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Equipping Vulnerable Groups to Become More Resilient to Disasters in Kerala

Foundation for Development Action

Santosh lives in the Alappuzha district of Kerala, an area that saw devastating floods in 2018. As someone with a visual impairment, Santosh is dependent on others when there is a situation of disaster. Santosh's primary caregivers are his parents, who are now elderly. Santosh shares that when his house got flooded, they all had to move suddenly to a relief camp. Because his parents are elderly, their skills now are limited. This worried him all the more because he felt that his parents would have a difficult time at the relief camp. 


Relief camps are usually a safe space during a disaster. However, most are not designed to address the unique needs of the elderly and people with disability. Because of this gap, many elderly people and people with disability might choose to remain in their homes, which is a familiar space. 


A big challenge that the group experiences in the relief camp is that volunteers and rescue workers are unable to understand their specific needs. Often, inadvertently, they are not treated with respect and their circumstances are undermined. 


It is to tackle such a situation that the Kerala-based NGO, called Foundation for Development Action (FDA), designed and implemented a training module to build the capacities of people with disabilities on how they can stay safe during a natural disaster. 


Because of his unpleasant experience in the relief camp in 2018, Santosh was keen on joining the training when he heard about it. During the training, he learnt a number of safety precautions including preparing a disaster emergency kit in advance, attending to snake bites, giving CPR and first aid, and putting out fires. The thing that stood out the most to Santosh was that the training was given in simple language and though the topics were complicated the mode of delivery was such that a layperson could understand and implement these points easily. He feels pleased about the fact that he now also has some skills with which he can help others in such a situation if the need occurs. 


This was the first time that Santosh was participating in a workshop of any kind. He not only found it to be useful but also said that he would like to attend more such workshops when an opportunity arises. Seeing the change that the workshop brought to him and his fellow participants, Santosh feels strongly that more people in his neighbourhood should participate in the program. 


As the monsoon approached this year, he ensured that he stocked up on materials which he could use in case of a flood. These were insights he got from the workshop. 


The biggest benefit he has experienced from the training is that he no longer feels scared about his house flooding. He is aware that such a calamity might occur in the future but he feels better equipped and more confident to deal with such a situation. He feels strongly that others can also benefit by participating in the training.

 “I feel more confident about taking care of myself and my parents if there is another flood. My last experience when my house flooded was very scary and I do not want to have such an experience ever again ”

Santosh MC.

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