Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) began its operations in India in 2002 with emergency response, relief and recovery, which have quickly become priority areas. FOCUS India has responded to major disasters across the country and implements various disaster risk reduction activities to strengthen the capacity of local communities to prepare for and respond to disasters. An effective response strategy ensures the timely deployment of resources, including relief items, through FOCUS’ network of volunteers.
In 2007, under the Disaster Preparedness Programme of European Commission for Humanitarian Assistance (DIPECHO I), supported by the Aga Khan Foundation (UK) to implement a 15 month project to enhance the disaster resilience of the communities through school safety. The DIPECHO I project covered 25 private schools. Following a baseline survey conducted by FOCUS India, these schools had the highest degree of risk to disasters due to their location. School safety trainings covered emergency drills, establishing emergency task force teams, the production of teacher and student disaster preparedness materials, and training in first aid and fire safety. FOCUS India has developed a school disaster preparedness module at the end of the project, which has been revised and refined based on field experience to form a model that can be replicated across other disaster prone Indian States.
Between 2009-10, FOCUS India implemented DIPECHO II in 18 villages of Gujarat. The primary objective of this project was to strengthen the capacity of rural communities in Gujarat, and to enable them to be better prepared, mitigate, and respond to natural disasters thus reducing their vulnerability, through the implementation of sustainable disaster risk initiatives. It also covered school safety in 12 private schools, aimed at school children, teachers and the school administration. Following the success of the DIPECHO I and II projects in Gujarat, FOCUS has replicated the School Safety Programme in Baramulla district as a part of the Kashmir Rehabilitation Programme. In all projects, FOCUS takes into account the cultural nuances of the areas in which it works. This approach has enabled the school safety project to be model for Kashmir Rehabilitation Programme. Stockpiles: Emergency stockpiles of essential relief items have been set up by FOCUS India, which can be mobilized in the event of a disaster. Civil society collaboration: FOCUS India partners with like-minded organisations to provide expert knowledge and quality resources to a range of projects and to build capacity to respond to disasters.
- In 2012, FOCUS India’s SART provided search and rescue training to emergency response government personnel under the Delhi Emergency Management Exercise (DEMAX). Training programmes were designed to harness the strengths and capabilities of emergency responders, police, fire and rescue services, educational institutions, hospitals, humanitarian agencies and paramilitary forces.
- In collaboration with the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), FOCUS India designed and implemented a module to train school teachers in disaster preparedness. In 2015, 400 Government schools in Gujarat including students and teachers participated in ShakeOut, the largest earthquake drill in the world that originates in California, USA and is designed to reduce the risk of death and injury by practicing earthquake safety procedures. FOCUS facilitated the participation of 102,180 people across India in the AKDN ShakeOut drill in 2015. Participants of the ShakeOut are taught what to do in the event of an earthquake: Drop to the ground, take Cover, and Hold On to something stable.
FOCUS India also works closely with non-governmental and international agencies including the European Commission, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan Health Services, and the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services. Response activities
Over the years, FOCUS India has responded to a range of incidents including floods, cyclones, earthquakes, and a tsunami amongst other emergencies. Some of the significant response activities include:
- Gujarat Earthquake, 2001: In response to the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Gujarat in 2001, FOCUS along with AKDN agencies implemented a Multi-Sector Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Programme in Kutch District. Of the 21 districts affected, four were particularly hard hit. The Kutch District was one of them. There was significant damage to hospitals, schools, electric power and water systems, bridges and roads. The programme has built disaster-resistant houses and two rural education centres. Community-managed drinking water supply systems have been set up. Water harvesting structures are reversing groundwater depletion. New clinics offering primary health care services to women and children were established. Savings and credit schemes have helped people regain their livelihoods. Disaster preparedness and management training for villagers is also conducted to build local capacity.
- Kashmir Earthquake, 2005: FOCUS immediately responded to the earthquake providing winterised tents, blankets and warm clothing to nearly 400 families in 14 isolated villages. Subsequently, FOCUS implemented a three-year earthquake rehabilitation programme, which reached more than 2,250 households and 9,500 beneficiaries in 17 villages.
- Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2005: In response to the tsunami, FOCUS provided relief aid in the state of Andhra Pradesh to approximately 4,000 people who benefitted from food kits comprising of rice, lentils, oil and other nutrients. Non-food items such as blankets, tarpaulins, bed and ground sheets, towels , kitchen utensils and clothing were also distributed.
- Gujarat Floods, 2005: FOCUS provided food to approximately 4,500 families, which reached over 20,000 beneficiaries.
- Cyclone Ogni, 2006: In the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, FOCUS distributed food to over 7,000 people (1,470 families) and 184 food packets for children in 15 villages for two days.
- Post Indian Ocean Tsunami Project: In August 2009, FOCUS completed its three year Andhra Pradesh Relief to Development (APR2D) Project, which stemmed from the devastating South Asian tsunami of December 2004 that claimed close to 200,000 lives and wiped out homes, livelihoods and infrastructure. The APR2D project reached over 4,000 families in 15 affected communities of the Krishna district, helping improve the ability to cope in times of disaster. The aim of this project was to strengthen the capacities of communities at the local level to prepare, mitigate, prevent and respond to natural and man-made disasters. The project also aimed to reduce vulnerability from health and hygiene risks, establish partnerships with key stakeholders and disseminate knowledge and best practices while enhancing gender equality in the area.