers at grassroots level.

“Although there were disaster focal persons in the districts, having full time officers were must for better preparedness and assessment,” he said. “Officers will have lot of work for which they need to be thoroughly oriented.”

Director added that more local level officers at 15 dungkhags and four thromdes would be appointed.

Nirmala Pokhrel

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