When the impact of a hazard results in a disaster, it has severe adverse socio-economic impact on the affected area, and population; loss of life, injury, and human sufferings, destruction of infrastructure, property and productive assets, disruption of services, supply-chain and connectivity, and deterioration of environment, service delivery and quality of life. After a brief response phase focused on providing immediate relief to the affected population, all efforts are directed towards bringing normalcy in the affected area.
Recovery is thus understood as being the process that facilitates communities and states to return to their proper level of functioning following a disaster. This refers to the coordinated process of supporting disaster-affected communities in reconstruction of physical infrastructure, and restoration of emotional, social, economic and physical well- being.
The recovery process can be very protracted, taking 5-10 years, or even more. Three main category of activities are normally regarded as coming within the recovery; (i) Restoration, (ii) Rehabilitation, and (iii) Reconstruction.
Typical recovery activities include:
- Restoration of essential services
- Restoration of repairable homes and other buildings and installations
- Provision of temporary housing
- Measures to assist the physical and psychological rehabilitation of persons who have suffered from the effects of disaster
- Long-term measures of reconstruction, including the replacements of the building and infrastructure which have been destroyed by the disaster
- Post-disaster review to highlight shortcomings in the plans, and improve these accordingly
The recovery phase starts after the immediate threat to human life has subsided. The immediate goal of the recovery phase is to bring the affected area back to normalcy as quickly as possible. It is recommended to ensure principle of build back better and not rebuild vulnerabilities during reconstruction.
Based on post-disaster recovery experience across the globe it is suggested that the following rules be adhered to for prompt and comprehensive recovery;
Trust survivors and avoid paternalism
The recovery process often requires involvement of a number of agencies that need to avoid paternalism – treating passive victims rather than enabling active survivors.
It needs to be understood that the survivors are the primary actors in their recovery, and while assisting them can play vital roles, it should not result in dependency. Thus, the agencies involved in recovery should not undertake any task that duplicates what the survivors can undertake themselves. Their active role in the recovery process is a vital part of their psycho-social recovery.
Moreover, the recovery process has to be demand-driven from the surviving community, rather than supply-driven, where agency and commercial self-interests often dominate.
Enable survivors to assess their needs
Communities and individuals should always be encouraged to assess their needs. This would avoid multiple needs assessments by external agencies.
Provide cash rather than kind
It is always better to provide cash grants and trust affected families to determine what they really need. If case communities or families are not yet exposed to banking system, help them to get into personal banking, and transfer the relief directly to their accounts.
Localise all interventions; infuse cash into local markets and use locally available materials and resources. Through this approach it is possible to rebuild livelihoods, and revitalise the local economy.
Local agencies and suppliers should be supported and patronised rather than allocating contracts to external groups and agencies.
Role of local institutions should be promoted in recovery coordination.
Give priority attention to vulnerable groups
Special attention needs to be given to vulnerable groups such as minorities, women and children, sick, people with special needs, and elderly together with communities residing in remote areas.
Think process not product
It is advised not to focus on providing products or items and aim at facilitating the process that provides various services. To begin with regard sheltering as a dynamic process, rather than just a collection of tangible products. Therefore, encourage sheltering of displaced families with host families, and provide support to those who offer their houses to survivors.
Avoid a multiple stage sheltering process, from emergency shelters or tents, to transition housing, to permanent reconstruction. Seek to extend the first stage and accelerate permanent safe dwelling reconstruction thus avoiding the waste of building transition housing, that can delay reconstruction.
Adopt a long-term perspective while addressing short-term needs
Start focussing on recovery from the initial stages; identifying proposed exit strategies and follow-up measures.
Prepare from now for the next big disaster; building resilience to save lives and livelihoods.