In 2008, the worst flooding in 50 years ravaged communities right across Bihar state. As ever, it was the poorest who were hardest hit.
Dalit and tribal communities, both of whom face discrimination and exclusion because of their place in society, bore the brunt.
Forced to survive in a makeshift camp for three months, Durgi and her family returned to nothing. Every home in her village was flattened.
Durgi Devi maps the contours of the village, helping identify her community’s priorities in reducing risk to future disasters
Six years on, coping with extreme and erratic weather patterns that repeatedly ruin crops and endanger lives is an ongoing predicament. The struggle to thrive and lead a dignified life persists.
With your support and funds from the UK Government’s Programme Partnership Arrangement, our partners are helping the most marginalised communities in India, who are affected by frequent and increasingly severe disasters.
Together we're building their resilience so that they can bounce back better when the next crisis strikes.
Supported by our partner, Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA), Durgi’s community have learnt about climate change and the importance of being prepared to cope with disasters.
‘Before this there was nothing, no information - not even the government came to talk to us,’ explains Durgi.
Having been guided through a mapping exercise of the village to identify where they are most vulnerable and why, it was the community who identified that roads needed to be repaired and there was a shortage of cooking fuel.
They also highlighted how lack of land ownership meant feeding themselves was a constant worry.
The villagers know better than anyone what they need to improve their lives. But all too often, communities like theirs are ignored.
Now, with support from CASA, they're more aware of their rights, and have the confidence and courage to speak out.
‘Now I feel I shouldn’t be so weak in expressing myself.'
They're petitioning local government, holding them to account on issues concerning roads and land.
Thanks to CASA, community members have also received climate resistant seeds, while others have benefitted from smokeless ovens.
Not only are the ovens safer - reducing the risk of fires and burns - they significantly ease the burden on women, as less wood and dung needs to be collected.
Safe places to shelter
Crucially, emergency task force groups have also been established. Teams of trained villagers perform a valuable service to the rest of the community.
While some teams identify the best evacuation routes, establish safe places to shelter and ensure the sick, elderly and most vulnerable are prioritised, others oversee the distribution of relief supplies and liaise with local partners and government officials.
Crucially, there is also an information team that updates the community on the situation and what action to take.
Durgi believes her community is now better prepared to face the challenges that disaster brings.
‘It gives me strength,’ she explains. ‘Now I feel I shouldn’t be so weak in expressing myself.’
Find out more
Philippines: stories from Typhoon Ketsana
Pakistan: after the floods
Haiti: after the earthquake
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