Why Private Sector Engagement in Disaster Management is Important

Project: Shifting The Power 12th September 2017

The impacts of natural disasters is devastating to business operation and sustainability. Tropical disaster has a great impact on agriculture and rural infrastructures such as shelter, sanitation, drinking water, electricity supplies and transportation services. The post disaster statistics gave a clear message that it causes huge damages not only to livelihoods but also to business structures like rural roads, dams, embankments and, of course, loss of life.

One of the key aspect of the disaster management cycle is disaster risk reduction to mitigate loss in the country. We usually think of disaster preparedness and response as the responsibility of government but the recent disaster in Haor (wetland), Bangladesh once again reminded us that disaster impact is not only affecting poor people’s livelihoods but is also a threat for business growth.

Thus the inescapable fact is that the private sector have a critical role to play in building more resilient business specifically, private companies should contribute by developing technologies and business models. Private sector should invest in building early warning and resilient infrastructure that is the key need for rural areas and cities.

We know technology is expanding rapidly in Bangladesh, nevertheless we do not have upgraded early warning system (monitoring intensity of rain, pressure of water) and operation capabilities in diverse context. Recent examples are land sliding in hill tracts in Bangladesh or flash flood in wetland. Also lack of data systems is leading us to bad decisions. Many examples from humanitarian trainees deployed in cyclone Mora affected areas and flash flood affected areas are testimony of unproductive response planning. We need technologies that link sensor networks, large-scale data analysis and communications systems to provide decision-makers with timely information to guide responses.

Highlight remarks of the Power Café, organised by NAHAB and supported by the DEPP Shifting the Power project:

Mr Shakeb Nabi, Country Director of Christian Aid and lead organisation of the DEPP Shifting the Power project emphasised that it is time to change the perception about the engagement of private sector in disaster and emergency response because building resilience to natural disasters is both a humanitarian mandate and an economic imperative.

Mr Suman Islam, Director, Humanitarian Leadership Academy emphasised the need for new financial models for continuous and resilient non-interrupted business growth.

Dr Ehsanur Rahman, Chair of NAHAB and Executive Director of Dhaka Ahsania Mission, stressed the need for continuous dialogue between NGOs, government and private sector for building the trust and strengthening joint humanitarian response approaches. Emphasising on the need for longer-term (recovery/rehabilitation) support to the affected people and community rather than providing one off emergency (relief) support.

Finally, the scale and challenges of disasters over the last few decades has left us with a clear message; that investment for resilience and disaster response is not just a philanthropic gesture but essential from a localisation point of view, humanitarian action planning can be a joint undertaking of NGOs and business communities based on their common fields (geographic and thematic) of interests. Systemic changes in the architecture of humanitarian actions can be explored through a joint planning process.


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