In disasters, there are few dream scenarios. Yet when you think of what could have happened this week in India when the once-Category 5 Cyclone Phailin hit the heavily populated and low-lying eastern coast, it is a living, breathing example of what we promote at WSPA: preparedness. When you are prepared for disasters, they don’t do nearly as much damage.
Although it can be easy to imagine what needs to be done following a disaster, it is often the work and education done after and before major events that saves more lives.
We’re back from Odisha and the news is good. Human and animal deaths were very low and the situation is well in hand thanks to a very effective early response on the part of the Indian government and the people living in the affected areas.
Mass evacuations kept deaths and casualties remarkably low given the size and force of Cyclone Phailin. In a twist of luck, the storm broke apart and downgraded to a Category 3 before making landfall, which further reduced the effects of the impact. Though, as you can see from the photos, this was still a major weather event. Trees in the thousands are down, buildings and infrastructure are damaged and the road to full recovery will no doubt be a slow one.
WSPA has been responding to disasters in India since 2008. Earlier this year, WSPA co-hosted Asia's first-ever Animal Disaster Management conference in New Delhi along with India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). In a landmark agreement, we ensured animals will be included in all 28 states’ existing and upcoming disaster and emergency plans.
Together with the NDMA we agreed on:
- Specialist training for India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to help it deliver disaster awareness and preparedness training to communities dependent on animals across the country
- Customised training at a state level for the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) to help them increase awareness of the importance of animal protection in disasters amongst key stakeholders
- The roll-out of WSPA’s Veterinary Emergency Response Unit (VERU) model, based on the successful joint approach with NDMA already carried out in Bihar State, to help increase the capacity of other regions to respond to animal needs in disasters.
This approach will help prepare communities – over 800 million Indians are dependent on agriculture and animal breeding for survival – so they can take action to protect their animals during crises in India like the one this week.
When a crisis hits, the survival of people and animals, and their eventual recovery, can’t be separated. India’s people need their animals to be safe and healthy, so they can survive, move on and rebuild their lives following disasters. India’s animals equally need people to be prepared so they can protect them from injury and suffering when disasters strike.
Thanks to you, we are there when the animals and the people who depend on them need help the most.