How Concern approaches disaster risk reduction

March 20, 2020

Life is unpredictable, especially in the world’s poorest and most fragile places. While we can’t predict the unpredictable, we can prepare for it. Here are 7 key principles of Concern’s approach to disaster risk reduction.

Concern is unique as a dual-mandate organization — meaning that we respond to both immediate emergencies while also focusing on longer-term development that will help communities lift themselves out of poverty and live fulfilling lives. 

As such, disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a fundamental aspect of our work. And while we keep the UNDRR’s Sendai Framework in mind, we also have our own core approaches to DRR. Here are 7 key principles of Concern’s approach to disaster risk reduction. 

1. Risk is a main contributor to poverty

The cycle of poverty runs on risk, and all communities that Concern works with are prone to different degrees of disaster risk. If our development work is going to help with communities being more sustainable and lifting themselves out of extreme poverty, then we have to also do our best to offset the humanitarian emergencies that can throw development work off track. All Concern programs incorporate some degree of disaster risk reduction. 

2. Understand the range of hazards

Hazards are the building blocks of risk, and any event with the potential to cause damage or harm is a hazard. This includes conflict, climate change and — because these hazards often feed into one another — it also includes the complex emergencies that can arise from the combination of these or other challenges. Understanding how each individual hazard may affect a community, along with how they work together, is essential to having an effective response to risk. 

3. Focus on specific vulnerability

Concern may not always specifically target the extreme poor, but the impact of our work must benefit the poorest and most vulnerable. Vulnerability is complex and unique to different countries, regions, communities, and even families. Because of this, we always listen first and gain an understanding of a community’s specific needs and challenges so that we can tailor our work to the needs that are identified. 

4. Give equal attention to catastrophic and everyday risk

Not all risks are created equal, either, but it’s important to place equal emphasis on responding to both catastrophes — like earthquakes, floods, or droughts that often require emergency humanitarian aid — and the more “everyday” risks that may be smaller in scale but, over time, deplete community assets. In these cases, rather than bringing in emergency aid, we can focus on household- and community-level development programs that build resilience, like conservation agriculture or keyhole gardens to offset hunger risk.

A woman farmer in Malawi with her maize crop

Esime Jenaia, a Lead Farmer for conservation Agriculture, at her home in Chituke village, Mangochi, Malawi. Concern has been carrying out Conservation Agriculture programming in Malawi since 2012, with the assistance of Accenture Ireland.

5. Part of DRR must respond to climate change

Climate change not only increases the negative impact when hazard and vulnerability collide, but it also does so at a higher level for some of the most vulnerable communities. The effects of the climate crisis are felt most keenly in many of the countries where Concern works. In 2020, we’ve come to accept that we can’t halt climate change entirely, but we can increase the number of communities with a response plan, foster international cooperation, and plan multi-hazard warning systems that take climate threats into account. 

6. And part of DRR must respond to conflict

Conflict may not be a natural disaster, but it is a common hazard in many of the countries where Concern works. Like climate change, it is a key cause of global poverty. While ending conflict on a global scale would be one way of ensuring that we can end poverty, our work reducing the risk of disasters in the meantime also includes work to reduce the death, economic loss, and infrastructural damage of conflict. The scale and level of conflict also affects our type of response. 

A woman tends to a garden in South Sudan

To improve access to food security and diet diversity, South Sudanese women in Mother to Mother Support Groups are supported with vegetable seeds and provided with technical support to establish and maintain sack gardens. The gardens allow mothers/caregivers to prepare a nutrient-rich diet for their family amid ongoing conflict. Photo: Michael Mulpeter

7. Responding to disasters is not part of DRR — but preparing for response is

Preparedness for Effective Emergency Response (PEER) is Concern’s internal process to make sure we’re ready, willing, and able to mount speedy and effective emergency responses in all of our countries of operation. (And we’re able to jump in quickly and confidently thanks in large part to our community of monthly donors.) While responding to emergencies when they do arise isn’t part of DRR, having a plan in place for those responses is — for Concern as well as the communities and governments we work with. 

You can help us reduce risk

Life is unpredictable, especially in the world’s poorest and most fragile places. While we can’t predict the unpredictable, we can prepare for it, and there’s a simple way for you to give us an extra push: Join Concern as a monthly giver. 

From Cyclone Idai to the protracted Syrian conflict, we have been able to respond quickly and confidently only because of a strong, reliable core of financial support — one that renews itself every month. It’s the same reason we’re able to work in places like Haiti or the Central African Republic, where millions are suffering outside of the view of news cameras. We can go where the need is greatest because we know we don’t have to go it alone. You’re with us.

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