The vagaries of nature have taken their toll on the people of Northeast India. Prominent among the natural disasters that afflict this region are devastating floods and landslides. It is a question of life and death for ordinary citizens. Every year, states like Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Meghalaya are in the news for these floods and the humanitarian crisis which often follows such events.
In order to mitigate the impact of these floods, States and organisations working on the ground must respond fast and offer the necessary relief. One of those organisations working on the ground working towards this end is the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) India, a non-profit, which operates in coordination with important disaster relief agencies of the government and local charities.
CAF India coordinates relief efforts with the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) and the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) of the affected States. It also works with Sphere India, a national coalition dedicated to humanitarian efforts, which includes the Indian government, international and national non-government agencies, NGO networks and UN agencies working in the country.
In the event of a flood, these inter-agency bodies formulate something called the Joint Rapid Needs Assessment, which allows relief agencies to focus on fulfilling immediate relief requirements. The decision of the State government on the intensity of the disaster aids the process of formulating an immediate response, while the respective DDMAs support ground implementation.
“Post-disaster crisis always demands humanitarian response as it is sometimes beyond the capacity of the local community and administration. With various NGO partners on the ground, CAF India works towards providing safe drinking water, food, shelter, medicines and hygiene kits to the community. In the past, we have reached interior areas like Lenglui district of Mizoram and Golaghat district of Assam and offered the necessary relief,” said Manoj K Dash, team leader of the Humanitarian Response arm of CAF India.
These relief efforts aren’t possible without substantial funds, which CAF receives from major companies. Under the new rules set by the government, identified companies have to spend a portion of their profits for social development-related activities that fall under the domain of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
“We are humbled by the response that we received from our corporate partners to support relief and rehabilitation programs. In fact, the last few years have seen a rise in CSR spend towards Northeast. Though it is heartening, a greater push for more funding is needed given the scale of development challenges the region faces,” says Meenakshi Batra, CEO, CAF India.
Thus far, CAF India has managed to attract a total amount of Rs 45,50,806 from CSR-related contributions for relief from floods and landslides in the Northeast for 2017.
“As part of our CSR Strategy, CWT India is keen to support and work on rehabilitation of areas affected by natural disasters. Also, while choosing to spend for such causes our motto is to ensure the well-being of people and sustainable development of that place,” said Sunita S Menon, Senior Director of Human Resources at Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) India.
Other companies involved in CAF India’s relief endeavours include Herbalife Nutrition, Barclays, Symantec, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Aviva, among other firms.
CAF India manages the humanitarian response through identifying valid local charity partners, documentation of relief requirements, monitoring how the fund the spent and grant management, besides reporting and communicating the same to their corporate sponsors. Companies, meanwhile, designate their respective CSR department heads, and they assess provisioning relief and rehabilitation packages, approaches and methodology used in identifying beneficiaries, besides field monitoring and volunteer’s engagements in the distribution (of family kits) process.
Under their flood relief operations, each affected family is provided with a family kit comprising of essential amenities like a blanket, mosquito net, medicines, hygiene kit, food, solar lamp and tarpaulin sheet.
When Assam was struck by devastating floods last year, the family of Champa Doley, a widowed old woman from the Mising tribal community in Golaghat district, Assam, endured serious hardships. The family depends on a meagre income, which is generated from seasonal cultivation. Her son and his wife also work as daily wage labourers on agricultural farms in nearby villages to supplement their income. Champa suffers from chronic illnesses, and CAF India and their local non-profit partners in the district stepped in with a family kit, besides delivering the medicines she so desperately required.
“The CAF India family kit has helped us manage our basic requirements and hunger,” said Champa Doley at a local distribution camp.
There are many challenges in implementing relief and rehabilitation initiatives across remote villages. Among the most prominent challenges, CAF India faces are the transportation of relief materials to the village with roads and other modes of transportation often compromised during natural disasters, dealing with local administrations, and ensuring seamless communication with and between the community members. CAF India is working with government agencies towards finding new ways in overcoming these challenges.
How does it ensure that the funds meant for flood relief reach the affected?
The process begins at the village-level with the formation of VDCs (Village Development Committees) to oversee this process. In addition, CAF India conducts a baseline survey with information about every household, among other checks and balances.
Besides relief efforts, CAF India is also involved with rehabilitation projects in flood-affected areas. In partnership with Symantec, the non-profit sought to restore the livelihood of the worst flood-affected families and improve disaster preparedness in two villages of Lunglei district of Mizoram.
Ultimately, measures pertaining to flood relief are the responsibility of the State, Central government and district authorities.
Where do organisations like CAF India fit in?
Norms established by the State Disaster Response Funds often generalise the entitlements to affected families, without taking care of the specific needs during and after the disaster.
Organizations like CAF India believe they add strength to relief and rehabilitation efforts with adequate information and better coordination with key stakeholders.
Can companies do more for such causes?
“Yes, the corporates can take up greater steps and can do many more things in ensuring better relief, rehabilitation and preparedness on the disaster risk reduction initiatives for the community,” says a member of the CAF India team working on the ground.
“Corporates can further take up long-term responsibility for the most vulnerable pockets of Northeastern states, along with local authorities.”