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Disaster Response: Engaging the Community in Nepal

Community involvement has been essential to Plan International USA's emergency reponse plan in Nepal.

The residents of earthquake-affected communities in Nepal were incredibly happy when they first saw trucks carrying emergency relief supplies. The trucks were loaded with basic and necessary items like food and tarpaulins.

Plan International launched its emergency response immediately after a devastating earthquake hit the country, which left thousands of people without homes or livelihoods.

Although immediate response was imperative, it was just the beginning of the recovery process for Plan and the communities in which it works. From the moment Plan began its response work, affected community members started to make suggestions on how to make the distribution process more effective.

The various recommendations, concerns, and feedback that came from the community were used to help the organization improve its delivery of supplies.

Since then, Plan has been actively engaging with community members as well as responding to their needs, which include providing food, shelter, education, protection, and job opportunities.

More than a year after the earthquake, Plan has established various mechanisms and activities to encourage people to get involved in the decision-making process to decide which programs and projects to implement next.

Various community engagement activities have been put in place, including regular community visits, monthly discussion forums, information sharing, program meetings, and coordination with other local organizations. Feedback on the emergency response program is also collected through surveys, suggestion boxes, texts, and emails.

Once collected, feedback is analyzed and categorized according to its significance before a response is given to the community. Text messages and emails are used to acknowledge receipt of people’s communications within 72 hours. Plan has also made good use of mobile technology to capture feedback. Smart phones and tablets give Plan staff and community members the means to record the reality of their situation, making community engagement more reliable.

As of June 2016, a total of 16,686 messages were collected from the communities, with each one recorded and responded to accordingly.

Greater accountability

All the feedback, suggestions, complaints, and praise shown by the community improves the quality of emergency response programs. By actively engaging with community members, Plan is increasing accountability. By being transparent, community members now have a greater understanding of the depth of programs and their overall benefits. Working with the community, villagers have taken ownership and are committed to their success.

“Community engagement helps us understand the community’s needs, enables us to respond in the correct manner, and motivates us to be proactive,” explains Plan International Nepal’s Deputy Earthquake Response Manager, Zinat Ara Begum.

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