Best Disaster Response and Community Resilience Program: Xylem Inc.
Xylem: Providing Clean Water When It’s Needed Most
Through its DRRI-Water project, Xylem is helps communities prepare for disasters before they strike.
One of the greatest drivers behind massive losses of life and property in disasters is the rapid population growth of particularly vulnerable communities. These are communities lacking appropriate systems and infrastructure to survive natural disasters, or communities sprawling in regions prone to hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, or drought.
In the aftermath of an emergency, ensuring clean water and sanitation is of the utmost importance to minimize further risk. With this in mind, Xylem Watermark (Xylem’s corporate citizenship and social investment program) and nonprofit partner Mercy Corps launched Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative – Water (DDRI-Water) to help prepare vulnerable communities before disaster strikes.
What Xylem Inc. Has Accomplished
To create the DRRI-Water program, Xylem engaged a variety of key stakeholders. Internally, they collaborate with technology and product experts to identify Xylem assets best suited to disaster risk reduction. Externally, they work closely with long-term nonprofit partner and emergency response expert Mercy Corps to identify at-risk target markets. They also supported Mercy Corps’ efforts to build relationships with local community members to whom project ownership was transferred to ensure long-term sustainability.
Disaster risk reduction encompasses activities that reduce exposure to hazards, lessens vulnerability of people and property, and increases local capacity while enhancing emergency preparedness. These kinds of activities were the cornerstone of DRRI-Water, and while each solution must be local, in aggregate they are creating real, positive change for vulnerable communities around the world.
For instance, in China, due to changing weather patterns and a lack of preparedness and mitigation strategies at the village-level, poor communities in Yunnan Province are particularly vulnerable to droughts and floods. The DRRI-Water project helped communities address water issues caused by climate-related hazards by organizing village disaster management committees and empowering them to assess, prioritize, and mitigate their risks.
In Ethiopia, frequent floods and droughts are a challenge to water sources and sanitation facilities. It is difficult for communities to recover from such disasters, and this puts them at high risk of waterborne disease outbreaks. In this region, Xylem worked with communities and supported their assessments of water-related hazard risks. Xylem trained local Water Management Committees and artisans to operate and maintain water systems, while working with local government water and health offices to improve data management.
In Colombia, regional and local disaster response agencies are focused primarily on emergencies, placing very little emphasis on reducing the risk posed by future flooding. There is little coordination between agencies and almost no attention to early warning systems. The DRRI-Water program strengthened local- and state-level disaster preparedness and response agencies in Atlántico, a vulnerable coastal state. It also connected communities to this network and helped them access resources and planning while executing a preparedness project.
Why This Project Makes Sense
In total, our DRRI-Water program has improved the lives of more than 950,000 people living in vulnerable communities worldwide.
The results of this project are pivotal. Moving forward, Xylem Watermark and Mercy Corps will incorporate DRR activities into all of their work together. No longer just an intervention with potential, DRR has proven to be absolutely critical to the growing and changing needs of our global population.
In December 2012, Mercy Corps published results in a report called DRRI-Water Good Practices in Action, which shares insights gleaned from engaging communities, forging stronger community and government linkages and enhancing the sustainability of water-related DRR initiatives. In March of 2013, the report was shared with more than 100 international NGOs in The Hague as part of the Global Network of DRR Organizations (GNDR). In May, it was distributed at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction hosted by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UN-ISDR).