Disaster Preparedness and Risk Management

 “Every one desires to belong, to have a family, an identity, and a culture to love and be loved back; that is what makes humanity meaningful. A lot of people work toward attaining a sense of belonging and that makes life a struggle worthy to take on. With hope, it becomes beautiful to work your life goals among people you call your own, a community you share a culture with and neighborsyou laugh and frown with and a geographical area you call your home identity. A wild you are familiar with, a flock you call your own, the true meaning of life. But when natural disasters hit… such is gone in a brief but harsh moment. Identities wash away, neighborhoods disappear, ancestral graveyards washed off and people die. Bodies disappear in rubble. Traditional sacred places vanish with the ruins. Birds and animals helplessly die. Like one abandoned in the middle of nowhere. So many years and generational struggles gone, all that is left is a life with no history and a dark tomorrow. Offering survivors, hope is the greatest package one could imagine, because it never goes, trauma never goes. But one just learns to live positively with it,” – Sheila Katzman, IAWRT-USA President


The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) sponsored a discussion on Community Media Models for Disaster Preparedness and Risk Management on International Platforms to complement the United Nations 63rdCommission on the Status of Women (CSW63) theme: Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Moderated by Frieda Werden, discussants with different disaster occurrence experiences and from different geographic location around the world shared and made recommendations on how community radio can help the community’s survival in times of disasters.

Jola Diones-Mamangun, (pic Right) head of the Philippines IAWRT chapter, crafted Narrowcast Radio in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. The notorious typhoon was a devastating disaster for the Philippines that left survivors without hope, fearful of the unknown and anxious.

Life after devastating disaster is empty, communities need to get together in one trusted voice to rebuild amidst anxiety and despair. Jola, under the IAWRT Disaster Preparedness Response, formed Narrowcast Radio to mobilize affected communities and create a trusted voice to talk and to listen to each other about their sharedexperiences after the disaster, how best they could work together to live again and how they could minimize the disaster effect during subsequent disasters. Despite challenges, the Narrowcast Radio, has slowly created positivity among typhoon survivors.

Olivia Tumanjong, formerly of IAWRT Cameroon, (pc above left) shared her experience with the role of community radio in disaster prone areas drawing examples from her home country. She says community radio is critical immediately after a disaster, but after a short while they face stiff competition from commercial radio stations, making it hard to break-ever and they are forced to close. This leaves communities helpless since they have nodirect control over so-called community radio and have no stake in the content aired.

This article’s author, Nankwanga Eunice Kasirye, from the Uganda chapter of IAWRT, (pc laft wth Josephne Karani Kenya Capter head) shared the need to revive traditional media of communications among communities for mobilization since modern media are abused by opportunists. Communities do not trust modern media because of the contradictions in their coverage. Traditional media, such as drumming, would easily speak to people and earn their trust in times of emergency.

Panelists also include Susan Raybuck of KWVH-LP/94.1 FM Wimberley Valley Radio, Texas. (above Right) Like the Philippine situation, this low-powered radio was set up in the aftermath of a national disaster. Memorial Day weekend floods destroyed over 400 homes, damaged hundreds more and eight people died in the major flooding disaster which spanned multiple countries.

“We’ve had two major emergencies in the past 18. People sleeping on the beach, air think and grey – the fire burnt out cell towers, the Internet, and phone. It was huge, huge, huge,” said panelist Peggy Berryhill of California in a video presentation about the Santa Rosa fires in California.

Mainstream media was giving misinformation, she said. It was the radio she founded that gave people information they needed to stay safe. Peggy is a Native American who founded The Native American Media Resource Center. She is a Muscogee Tribal member and an award-winning radio producer.

Sheila Katzman of IAWRT-USA explains that The CSW Commission compromises 40 UN Member Stateswho projected the CSW theme. She challenged the audience on the individual understanding of social protection floors in line with community disaster preparedness. Among audience responses was the need to prepare communities before disasters hit. Communities need to be educated in preparedness and not just concentrating on disaster’s after-effects. If communities are prepared in advance, they will be able to control the impact and the ability to rebuild lives afterwards.

Violet Gonda, of Zimbabwe and President of IAWRT, highlighted the Disaster Preparedness Response Radio Model as an IAWRT initiative to empower communities to participate in carving out their own pressing problems at the time, create their own medium of communication, and discuss possible solutions together for a way forward. Violet encouraged the audience to make use of IAWRT expertise in empowering their communities to build their own medium of communications to shield themselves fromthe adverse effects of disasters.

Finally, IAWRT Parallel Event on Community Media Models for Disaster Preparedness and Risk Assessment was the right thing to do at CSW63. Some 56 people attended the event which was, in itself, a qualitative discourse where intellect meets grassroots on the same playing field, with common interest goals in mind. Only days after the event, devastating cyclone destroyed entire village in Southern Africa: Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Mali. We are already thinking how Narrowcasting can help ease the trauma.