The team have had all their hard work validated by an invitation to present to the formal Shelter Cluster meeting on 29 March.
International disaster responses are coordinated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which assist governments in mobilising international assistance when the scale of the disaster exceeds the national capacity. Lessons learnt from the 2004 Asian Tsunami resulted in a very significant change in how all the key parties involved respond to a disaster through the adoption of the Cluster Approach. Since 2005 and first implemented for the Pakistan earthquake, relief activity is split into 11 possible clusters. These clusters are formed immediately and involve representatives from all agencies, both local and international, involved in one or more of the specialist responses. They are used to disseminate information, coordinate activity within and between clusters and share ideas and good practice.
Disaster Aid International is always a member of the Shelter Cluster although in other deployments, if the distribution of water solutions has been a significant part of our deployment, they have also been a member of the Water and Sanitation Cluster. In Fiji, the shelter cluster was made up of 44 members which met weekly but kept in touch electronically on a daily basis. The information provided by the Cluster enabled our team to get a quick start in their planning. By matching data provided by the Cluster with information on the ground, especially from the Rotary Club of Fiji, they were able to quickly identify the priorities in terms of what was needed and where. Local contacts then proved invaluable for sourcing the required materials which were in such short supply; a problem that was hampering the activities of many other NGOs.
During the cluster meetings, it became evident that other members were impressed by how quickly our team had managed to establish a plan and then to implement it to schedule. This resulted in an invitation to provide a presentation on how this had been achieved under the Cluster’s remit of sharing good practice. The presentation, delivered by Craig Roberts, was very well received. Disaster Aid International was the only NGO at the time which had been able to assist communities to rebuild their homes as opposed to providing temporary shelter. Members were impressed by the team’s use of networks to both source materials and then distribute them. The Chair of the Cluster, the District Housing Officer, was particularly impressed that the team had worked with local carpenters to ensure that they followed the “Build Back Safer” guide.
The Cluster approach has made a fundamental difference by increasing the appropriateness of aid, reducing waste and identifying gaps in provision. It has essentially professionalised the whole humanitarian aid sector. It is therefore an accolade for any NGO to be asked to take up precious time to share good practice and we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our team that have worked so hard to such good effect.
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