Communicating the Risks of Extreme Weather: Empowerment Workshops at the

Rohingya Refugee Camp

    Clockwise:  (i)    Muhammad Saidur Rahman and Laila Kabir

                              (BPDC) with CPP volunteers,

                        (ii)   Raul Lejano (NYU) at Rohingya camp-4,

                        (iii)  Risk Communication workshop (10/22/19).

One of the reasons that people are caught unprepared by an extreme weather event is because many do not feel empowered to take risk-preventive action. This is a general condition found everywhere we look, but it is a particular concern especially among displaced communities who, far from home and in desperate conditions, may feel they have lost control over their destinies. In the hillsides in the Ukhia district in southeast Bangladesh, more than a million refugees of the Rohingya ethnic clan are gathered in makeshift houses perched on the slopes.

Torrential monsoon rains and cyclones create hazards such as that of mudslides and landslides along the denuded hills where the homes have been built. Vulnerabilities are compounded displacement, as these Rohingya have fled the ethnic and political presecution they experienced in nearby Burma.

But rather than inaction, members of the Rohingya community are choosing to work with the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) of Bangladesh to create early warning systems and disaster risk prevention strategies in the camps.

 

The CPP teamed up with researchers from NYU and the NGO, Bangladesh Disaster Preparedness Centre (BDPC) to design and implement a series of empowerment-based risk communication workshops. The philosophy of the effort is simple: the process works best when people do not just receive risk communication information but become active risk communicators themselves, when people are empowered to take their fates into their own hands.

 

Workshop material can be downloaded by clicking on the following links for adaptation elsewhere:

 

            • Workshop design

            • Pre and post survey instrument

            • Tutorial (risk communication as empowerment)

"Taking one's fate into one's own hands"

can be quite literal in some cases, as when the volunteers took clay from the surrounding area and simulated the hillside community in Kutupalong camp 4, raining down water upon the scene from a watering can to simulate flash floods and mudslide.

Workshops necessarily involve not just strategies for risk communication, but empowerment as well. Part of this involves building into the workshop opportunities for people to reflect on their situation and actively collaborate on taking on new perspectives and actions.