In the week leading up to the National Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, which was observed on 29 October, Caritas India observed Awareness Week on Disaster Preparedness and Reduction. The organisation – with about five decades of experience in emergency aid, reconstruction and natural-resource management – reached out to over 95,000 people on Facebook to remind them of five simple points that they must remember in case of a disaster of any kind. The relevant content was extensively shared by relevant online communities and aware individuals. About 18,000 people directly engaged with Caritas India’s page – while some liked and shared its posts during the Awareness Week, many shared their views and experiences by starting discussions on the subject in the comments section.

Caritas also partnered CauseBecause to take this message to development-sector organisations as well as corporate social responsibility (CSR) arms of corporate groups through focused mailing campaigns. The mailing campaign, which coincidentally started on a day when Delhi/NCR experienced an earthquake, reached out to over 30,000 CauseBecause subscribers.

According to Debangshu Ganguly, country head, strategic partnerships, Caritas India, ‘In one of our researches, we found that people were using social mediums to share updates about disasters. The moment the earth shakes or some tragedy happens in any corner of the world, Facebook and Twitter are the first ones to tell you about the same.

‘Our team realised that the medium that people were using for sharing updates about disaster could also be used to make them aware about how to actually prepare for unforeseen tragedies and how a few small measures could help in reducing risks. In less than six days, we reached out to over 120,000 people, of whom about 20,000 directly engaged with our content – they liked, shared, commented, and forwarded. This is a significant number. Even if only half of them will remember the content that we shared, I believe the purpose of the campaign is met.’

Launches eco-based DRR programme

Caritas India launched an ecosystem-based Disaster Risk Reduction (‪‎DRR) programme on 30 October. Caritas will run this programme for two years and has engaged seven North India-based non-government organisation (NGO) partners for promoting and up-scaling climate-resilient practices in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.  

As per the Caritas view, the chosen states are fragile as far as disaster preparedness is concerned. The programme’s key tools include inclusive focus on ecology, renewable and alternative energy, and livelihood-based initiatives.  

‘We cannot prevent natural disasters, but we can certainly reduce loss of life and property. For that, we need to engage with local communities and encourage them to take ownership of the preparedness programmes that we run. Also, a well-balanced representation from the government and civil society will form the basis for the success of this programme,’ said Fr Frederick D’Souza, executive director, Caritas India.  

The programme was officially flagged off by Dinesh Agarwal, minister for environment and forests, Uttarakhand.