The only way Erica Dahl-Bredine could reach the trouble spots of flooded Tabasco last November was by army helicopter.
“As we flew into Villahermosa, the capital city of Tabasco, everything as far as the eye could see was under water. Whole villages, farmland, almost everything,” says Ms. Dahl-Bredine, Mexico country representative for Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
Apart from financial help, CRS sent experts to the disaster zone to assess needs and help coordinate relief efforts.
Once the floods abated, CRS’s efforts moved on to helping reactivate the rural community by organising an intensive training and leadership programme for representatives from 55 parishes in Tabasco.
“They spent two months in intensive training to assess needs in terms of vulnerability to disaster,” says Dahl-Bredine.
Course attendees were also taught methods to improve economic development either in terms of better farming techniques , finding employment or generating income.
Once the course had finished, people returned to their communities where they trained others in what they had learned.
They also set up committees to run initiatives such as seed banks and to take part in local production projects.
Dahl-Bredine says the idea was to develop local capacity so that in face of future disasters local communities would be better able to assess their own needs and organise a response.
CRS followed up the course with workshops on various aspects of disaster management such as teaching the necessary hygiene standards for running shelters.
It has also donated funds for disaster mitigation projects. For example, the community pictured will benefit from wider drainage tubes being built near their homes so flood waters will be able to run off more easily into a nearby river.
Overall, CRS hopes that its projects will ensure that any future floods affect fewer people and that those who are effected will know what to do to get back on their feet.
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