Saving lives in times of crisis
Living in poverty is already a daily struggle for survival. But when disaster strikes, that struggle becomes all but impossible. Floods, earthquakes or conflicts can destroy lives and any progress made can be gone in the blink of an eye.
But with your support, the communities we work with will be better able to prepare for and survive disasters and recover more quickly.
Cyclones don’t discriminate when it comes to destroying homes. Earthquakes don’t care how rich or poor a community is. And as we’ve all recently learned, outbreaks of disease can spread rapidly, with no concern for who it effects.
Some disasters are inevitable, but rampant inequality means that the world’s poorest are the most vulnerable to crises. Because if people don’t have the ability to prepare for a disaster or protect themselves from the worst of it, they are less likely to survive. And if they don’t have the resources to recover in the aftermath, they will be pushed even further into poverty and hardship.
Women and other marginalised groups are worst affected, for the same reason they are disadvantaged in so many other ways — they are often excluded. And because women are left out of decision-making, they can’t advocate for their own unique needs when it comes to survival and recovery. For example, women tend to be the primary carers of children and elderly or sick people, meaning they will often protect others before themselves during a crisis. And men might not consider issues like the need for privacy when using a toilet, menstrual hygiene management, the increased risk of sexual assault, and other issues women come up against in the aftermath of a crisis.
The best defence is a good offense. It’s true for sport and it’s even more true when it comes to saving lives in a crisis. Working with local people before a disaster hits helps to identify vulnerable groups, create thorough safety plans, strengthen existing infrastructure, establish early warning systems, and plan for that community’s specific needs. This is what saves lives.
Of course, we can’t always know when a crisis will occur and responding quickly and efficiently to a disaster is a critical part of saving lives. While each emergency response is tailored to the needs of each situation, we focus on ensuring that everyone has enough to eat, a roof over their head, clean water and access to appropriate healthcare.
But we don’t simply distribute goods or provide services. We work with local leaders, especially women’s organisations, to ensure everyone’s needs are taken care of. Because nobody knows a place and its people like a local does, and often they will be the first responders in a crisis. It is especially important to have women’s leadership, as they face an increased risk of violence following a disaster, and often have increased caring and other responsibilities.
Roslyn saves her community from disaster
“If this house was to fall down,” Roslyn says, “Everyone would be dead inside.”
It was April 2020 and Cyclone Harold was wreaking havoc through the Pacific Islands. In Vanuatu, it destroyed around 17,000 homes and tragically killed dozens of people. But on a small island called Pentecost, a woman named Roslyn managed to save the lives of her neighbours and friends.
The reason? Roslyn was ready. Luckily for her neighbours, Roslyn had become a member of CARE’s Community Disaster and Climate Change Committee, so she knew exactly what to do to save lives in a disaster.
“I told everyone, ‘Now we must get ready! Put the rocks on top of the houses! Get your torches ready! Check around your house to see what trees are close to the house and cut them down!’” says Roslyn.
In the morning, she immediately began assessing the needs of her community and started repairing the damage. She organised deliveries of food and equipment to be transported from the mainland and managed the response until our emergency response team arrived.
“We counted on Roslyn to direct the distribution of the items to those who needed them most because she knows the community,” says Jessinta Natu, Shelter Assistance Officer for CARE in Vanuatu. “She knows the households, and who needs what.”
This is why CARE partners with local leaders like Roslyn — because no one knows a community like they do.