India is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. Every year, the country suffers an average of USD $1 billion in disaster losses. On average, 95,000 cattle are lost every year from floods alone.
Financial losses as a result of natural disasters represent almost 2% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) and up to 12% of the central government’s revenue.
Taking this into consideration, India’s government recognised animals’ importance in the National Livestock Policy and the National Policy on Disaster Management 2009. Both include provisions for animals within preparedness and response measures.
The Sendai Framework recognises that to be successful, disaster risk reduction (DRR) needs to be implemented at both a national and local level. Due to the size of India and the diversity of climates, state governments play a key role along with the national government in reducing risks and preventing losses.
Following this principle, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) issued a directive to all state governments to include animals in disaster management plans in 2013. Because of this directive, two states – Bihar in 2013 and Sikkim in 2015 – integrated animal protection into their state DRR and mitigation plans, as well as their disaster response plans.
Bihar implemented a range of disaster management activities addressing the needs of animals and people. The State Disaster Management Authority delivered an awareness program directly targeting farmers and livestock owners. It included measures to manage animal welfare needs before, during and after disasters such as drought, earthquake, flash floods, landslides and heavy snowfall.
Other states also took steps to reduce their vulnerability to disasters. Early warning systems prompted Odisha and Andhra Pradesh to evacuate 1 million people, relocate more than 30,000 animals and take measures to protect remaining cattle before Cyclone Phailin made landfall in 2013.
We ran simulation exercises and trainings in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to ensure states have the capacity to manage animals in disasters.
The exercises ensured those involved in emergency response were trained to protect animals and themselves. We worked with the National and State Disaster Management Authorities, National Disaster Response Force personnel and the Department of Animal Husbandry.
But implementing Sendai doesn’t stop with policy. We are working with local governments, veterinarian colleagues and communities to foster a culture of preparedness among animal owners in India.
We undertake public awareness campaigns, before during and after disasters, in English, Hindi and local languages, and highlight what animal owners can do to reduce risk and prepare themselves and their animals.
In six states, (in cooperation with NDMA), we have supported the establishment of veterinary emergency response units located in key veterinary colleges. These units work with government partners and humanitarian NGOs during disasters. For example, during the December 2015 floods in Chennai the units treated more than 10,000 animals.
The 4 ”E” approach
The project adopted a 4 “E” approach (Encourage, Engage, Establish and Exit) by complementing the Indian Government’s initiatives. The stakeholders were encouraged to get involved in the project and they were engaged in the activities so that they agree to take responsibilities to include animals in their plans and programs.
Based on rapport with key stakeholders the project lobbied in establishing solutions such as Veterinary Emergency Response Units (VERU) in six Veterinary Colleges/Universities in the north, south, east, west and central zones of India and imparting capacity building programs.
The project is lobbying with key stakeholders for them to take ownership of the established process and World Animal Protection could exit to further advocate at regional and international to influence other countries on similar approach.
An important obstacle in lobbying in general is that staff changes with government stakeholders can impact activities.
Another obstacle has been the limited impact of the project to just some regions of the country.
- Training and procedures can be standardised for wider use in similar experiences elsewhere.
- The 4 “E” approach (Encourage, Engage, Establish and Exit).
- Consider that solution oriented advocacy and lobbying with Governments helps facilitate a change with their consensus to integrate animals.
- Political factors between countries can affect project delivery. Therefore, you should identify alternate opportunities for influencing other countries.