Everyday Disasters and Everyday Heroes

Submitted by Malin Lindgren | published 9th Jun 2015 | last updated 13th May 2019

Introduction

Frontline: A programme that uniquely finds out from local people what threats they face

Billions of people across the world at the Frontline of disasters face the everyday reality of multiple threats of all kinds, both extraordinary and everyday, impacting their lives and livelihoods. Many of these threats are poorly understood or documented. Local communities are often left to deal with the threats through self organisation and self reliance. The communities develop detailed local knowledge of threats, their consequences, the capacities they have to address them and the barriers of underlying risk factors they face. This knowledge is the starting point for action at all levels – local, national and global – understanding and strengthening the resilience of communities; enabling communities and households to protect and enhance their lives, livelihoods and assets. Frontline is uniquely able to gather and share this knowledge. 

Frontline context: the realities the programme addresses

• Substantial local level losses are from everyday disasters.
• People learn how to manage inter-related environmental, social, economic and political threats.
• Local communities are the first to respond and possess detailed experiential risk knowledge of these threats, their consequences, capacities and barriers.

Frontline: gathering local risk knowledge

• Local knowledge of all threats, everyday and extraordinary
• Supporting and strengthening local action and learning to build resilience
• Analysing data based on local realities to provide risk knowledge and complementary monitoring to feed into policy development at local, national and global level
• Resilience focus based on local realities, encompassing Risk reduction, Sustainable development and Climate Adaptation.

 

The challenge: Everyday disasters

Picture from report. Click to enlarge.

Over 50% of disaster losses are forgotten; unrecorded, unacknowledged, unsupported. On the brink of launching a new UN framework for reducing disasters this is a disturbing statistic. Few of these disasters are recognised and recorded in the official statistics. We need a reality check and remember these forgotten disasters – not just those that make media headlines – and shape legislation, policy and action to tackle them. The Frontline programme is developed to support this.

This is the stark finding from a Frontline study spanning the whole of Latin America. If the same is true globally it presents a huge challenge. It found that when people at the 'frontline' – in disaster-affected communities – are consulted, time and again they report that the biggest disaster impacts come from localised 'everyday disasters'; for example floods that damage their businesses, health and education, pollution damaging their environment, farming and drinking water, crime taking away posessions and livelihoods. They are largely unreported, uninsured, do not attract national government attention or unlock external financial assistance. In reality the majority of people most affected by disasters bear the cost of multiple inter-related risks
 in a complex, fast changing, uncertain and impoverished environment. Pressure on livelihoods, health and well-being is increased by factors such as crime, violence, insecurity, corruption and government failures, extreme price volatility and income disparity, climate change and environmental mismanagement. Affected communities have little choice but to take responsibility for the security and protection of their lives, livelihoods and assets.

A priority for reducing the impact of forgotten disasters on people living at the frontline is to engage and support civil society organisations such as GNDR's members who can play a vital bridge-building role at local, national and international levels. The Frontline programme is developed to support this.

 

Picture from report. Click to enlarge.

The Frontline Methodology: understanding everyday disasters and resilience

Frontline starts with individual conversations with the holders of local knowledge about risk and resilience: community members, leaders, civil society organisation representatives and local government officers. Each conversation is based on four basic questions:

  • Threats: What are the threats you face in your community? Frontline studies highlight many threats of environmental, social, economic and political origins, for example storms, floods, fires, landslides, earthquakes, crime and violence, pollution, conflict and poverty.
  • Consequences: What impacts do these threats have on the lives and livelihoods of you, your household and your community? At local level these threats have consequences on lives and livelihoods: education, health, family stability, social cohesion and local business for example.
  • Actions: What capacity do you and your community have to take action against these threats? Frontline respondents highlight community coordination and self-organisation, action and learning, partnerships, strengthening local governance, and access to resources as the main means of building local resilience.
  • Barriers: What factors beyond your control lead to these threats? Unplanned and unmanaged development at national and local level; poor planning, short term business decision-making, poor infrastructure, economic decisions and political instability all generate threats which have to be tackled beyond local level.

From one conversation to many:

What is unique about Frontline is its ability to gather the thousands of individual conversations together through a qualitative analysis methodology: analysing what people say, combining local knowledge at local, national and even global level.

  • Local: At local level the consultations form the basis for community consultation and reflection, resulting in action plans, encouraging wider dialogue and partnerships and supporting local implementation.
  • National and Global: Frontline employs qualitative analysis, working with words rather than numbers, to combine the many records of conversations together and analyse this data. The analysis allows the many individual conversations to be gathered together as local risk knowledge; informing local and national government implementation and providing complementary local monitoring and accountability.

Frontline Findings

Frontline shares knowledge gathered from thousands of conversations. These findings can be accessed interactively at the Frontline interactive data platform.

Many people have already contributed to Frontline conversations. Over 12000 conversations have been recorded in Latin America and the programme is now spreading to other countries in Africa and Asia. The results from the pilot studies in Central America are summarized in the pictures below. 

Learning from local reality in Central America - Floods. Picture from report. Click to enlarge.

Learning from local reality in Central America - everyday threats. Picture from report. Click to enlarge.

Beyond 2015: Local monitoring with Frontline

Frontline will establish frameworks and baselines during 2015-2016 as a basis for ongoing monitoring. Local impact is a critical measure of progress in these frameworks being established in 2015 and beyond. The assessment provided by Frontline provides a unique and valuable perspective drawn from local experience and reality of those at the Frontline. 

Frontline national and global databases provide local level 'grounded indicators'. The term 'grounded' indicates that they are drawn from real life, rather than from an external framework. The Frontline grounded indicators assess the resilience of respondents at community, locality, national and regional level. These grounded resilience indicators can be used to assess progress of all frameworks concerned with strengthening resilience; in particular the post-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action on Disaster Risk Reduction, Sustainable Development Goals and indicators of Climate Change Adaptation.

The diagram shows how Frontline form the basis for assessment. Picture from report. Click to enlarge.