Harvard scorecard finds Bangladesh upazilas struggling in disaster preparedness & recovery

Massachusetts, USA—A resilience scorecard developed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and Concern Worldwide in 2019 found that most households in Sharonkhola and Mongla upazilas in Bagerhat District, Bangladesh were inadequately prepared for and would have difficulty recovering from the impacts of disasters.

Among the 462 heads of households who were surveyed in the two disaster prone upazilas or sub-districts, most reported that they were only slightly (54 percent) or not at all (39 percent) prepared to respond to a disaster in the near future. Most also acknowledged knowing only slightly (72 percent) how to prepare for a disaster if they received a warning and only a few (11 percent) had attended a disaster preparedness training or drill.

“Household-level data can contribute to the wellbeing of communities by providing evidence of the factors associated with resilience and those that impede it,” said HHI Resilient Communities program director Vincenzo Bollettino in a statement.

Lack of preparedness

The lack of preparedness of many residents was underscored by respondents’ believing that their own households are extremely vulnerable (50 percent) or very vulnerable (30 percent) to disasters, and that the disaster risk in their community was very high (47 percent) or high (39 percent). Most specifically thought that their house would not withstand a strong cyclone (65 percent). These perceptions were particularly pronounced among poorer and less-educated households in Sharonkhola.

In general, only five percent of households had a “go bag” that is vital for emergency evacuation. None of the respondents had any type of insurance that could essentially help them in post-disaster recovery.

In terms of specific action planning, few or 19 percent had discussed an emergency plan as a family or household. Only 15 percent had assigned roles for household members in case of a disaster, and only 30 percent of respondents had an identified place for evacuation.

Among those who received a warning before the most recent disaster, less than half of them actually decided or acted as needed. Poorer and less educated households more commonly reported taking action.

Of those who took action, most did to protect human life (97 percent) by preparing a first aid kit (86 percent). The most common actions taken to protect physical assets were tying the house roof to the ground (82 percent) and storing non-perishable food (65 percent). Despite them living in the southwest coastal zone of Bangladesh, no households reported securing livestock and poultry, or the safety of fish.

For those who did not take any actions, they said, they were not considering any actions as necessary (44 percent), they did not have enough warning time (33 percent), or they are lacking resources (26 percent).

Low recovery

Similar to their levels of preparedness, households in Sharonkhola and Mongla also had low levels of recovery and adaptation from disasters. 

Most felt only likely (61 percent) strong when facing a natural disaster. They also reported being only slightly (52 percent) or not at all (45 percent) able to deal with the aftermath of a disaster, and were only slightly able (65 percent) to adapt to changes caused by a disaster. Furthermore, most also admitted being unable (58 percent) to sustain themselves without post-disaster aid.

In terms of future disasters, most of them felt they would be only slightly able (55 percent) or totally unable (43 percent) to recover. Similarly, most felt slightly (50 percent) able to cope if they were cut off from services without warning.

Following the most recent disaster, most families had been able to recover slightly financially (60 percent), particularly in their household’s ability to resume a normal life and earn money. However, many or 36 percent still had not recovered at all financially.

Mental health impacts

The residents’ mental health has been also badly impacted by disasters. Most recounted feeling extremely (53 percent) discouraged, and being only slightly able (48 percent) to focus and think clearly during disasters. Similar in the past, they also thought that they could only slightly able (59 percent) to handle unpleasant feelings caused by disasters. Notably, the inability to control unpleasant feelings and extreme discouragement were more pronounced in poorer households.

Interestingly, most claimed that their experience with disasters have strengthened them, although most—especially those with less education— felt that disasters prevented them from achieving their goals extremely much.

Coping & adaptative practices

Despite their daunting experience with various hazards, households had been employing some financial coping strategies by themselves, like borrowing money (91 percent), making changes to household spending (18 percent) or selling something (13 percent) to support their daily needs.

With regards to water management, almost half of the residents claimed that they practiced rainwater harvesting and used saline-resistant crops and soil management. However, only a few had the tools and facilities to effectively practice such.

Resilience scorecard

HHI’s resilience scorecard is intended to be utilized in Concern Worldwide’s current programs in Bangladesh coastal communities. When used periodically within regular program monitoring, it can provide a snapshot of household resilience to support program managers in targeting key aspects of resilience that are often overlooked in other scorecard approaches, including empowerment, subjective perceptions of ability to cope and adapt, and social support.

Bollettino said, this scorecard can be adapted and improved as needed to effectively measure household resilience and generate simple monitoring tools to inform program design.

You may access the full report here: https://hhi.harvard.edu/publications/household-disaster-resilience-assessment-bagerhat-district-bangladesh

For inquiries, please contact:

MARK TOLDO | Communications Specialist

Program on Resilient Communities

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
mtoldo@hsph.harvard.edu  |  hhi.harvard.edu