Flood Catastrophe: Next action in the recovery phase

Lt Col Dr Maimunah Omar
30 Dec 2021 01:53am
Aftermath of floods in Hulu Langat on Dec 26 where most areas wreaked on muds from the flodos. (Source: Bernama)
Aftermath of floods in Hulu Langat on Dec 26 where most areas wreaked on muds from the flodos. (Source: Bernama)
The country, particularly Selangor, was obviously not prepared for the worst floods in Malaysian history.

With the lack of preparedness, came the issue of the government’s readiness in managing and delivering aid and assistance.

Regardless of the statements made, the pain and hardship as well as anguish are experienced only by those who suffered directly from this tragedy, especially since the nation is still crippled by the long and difficult pandemic phase.

The Disaster Management cycle can be divided into four main phases and they are closely related to mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

This article is not trying to be descriptive about the existing four phases, but it will penetrate into the issue of the implementation of actions and the fulfillment of needs for the recovery phase, to enable the responsible parties to implement integration in their action plans that will eventually reduce the burden and assuage the fear and sense of inconvenience of victims and as a whole, help victims rebuild their lives.

First of all, there is no denying that the flood tragedy had a deep and memorable effect of trauma and phobia on the victims.

Therefore, for the victims to recover, counseling and motivation services to the affected victims must be provided.

The recovery process from trauma usually takes between six months to a year and for some people, it may even be longer than that to fully recover, depending on the individual concerned.

This initiative can be taken at evacuation centers or from house-to-house after the situation improves.
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Counseling associations and non-govermental organisations (NGOs) with expertise can take the lead and drive the initial steps.

For the record, these counseling and motivational sessions are nothing new, as many developed countries have implemented this measure for their citizens who are affected by disasters.

Secondly, the Prime Minister and the state government have announced various forms of assistance either for short-term or long-term victims- for example, on Dec 19, 2021, the government agreed to allocate RM100 million post-flood to repair the damage of the houses and other infrastructure and contribute RM1000 to each household affected by the flood disaster.

Thus, the issue that needs to be addressed here is the transparency of the assistance delivery mechanism and the bureaucratic processes that need to be undergone to reach the target group.

Complaints have been heard and made among the victims about all the bureaucracy and procedures that need to be followed and the arrangement of forms that need to be filled in and submitted.

It is true that this procedure is to ensure that this assistance reaches the affected victims, but in a situation where most victims are totally lost and distraught, and many important documents cannot be salvaged, the victims should be allowed some flexibility as long as they receive assistance promptly.

It can tend to be overwhelming and even more stressful when the head of the family is an elderly or a single mother.

In fact, there have been complaints of victims that they had to go from one agency to another to complete all the requirements.

Therefore, it is proposed that a one-stop center is established at the evacuation centers or disaster locations with the composition of all responsible government agencies such as Social Welfare Department, National Registration Department, Road Transport Department, Education Ministry and the police and others present to facilitate the affairs or cater to the needs of these affected groups.

On the same note, the needs of the children who start school early next year should also be taken into account.

The huge losses incurred by the flood victims are inevitable, with the majority still having to pay debts for their houses, cars, business premises and others.

The voluntary mobilization of energy by financial and legal experts is needed to enable the victims to ask for consultation and advice, and appropriate guidance so that the difficulties encountered are not manipulated by any party.

Furthermore, for a more comprehensive improvement in the future, all parties need to be involved to provide sound, constructive views and suggestions on the best mechanism to prevent the recurrence of disasters as well as to improve the coordination of assistance.

The voices and views of flood victims, frontline workers, and NGOs need to be heard and raised.

This can provide a two-way solution where the opinions of those in the disaster areas and specifically, the victims are taken into account.

One thing that needs to be taken seriously by all parties involved also concerns Big Data Management.

It is not certain whether or not this requirement already exists, but if it is not yet available, it is time for this Big Data Management to be developed so that all coordination matters and assistance channels can be properly launched and put to use.

Finally, it has been well acknowledged that every year Malaysia will not escape the flood disaster regardless of the state, with the East Coast being the most common to be inundated by flood.

Therefore, relevant equipment and assets for rescue agencies should be given priority without compromise.

It is worth reminding that rescue teams not only perform rescue tasks during the search and rescue phase, but also offer continued assistance in the recovery phase and thereafter. Thus, it is pivotal that these logistical needs and assets are reviewed.

Not all rescue agencies especially the army are equipped with specialized assets to rescue flood victims, as the assets owned are more specifically aimed at guarding the borders and strengthening the national defence, and some of them even need replacement due to wear and tear.

Finally, it is time for every household to be prepared and to be equipped with safety kits for flood preparedness or adverse situations that can be used during emergencies while waiting for help to arrive.

For the long term, a subject concerning natural disasters and safety measures can be introduced at the school level as early exposure to children, replicating what has been done in the schools of our neighbouring countries.

No one wants to confront disasters and calamities; no government wants to see its people miserable or affected by catastrophes.

We need to learn from the past and from what has happened; what is important now is to take an example and learn from it and improve the situation.

Focusing on the things in the recovery phase as mentioned can at least cushion all the grief and difficulties faced by the victims against all the shortcomings and confusion surrounding the issue of assistance in the previous phase.

The solidarity of Malaysians who are united regardless of race and political stance is the key to success when facing all adversities, including natural disasters. Malaysia, you can do it!

Lt Col Dr Maimunah Omar is the Assistant Director of the Contemporary Security Study Center at the Malaysian Institute of Defense and Security (MiDAS), Ministry of Defense Malaysia.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.
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