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Factors that help local communities rebuild after a disaster

When a disaster first hits, the emergency draws much attention. There are lives to save, and the first hours and days are crucial. However, after the disaster passes, communities are left in ruin. Often, relief agencies go, and funding dwindles once the situation becomes stable. But locals need to rebuild their homes and recover after the disaster for much longer. So how can humanitarians support local communities to rebuild after a disaster? Here are a few factors that can help. 

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Community cohesion 

It’s best to begin thinking about disaster recovery before it happens. So, building community cohesion early on is essential. In many places around the world, this is something that occurs naturally. Residents know each other very well and have strong community ties.

However, there are some exceptions. For example, new urban communities relocated neighborhoods or areas with many newcomers may not have much community cohesion. The presence of violence and insecurity can also be a hindrance. In these cases, humanitarians need to design strategies to help communities come together before and after disasters.

Disaster resilience 

In line with community cohesion, disaster resilience is something that local people can build over time. We can often see this in areas where disaster strikes regularly. Locals will have strategies and approaches to respond to an emergency, which date back to old times. These techniques help them to cope.

Today, disaster resilience can take on many forms. But it all comes down to the community’s ability to rebound after a disaster. Building resilience is no easy process and requires active community engagement and contextualization. However, it is a long-lasting and sustainable way to ensure locals can rebuild after a disaster.

Proper needs assessment 

After a hurricane, typhoon, earthquake, or any other disaster, communities require much help. As such, it may be difficult to prioritize what is most important. A proper needs assessment is essential to help locals rebuild after a disaster.

Sometimes, it can be challenging to assess amid the chaos that follows a disaster. However, without it, it is hard to allocate resources where they are needed most efficiently. So, humanitarians must remember to include this step to understand how they can help.

Community engagement 

Humanitarians do incredible work. However, they cannot do it alone. They need the local community to participate and engage with the projects, for these to be successful. Unfortunately, this often doesn’t happen, resulting in poor allocation of resources and energy.

At all stages of disaster recovery and rebuilding, you need to involve the community actively. After all, they know their needs, wants, and will continue to live in the community after the humanitarian workers leave.

Building back better 

One rule of thumb is that it is best to make something better after a disaster. The bad thing that happens can be an opportunity to improve living conditions in a community. Of course, this concept circles back to community engagement. While it is tempting to introduce new and modern aspects when rebuilding, the locals should deem these useful and necessary before doing so.

Rebuilding local economies

Another factor that’s important in rebuilding communities after a disaster goes beyond the infrastructure. The economy has also likely suffered, and families need to re-establish their livelihoods. That’s why many humanitarian projects include an economic component.

This could be cash transfers, livelihoods revitalization, introducing new economic opportunities, and so on. The important part is to ensure that locals have the autonomy and dignity to manage their resources, thus rebuilding their economy.

Mental health support 

Witnessing a large-scale disaster can be devastating. If there are casualties involved, individuals, families, and communities may face severe psychological trauma. So, humanitarians must also address the psychosocial well-being of locals. This will help them to push forward and rebuild.

Efficient use of funds 

Last but not least, humanitarians have the responsibility to use all funds efficiently and effectively. There is often a substantial influx of funding right after a disaster. However, the money tends to dry up as the emergency gets less and fewer media coverage. So, it’s essential to plan interventions well and direct resources to where they are needed most.

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