Sphere–Unified Response Strategy (URS) Preparedness Activities
The Sphere Group’s Unified Response Strategy (URS) was launched in 2006. UNICEF India, one of the lead members of Sphere India offered to support the concept design and pilot phase of the initiative, and is currently funding it. URS has aimed at establishing a system of unified response in humanitarian emergencies, including developing mechanisms, capacities and protocols for information sharing, pre-positioning, coordination and collaborated response in humanitarian emergencies. An operational URS should help provide rapid and equitable assistance to the disaster affected populations. Some of the major activities undertaken in the last few months are reported below.
Information sharing channel for the disaster response and management community especially the INGOS and NGO’s has been established through a Goggle mailing group. Currently there are 275 members across the country and about 67 messages have been posted. http://groups.google.com/group/Sphere-URS?hl=en
Regular Sphere-URS/Inter-Agency Group (IAG) meetings have taken place in the three pilot states of Assam, Bihar and Orissa during the months of January, March, April and May 2007. State level groups in Bihar and Assam have taken ownership of coordinated work and inter-agency activities. The URS/IAG platform in the pilot states has initiated the formation of State Level NGO Task Force in the states of Assam and Bihar.
The Sphere-URS website has been revamped. The new interactive website will have common assessment formats, checklist on various sectors, NGO mapping documents and other useful tool during emergencies posted for use by the INGO/NGO community: http://www.sphereindia-urs.org/.
Common assessment formats have been developed for wide use among the various IAG’s and NGO community. Assessment formats/checklist from 21 Sphere member organizations were collected, thoroughly studied and a common assessment format was developed. The common assessment format has two variants one, Rapid and another Detailed. Rapid Assessment format is brief ( two pages long) and has to be filled within 36 to 48 hrs of the incident, while the Detailed format has to be filled in within 72 to 96 hrs and is about 8 pages long. A Hindi and Assamese version of the common rapid assessment format is also available for members in Bihar and Assam respectively.
A district level GIS mapping of Puri district has also been completed with special focus to two high risk blocks namely, Kanas and Satyabadi. The GIS output is user friendly and data can be easily updated by non-IT/technical individuals.
Capacity Building: First batch of Sphere trainings has been conducted in Assam for local NGO’s. Second round of Sphere trainings will be conducted in the month of August in Assam and Bihar. The principal objective of these training is to create state-level Sphere peer-groups, which could carry forward the initiative to the other parts and levels.
IEC materials: Posters on Sphere Standards and URS (principles and good practices) are being printed and would be widely distributed in the month of July 2007.
Linkages with the Government: Relief Commissioner’s of the state of Assam and Orissa have been apprised about coordinated work approach and Inter-agency Group (IAG) activities. Linkages with NGO representatives in the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) of Assam have also been initiated.