A mechanism to involve trained volunteers is imperative to coordinate emergency disaster responses, especially in urban areas, speakers said at a webinar yesterday.
At the discussion organised by Dhaka Earthquake & Emergency Preparedness – Enhancing Resilience (DEEPER) project partner Christian Aid and The Business Standard, they insisted on establishing the mechanism to engage volunteers in disaster management.
Officials from Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, volunteers and representatives from development partners and NGOs took part in the webinar.
"We have been facing a number of challenges in recruiting new volunteers, providing capacity building support and equipment to them, and getting them in regular meetings," said Mohi Uddin, project coordinator of Islamic Relief.
There are volunteers in the coastal region who know how to coordinate activities during cyclone. They have a system in place defining, for example roles of upazila and union committees, Mohi Uddin said.
Similar mechanisms should be developed to involve volunteers across the country in any emergency situation.
Jahangir Alam, assistant director of the Red Crescent, said, "We are trying to formulate a structure like what is in the coastal region, consulting with the government and other stakeholders. We will make a plan to organise volunteers to deal with fire incidents in urban areas."
Jahidul Islam, in-charge (Sylhet) of Islamic Relief, said there should be coordination between volunteers, not only in Dhaka but also in the whole country.
Volunteers trained by different organisations should have a network connecting them so that they can share their experiences and learn from each other, he said.
Volunteers who joined the discussion echoed the view.
Kazi Sajib Rahman, a Red Crescent volunteer, said the international humanitarian organisation had 68 units in 64 districts.
"We work in coordination. But it would be better if an initiative is taken from the government so that all volunteers from all organisations can work together."
Belal Hossain, director of the Red Crescent Society, said, "Our main strength is volunteers. They do everything on the ground, even putting their lives at risk. We only provide them with guidance and technical support."
As many as 1,400 volunteers received fresh training under DEEPER project. The main objective of the project is to engage volunteers. A hundred volunteers have been trained to be master trainers who train others.
Imam Zafar Sikder, director (youth and volunteers) of the Red Crescent, said, "We provided training in 8,000 educational institution so far. During the Covid-19 pandemic, our volunteers ran 3,200 disinfection drives in 252 hospitals. Every booth engaged in the Covid-19 vaccination has our volunteers."
TBS Chief Reporter Morshed Noman delivered the welcome speech while Abdul Jalil Lone, delegate-DEEPER German Red Cross, moderated the webinar.
The DEEPER project has contributed to the development of a system that allows Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense to directly alert and deploy volunteers in emergencies, and has improved their management, in addition to training a pool of 1,400 volunteers.
It also helped form ward disaster management committees in 14 wards of Dhaka South City Corporation, enhanced their functional linkage within different tiers and disseminated knowledge about the Standing Orders on Disaster at national- and city corporation levels.