International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

In the Spotlight: Communities


Strategic community management for
reducing vulnerability to disasters
Dr. Alvaro Campo Ojeda Coordinator, Planning, Red Cross, Guayas, Ecuador

The relief and disaster program of the Guayas chapter of the Ecuadorian Red Cross seeks to reduce the vulnerability of communities at risk. Starting in 1998, it has been carrying out the Emergency Situations Prevention and Mitigation Project in rural areas of the province of Guayas with the support of ECHO and Spain’s Solidaridad Internacional Foundation.

The project focuses on communities that were severely affected by the most recent El Niño phenomenon, and has already resulted in the recruitment of 30 community contingency brigades and the implementation of 900 family-home emergency plans in 33 districts of six cantons in the province of Guayas: Daule, Milagro, Salitre, Santa Lucía, Triunfo, and Naranjito. For the family-home emergency plans to be carried out, 900 individuals (one per family) were trained in risk management, health care, environmental clean-ups, shelter management and first aid.
Similarly, 30 school emergency plans were drawn up for rural schools, and 30 response plans were implemented in as many communities. A total of six health fairs were held, as well as six community drills to assess the disaster response capabilities of the communities.

Inter-institutional coordination was key in establishing the Local Emergency Committees, which bring together community organizations and municipal staff. Mayors lent their support by agreeing to chair these committees.

The initiative, the first stage of which took eight months to complete, relied on the active participation of Guayas Red Cross volunteers who had earlier been trained in community participation methodologies in order to make sure that community representatives have a sense of ownership of the mitigation and prevention program, based on everyday personal, family and community experiences during previous adverse events such as the El Niño of 1997-1998. Community participants were then trained in prevention, but also in the practice of inter-institutional coordination for vulnerability reduction. This dynamic, participatory methodology strove to consolidate community organization, uncover the natural hazards that threatened the communities, and identify and reduce cultural vulnerability to disasters and the preventable diseases that often follow in their wake.

From the success of these exercises, it can be concluded that community participation will have to increase in vulnerable areas if a culture of prevention is to prevail, and all community organizations must participate, particularly those that promote health and social welfare.

Another initiative by the Relief and Disasters Program of the Guayas Red Cross was the Lérida Project, which was carried out in four urban marginal communities in the city of Guayaquil with the cooperation of the Spanish Red Cross and Lérida City Hall. Its purpose was to train the local inhabitants in disaster prevention and mitigation. The initiative benefited the communities of Bastión Popular, Julio Cartagena, Guasmo Sur, Verbo Divino, and Comunidad de la Isla Trinitaria. A total of 100 families were trained in risk management, environmental health, community leadership and health education. Several of the participants have gone on to train others, generating a multiplying effect in their own communities.

The experience has been quite successful, since most of the goals have been met. A growing number of people have become committed to the creation of a culture of prevention. Community development programs that previously focused on preventive health alone are now contributing to the establishment of this culture. At present, the Relief and Disasters Program of the Guayas Red Cross is following up on the projects in order to strengthen them and reinforce key concepts of disaster mitigation and prevention, while new projects are being developed for their implementation in other areas such as Puná Island.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Alvaro Campo Ojeda
Coordinador de Planificación
Programa de Socorros y Desastres
Cruz Roja del Guayas-Ecuador
+593 456-1356