Inter-Agency Rapid Flood Assessment

September 11, 2007 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

Inter-Agency Rapid Flood Assessment

WFP-UNICEF-Save the Children Alliance

Nepal – August 2007

Heavy rain for a period of two weeks caused major flooding in the Terai at the end of July. In mid-August, a second period of rain resulted in renewed flooding in many areas. By the end of August most flood water had receded and areas were accessible again, however continued rain since then may cause further flooding and hardship for poor Terai communities. Flooding is a recurrent problem during the monsoon period in the plains of Nepal and there is an urgent need for a longer-term solution to mitigate the impact of flood water in the these districts through river training programmes, river drainage, embankments, building of higher shelter houses and disaster preparedness programmes for the most vulnerable areas.

In order to assess the impact of the flood on people’s livelihoods, food security, education, health and nutrition status and to formulate appropriate short- and longer-term responses, an inter-agency assessment was organized by WFP, UNICEF and Save the Children Alliance with field level support provided by the Nepal Red Cross Society. Highlights of the findings include the following:

  • The flood affected a very large number of households. Across the 13 districts assessed, an estimated total of 25,254 households were severely affected, 40,000 were highly affected and 17,236 moderately affected. With an average household size of 5.6 people per households, this translates in a total of almost half a million people affected by the floods. Most of the affected are amongst the poorest, marginalized and landless Dalits, Madhesi, Tharu, Muslim and Janajati groups.
  • The flood had the biggest impact on housing, particularly those of poor households made of bamboo, straw and mud. More than 23,000 houses were completely destroyed. Crop land near rivers and in low-lying areas was heavily affected with high or total crop losses. In other areas the standing paddy crop has benefited from the temporary immersion and an overall surplus production in these areas is expected. Vegetable production has suffered the biggest impact with prices for green-leaf vegetables having more than doubled.
  • The household food security status is expected to deteriorate in the coming months due to the impact of the flood. Although food stocks could mostly be saved, the affected population is currently heavily borrowing to satisfy their food needs and food intake has deteriorated with nutritious food such as vegetables and lentils out of reach for poor households due to sharp increases in market prices.
  • As per the Demographic and Health Survey (2006) data, malnutrition in the flood affected areas is acute and widespread. The flood emergency has caused an additional risk for further deterioration in the nutritional status of the already very vulnerable (child) population. However, beyond seasonal deterioration in malnutrition indicators, no increase in the number of severely acute children can be observed as yet. The underlying causes to the very poor nutritional status include food insecurity, poor child feeding and care practices, very poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, and poor health environment. These issues have been compounded by the impact of the floods which have caused increased food insecurity with a change in food composition towards less nutritious foods, concentration of defecation area on foot paths near to communities and a high incidence of diarrhoea among the population.
  • No epidemics are reported as yet. The government health system seems to be quite well prepared and is sending rapid response teams to areas with diarrhoea outbreaks to quickly contain further contamination. The potential spread in vector-born diseases needs to be closely monitored as stagnant flood water provides a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • In almost all districts, health posts are functioning normally, although accessibility was a problem during the flood and is still an issue in some heavily affected areas. Most schools affected by the flood are functioning again. Where schools and classrooms were destroyed or damaged by the flood, there is a lack of adequate classrooms and teaching materials which is likely to have a long-term impact on the ability to provide education to children in these areas. A series of recommendations regarding response options based on the findings of the assessment is provided in the final section of this report.

Objectives of Rapid Assessment

Two weeks of incessant rains beginning in mid-July and continuing into August, resulted in heavy flooding in the plain areas of Nepal, known as the Terai, at the end of July and beginning of August 2007. Although the flood water started to recede in most areas by mid-August, a second period of rain resulted in renewed flooding especially in areas that suffered the most damage from previous flooding. Over the next few weeks, more rain is expected which is likely to lead to further flooding and continued hardship for the affected population. Minor floods are a recurrent phenomenon in the Terai during the monsoon period, which normally lasts from June until September. However, this year’s flood was more intensive, covered a much wider area, caused more widespread damage to houses and had an extensive impact on people’s livelihoods compared to the impact of flooding typical in these areas.

In order to assess the impact of the flood on people’s livelihoods, food security, education, health and nutrition status and to formulate appropriate short and longer-term responses, an inter-agency assessment was organized by WFP, UNICEF and Save the Children Alliance with field level support provided by the Nepal Red Cross Society.

Specific objectives of the rapid assessment were:

To identify and map out flood affected areas.

To collect and verify available data on the severity of the flood impact in terms of numbers of affected population and areas of crop loss.

To assess the impact of the flood on household food security status, the nutrition and health situation, agriculture and market conditions, and education.

To collect information on the immediate response and identify gaps.

Process and Methodology

The assessment covered 13 of the most affected districts in the Terai. Six teams covered 2 to 3 districts each. The assessment in the Western districts of Kailali, Banke, Bardiya, Rupandehi and Nawalparasi took place from 14-18 August 2007. Due to security concerns in the Central and Eastern Terai districts of Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Siraha and Saptari, and lack of guarantee for unhindered access by the different activist groups operating in this area, the assessment mission could not take place until 21 to 25 August 2007.

In each district, two days were available to complete the assessment. On the first day, consultation meetings were held with relevant stakeholders, including staff from the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS), Chief District Officer (CDO), District Disaster and Response Committee (DDRC), District Health Officer (DHO), District Agricultural Department Officer (DADO) and District Education Officer (DEO), and relevant (I)NGOs working in the respective districts. The second day was used for field visits to one or if possible two of the most highly affected VDCs in the district.

A standardized checklist was used by all field teams for the assessment (Annex I). This checklist was sent to the districts prior to the arrival of the assessment teams. In districts covered by the WFP Food Security Monitoring and Analysis System (FSMAS), the locally based WFP field monitor in collaboration with the NRCS District Chapters compiled the required data and prepared draft maps. This allowed the teams to focus on cross verification of the data and information with various stakeholders. During DDRC meetings an effort was made to find consensus on the draft flood impact maps and solve issues based upon inconsistent data.

In all districts the teams were accompanied to the field by field staff of the NRCS. In affected communities, interviews were held with displaced households, women, VDC secretaries, police, teachers and health workers. The crop conditions were observed in affected areas and farmers were interviewed. At local markets, traders were consulted about the current market conditions.

Extent of the Flood Impact

The NRCS has collected data on flood impact in most VDCs. CDO and DDRC also compiled numbers on affected households in some districts by ward. In several districts (Dhanusa, Mahotarri, Banke, Bardiya) additional data was available from NGOs working in the area. Definitions of flood-affectedness varied across various sources, resulting in inconsistent data when compared. Data are mostly based on extent of damage (fully or partially) to people’s homes, the overall area submerged under water, estimated crop losses and the number of people temporarily displaced. Some level of data inflation is to be expected due to political pressure and expectation for relief support by households. In most districts, available NRCS data was closely aligned to the observations of the assessment teams in the field and are therefore the primary data used throughout this report to estimate the extent of the flood impact.

flood-map-un.jpg

Click on Figure to Zoom

Area affected

Consensus was sought among different stakeholders at the district level to develop a flood impact map identifying the most flood-affected areas. The following criteria were used to categorize the VDCs into worst affected, highly affected, moderately affected, lightly affected or not affected:

1. Percentage of households affected

2. Extent of crop loss

3. Area submerged under water and degree and extent of water logging.

Although in general consensus was found at the district level regarding the maps produced, further crosschecking with available data afterwards showed that the classification and the reported numbers of affected households do not always correspond. Some VDCs with high numbers of affected households have been identified as moderately impacted areas while other VDCs with low numbers of affected households were identified as highly affected. It may be the case that in these instances only some wards within the VDC are heavily affected and not the whole VDC (as was the case in one of the identified severely affected VDCs in Sarlahi district and one VDC in Bara district visited by the assessment mission)..Unfortunately, except in some districts (e.g. Sarlahi) at this stage, ward level information is not readily available.

Map 1 shows the flood affected areas. The most affected districts include Siraha, Dhansusha and Mohattari in the East and Kailali in the West of Nepal. Detailed maps for each district can be found in Annex II.

There are several highly affected areas which are currently still not accessible by road either due to very bad road conditions or water logging. These, often remote VDCs, are marked with symbol in the maps in Annex II.

Although there is a general security concern across the Terai1, based on relief distributions successfully conducted by NRCS, there is the expectation at the district level that security issues will not affect the overall provision of humanitarian assistance. However, there have been incidences of UN vehicles being obstructed by activists, hampering the transportation of large amounts of food aid.

Number of affected people

Table 1 summarizes the total number of affected population in the 13 districts. Details by district and for each affected VDC in that district can be found in the tables presented in Annex III.

Based on the NRCS data, supplemented by data on crop losses and information on vulnerable groups, estimates were derived for three levels of affectedness: severely, highly and moderately.

A household was classified as severely affected if the household was landless (defined as owning less than 1 Kattha2), depending on wage labour and the flood had completely damaged their house. Severely affected also includes those households owning more than 1 Kattha, but who had completely lost their standing crops and house.

Highly affected households include landless households whose house was partially damaged and landowners whose houses were either partially or fully damaged and all or part of their crops were lost. Moderately affected households include those who lost their transplanted paddy crops and whose house suffered damage due to water logging. Across the 13 districts an estimated total of 25,254 households were severely affected, 40,000 were highly affected and 17,236 moderately affected. Segregated data for specific population groups were not available. However, in general there was consensus that certain groups (Dalits, Janajatis, Muslims) and poor landless households living in mud-constructed houses in low-lying areas were the most severely affected. A second highly affected group included small farmers near main rivers whose land was washed away or covered by huge amounts of sediment, causing loss of income and livelihood.

As mentioned, there is inconsistency between different available data sets. It is likely that to some extent inflation in the number of flood affected people has occurred. This was also confirmed by field visits to severely affected communities where in some cases less than the reported number of fully destroyed houses was observed. The announcement by the government to compensate flood affected people for house damage and a supply of three months food ration may have resulted in more people on the affected list in anticipation of relief assistance. In addition, pressure from political parties and other constituencies may also have resulted in higher numbers. Careful ground-level verification in affected areas is therefore required to ensure that relief and recovery assistance reaches those most in need.

Read Full Report, PDF 2.56 MB, 44 pages

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Nepal’s Poverty = Neglect of Madhes! The problem of Madhesh and the solution

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