Disaster Preparedness and Savings Groups - Orissa Case
Orissa by any measure – income, health, literacy – is the poorest state in India and therefore, one of the poorest places in this world. Practices of caste divide villages wholesale, leaving one group absent a well, another without a midwife, and a third blocked from planting fruit trees. Aggravating their fragile lives is the sky on which the Orissi depend. Routinely, it fails them: one year of drought follows two years of flood, and the fourth brings devastating winds.
During the super-cyclone relief stage, CRS learned quickly that some villages experienced higher degrees of success than others. These villages reached the poorest members with food, tarps, blankets, medicine, and clean water. Closer study revealed that successful villages had one thing in common – self-help groups where women saved in cash, lent cash to needy members and linked to banks for more credit. Groups had evolved into local expressions of civil society.
In the aftermath of the 1999 cyclone, CRS and partners worked quickly to develop hundreds more self-help groups. When the 2001 floods struck, self-help groups sprang into action and helped make important relief distributions. Between the summer of 2001 and 2003, partners took women’s self-help groups to an elevated stage of performance.
Strategic training in disaster preparedness first with partners, and then with self-help groups, bore a number of benefits, listed in the paper, among them the formation of groups in each village to take on village-wide responsibilities. They formed task forces in early warning, rescue, medical relief, food storage and preparation, newborn delivery services, and child care, which hugely alleviated the negative effects of natural disasters.