Malaysia

Empowering communities through disaster preparedness

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KUNDANG, SELANGOR, 21 APRIL 2019... Riddled by problems of flash floods and rapid development, close to 200 villages from the local community of Kundang, Selangor, attended a full-day Disaster Risk Reduction programme organised by MERCY Malaysia today. The workshop, sponsored by Mah Sing Foundation and jointly organised with the Selangor Disaster Management Unit and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia's Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Centre (UTM-DPCC), involve activities to protect communities from potential hazards, and minimise their vulnerability to disaster risks.

"The Kundang River Basin is an important watershed passing through several main villages. In the recent years, the river has experienced worsening floods that caused massive destruction of infrastructure and properties in the area," explained Ahmad Fairuz Yusof, Head of Selangor Disaster Management Unit.

In 2017, flash floods and landslides at Bandar Baru Kundang even damaged some major roads, causing temporary closure that affected almost 400 houses in the surrounding vicinity.

In this opening address, state assemblyman of Kuang, Tuan Sallehudin Bin Amiruddin, described the workshop as a timely intervention. "With climate change and unpredictable weather, it is important for the local community to be prepared all year round, not just during rainy season," he added.

Disaster Risk Management is a fairly new concept in Malaysia, although it is already a well-established industry in developed countries. The programme in Kundang, known as a Community-based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) initiative, involve understanding disaster risk and the importance of community involvement, especially in galvanizing assistance, existing capacities and local resources.

"Essentially, Disaster Preparedness aims to reduce loss of lives and personal property, as well as build resilience to recover faster following a disaster," said Hafiz Amirrol, Head of MERCY Malaysia's Building Resilient Communities department.

Workshop participants were guided on how to map out local hazards that pose risks and identify available resources around the area. The session ended with a Village Watching exercise, which resulted in the establishment of a disaster action plan and Community Disaster Risk Management Committee created by the local community.

"It may sound simple, but people need to know who is the first person to call, and what to do next. What they learnt will empower them to be able to help themselves and their community in the event of a disaster," concludes Hafiz.

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