India: Andhra Pradesh Relief to Development Projects

In August 2009, Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) completed its three year Andhra Pradesh Relief to Development (APR2D) Project which stemmed from the devastating South Asian tsunami of December 2004 that claimed close to 200,000 lives and wiped out homes, livelihoods and infrastructure.

In the wake of the tsunami, Canadians rallied to assist those who had been affected. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and FOCUS Canada mobilized funds to support relief, and created a foundation for the rehabilitation of 15 particularly vulnerable communities in the tsunami-affected area. The APR2D project eventually reached over 4,000 families in 15 affected communities of the Krishna district, helping improve the ability to cope in times of disaster.

The aim of this project was to strengthen the capacities of communities at the local level to prepare, mitigate, prevent and respond to natural and man-made disasters. The project also aimed to reduce vulnerability from health and hygiene risks, establish partnerships with key stakeholders and disseminate knowledge and best practices while enhancing gender equality in the area.

At the core of the project's disaster management and mitigation strategy was the creation of community-based organizations that employed an inclusive, participatory approach to sustainable solutions. These organizations were critical in shaping and implementing initiatives that would best serve the needs of the affected communities.

Several AKDN agencies, including Focus Humanitarian Assistance, Aga Khan Planning and Building Services and Aga Khan Foundation, collaborated on this project, each bringing expertise and experience to bear on the challenges of working in a remote and resource-challenged area.

The positive impact of activities implemented during the APR2D project became evident in the community's response to torrential rains that caused flooding in October 2009. The newly trained community emergency response teams and community-based organizations were activated. Local communities were able to use the new skills and knowledge they had acquired through the trainings and interventions organized by the APR2D project.

A decrease in the community's vulnerability was also observed, owing to the infrastructure developed by the project such as, cyclone shelters, early warning systems, village-based stockpiles and the 5.75 km evacuation road. The two-way, early-warning radio system, for example, was used to create awareness of the disaster in the surrounding villages. Stockpiled items amassed during the APR2D project, including life jackets, life buoys, tents and community cooking containers, were used to aid displaced families.

Mr. Vishwanath Palli Venkateshwarao, an elder of the Zinkapalem village, expressed his appreciation to the DART members for the AKDN agencies' assistance. He thanked them for their help in "constructing a pond which replenished the storm water", and remarked that knowledge and the availability of "very high-frequency (VHF) radios ensured that we had news of the impending flood well in advance. The stockpiles were used to provide food and clothing and the AKDN road has ensured that livelihood activities were not disrupted".

In addition, FOCUS' Disaster Assessment and Response Team (DART) was deployed to conduct an assessment drill of the affected area. The drill provided an opportunity for the DART to gain hands-on experience in conducting assessments as well as provide FOCUS with an evaluation of the impact of the APR2D project. Following the assessment of the area, the DART developed an Emergency Response plan for the affected villages in the Krishna District, which has now been passed onto local organizations for implementation.