By Rotary Service and Engagement staff
Environmental disasters can strike without warning, leaving people injured and without safe homes, food, or water. Organizations specializing in disaster response and recovery take a leadership role in coordinating community-level responses to offer timely support to survivors across the continuum: from immediate response to long-term recovery.
Partnerships are essential to supporting communities with disaster response and recovery. By working together, organizations can pool their resources – including information and expertise – to provide a more comprehensive and coordinated response.
This was the case in Honduras in 2020, when hurricanes Eta and Iota hit the country, causing widespread damage to at least five percent of the country’s 1.8 million housing units during the global Coronavirus crisis. In response to this crisis, a collaboration was formed between ShelterBox, Habitat for Humanity International, Habitat for Humanity Honduras, local Rotary and Rotaract members, and several local government agencies to provide disaster relief. The project plan implemented by ShelterBox, Habitat, and local Rotary and Rotaract members provides key learnings and a sample roadmap as clubs consider their role in future disaster response projects.
The project strategy prioritized three outcomes:
- The safe and dignified return of affected communities
- The rehabilitation of infrastructure and community facilities, keeping in mind gender, age, disability, and other important factors
- Housing solutions to support communities residing in uninhabitable areas
The first phase of the collaboration focused on providing emergency shelter kits, building materials, training, and technical advice to help families repair or rebuild their homes. It also included the relocation of some families to safer areas.
The damage and needs assessments were conducted by the Honduran Government’s Office of Risk Management and National Contingencies, with support from the Honduran Red Cross and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Communities were selected with the support of local governments based on the greatest need for temporary housing identified in the damage and needs assessment. Households were selected based on need and likely feasibility of using shelter kits as intended and in a secure location.
Defining roles and responsibilities
The organizations recognized and defined their complementary strengths into contributions:
- ShelterBox was capable of providing equipment and aid, organizing international logistics, and providing digital training and technical support.
- Habitat for Humanity led the implementation of the response identifying the need, delivering training, executing distributions, and post-distribution monitoring activities.
- Local Rotary and Rotaract members would offer their community networks and resources, and longer-term recovery support after the initial response phases concluded.
Implementation included the distribution of aid items. Households received emergency shelter kits (comprised of tarpaulins and tools) to repair damaged houses or set up temporary shelters. They also received technical guidance on how to use the shelter kits. Families living in high-risk areas prone to flooding were relocated to safer places and received transitional shelters that later became permanent.
Community leaders helped select participants, engage the selected communities, and distribute kits. The approach included community visits, which were adjusted for each of the municipalities, including measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Prior to shelter kit distribution, selected community members were trained and then further replicated the training in their communities.
Direct communication with the affected community took place during training sessions and when kits were delivered. Indirect communication was also carried out through community leaders who socialized in more detail with each of the participant families.
Material and supply
The shelter kits were brought from Panama, where ShelterBox had prepositioned aid in a regional warehouse. The metal sheets and timber for the roofing were bought locally.
The three partnering organizations actively coordinated with other humanitarian actors, including the Emergency Shelter Coordination Board, and Municipal Emergency Committees, to reach those in need and avoid duplicating efforts. This coordination helped to enhance the response by ensuring that all necessary resources were available to those affected by the disaster.
Links with recovery
The emergency response phase followed the global housing network-designed approach, which is a holistic view that focuses on equipping affected families with the resources they need to rebuild their lives in a safe and sustainable way. This approach considers their short, medium, and long-term needs, and it includes activities such as providing emergency shelter, reducing risk factors, and supporting the development of permanent housing solutions.
Outcomes and wider impacts
The response phase involved several municipal governments and NGOs, coordinated collaboration with distributions, and transportation logistics, which set up a positive basis for any future response needed.
Assessing and analyzing the outcomes of the response helped the three organizations, and the broader network of involved organizations and agencies, identify strengths and weaknesses in this approach.`
- Defining each partner’s role and expectations for collaboration was a critical first step in laying the groundwork for a successful joint intervention.
- Developing strategies and building relations to facilitate the process of long-term recovery, including housing and settlement solutions, is critical for a holistic approach to the community’s health, prosperity, and independence.
The delivery of goods was delayed due to logistics issues. Issues brought about by global logistics challenges during the early stages of the coronavirus crisis.
- Organizations like Rotary can help reduce project costs and intervention times. Rotary and Rotaract members can also provide valuable information on pre-existing needs and the relief distribution system.
- Signing a Memorandum of Understanding before implementing a project can help to ensure a smooth and efficient start.
- Local volunteer support, like that from Rotary and Rotaract members, is invaluable in disaster response efforts.
- Prepositioning supplies in advance can help to mitigate supply shortages.
- Involving participant families in the response process can lead to more sustainable solutions.
The recommendations for improving future disaster response and recovery projects include:
- Inducting all project team members on humanitarian minimum standards and ensuring they are upheld.
- Providing additional training to implementers on distributions and to partners and participants on how to better locate shelters.
- Providing letters of guidance to local governments that prohibit the politicization of aid and encourage community and civil society partnerships to avoid such politicization.
- Enhancing logistics tracking, incorporating diminished warehousing capacities due to COVID-19, and considering deploying international logistics specialists.
The collaboration between ShelterBox, Habitat for Humanity, and local Rotary and Rotaract members in Honduras showcased the immense potential of collaborative disaster response efforts. By embracing a community-centered, adaptable, and partnership-driven approach, this project serves as an inspiring example, demonstrating how collective action can build resilience and help communities thrive in the face of adversity. Together, we can be better prepared and more effective in our mission to respond to disasters and support those in need.