The context of this Inquiry lies within the PRCS' quest to identify realistic and effective disaster preparedness directions, which would enable it to provide appropriate services to the public and to clarify its own role, locally and nationally. This is important in the light of recent experiences in Turkey where the TRCS was left in a position of trying to live up to unrealistic expectations, with reference to its role and capacities in meeting them. Whilst a National Committee exists for Disaster, it became apparent that each discipline was planning in isolation, and that an integrated National Plan did not exist. An integral part of preparing a National Plan is to first identify clearly the roles of each player, both locally and nationally. In order to begin this process, the PRCS decided to instigate a study aimed at defining its own role first, which may be helpful in providing direction for other participating agencies, to be able to review theirs.
Purpose / Objective
PRCS seeks to identify local community points of view in relation to real needs for disaster preparedness and ways of mitigating the impacts of disaster. In order to empower Ministries and Non-Governmental Organizations to plan and provide adequate services for the Palestinian community, practical roles need to be defined and a National Plan developed based on real available capacities.
We utilized community focus groups representing cities, villages and refugee camps within West Bank and Gaza. Twenty-two focus groups were facilitated involving the contribution of 429 people in which males, females, elderly and handicapped were represented. In order to ensure that all age groups were consulted in this study, art workshops were facilitated for children ranging from the age of 6 years to 14 years. In these workshops, children were invited to record their ideas of expected hazards, their effects and disaster preparedness in order to meet them. 113 children from all governorates north and south of West bank and Gaza participated.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted for Ministries and NGOs in which 44 representatives were interviewed. To support the qualitative information gathered from the local community through the focus groups, a quantitative checklist was designed relating to expected hazards and was based on a Likert Scale. Secondary data collected from primary and secondary sources was also consulted. Two information-gathering workshops were also conducted involving PRCS employees in West Bank and Gaza.
Key Findings and Conclusions
The results of the study showed that political conflict, water shortages and environmental pollution were perceived to be the most significant disasters currently affecting the Palestinian people. The study also showed that earthquake was considered a significant potential threat. The most vulnerable groups in disaster were defined as women, children, the elderly and disabled persons. The Palestinian community is currently suffering from lack of water, water pollution and drought that needs urgent attention. The expectations of the local community for the role of Ministries and NGOs, based on their experiences of their needs, appear realistic.
The study also indicated that the Palestinian community has technical and human capacities to assist in the development of a National Disaster plan to meet the hazards through preparedness. This is supported by the fact that communities concentrated on preparedness now rather than dealing with events during disaster. There is a need to integrate local community in identifying needs. They need to participate in the planning process in order to mitigate the impact of disaster and facilitate meeting their own needs. Volunteers are a major capacity in the area of Disaster Preparedness. Local community capacities could be utilized for prevention and preparedness.
The clear message emerging from this study is that the optimum approach to meeting the hazards is cooperation and coordination. It acknowledges that no institution alone can meet the human and material capacities needed to deal effectively with disaster. However, there is no clear plan for the country, as a whole, and coordinated National Planning does not currently exist. Disaster Preparedness as a concept or plan is not on the agenda for national organizations because of the political situation, which creates different priorities. There is a lack of specialized personnel, coordination, money and materials. There are capacities in materials, information and human resources that could be utilized and benefited from. Ministries and NGOs are very willing to cooperate in defining their roles in developing future programs.
The geographical distribution of Palestine has led to a gap in managing programs, especially in preventive and tracing programs. Through the VCA study, Ministries and NGOs need to develop specific programs for disaster preparedness -- identifying responsible sections of their organization and implementing them.
The following list of recommendations is a general compilation of the opinions of all groups:
- Promote the role of PRCS and establish centers for volunteering, especially among women and youth, in the field of community awareness
- Establish community-based initiatives to strengthen infrastructures and DP in the home
- Establish links and find coordinating mechanisms, internationally
- Establish criteria for institutions, as indicators for action, before disaster occurs
- Give priority in development needs to remote and deprived areas, and to those that are on confrontation lines
- Highlight the role of the army and the media in disaster
- Highlight the role of preventive health in the prevention of disease in disaster
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Occupied Palestinian Territory
Palestine Red Crescent Society