Health promoters working  under the project "Emergency response and early recovery for the most vulnerable people affected by Hurricane Sandy in the Dominican Republic" /  by Carlos Arenas López/UNISDR

Ponte Alerta – Building resilience in the Dominican Republic through media and communication.

An interagency initiative implemented in the Dominican Republic (2012-2014) has resulted in the strengthening of community resilience through innovative media and communication initiatives that have targeted at-risk groups — particularly women, children, people of Haitian descent and persons living with disabilities. This has resulted in more inclusive disaster risk management action led by empowered vulnerable groups in this at-risk Caribbean country.

Case Study

Ponte Alerta – Building resilience in the Dominican Republic through media and communication.

HFA Priority

HFA Priority 3: Use knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels.


An interagency initiative implemented in the Dominican Republic (2012-2014) has resulted in the strengthening of community resilience through innovative media and communication initiatives that have targeted at-risk groups — particularly women, children, people of Haitian descent and persons living with disabilities. This has resulted in more inclusive disaster risk management action led by empowered vulnerable groups in this at-risk Caribbean country.


The Dominican Republic is exposed to multiple hazards (floods, landslides, tsunami, earthquakes, epidemics). Key disaster risk reduction (DRR) stakeholders include: provincial and municipal governments; civil defense; the National Institute for Drinking Water and Sewerage (INAPA); the regional education department of the Ministry of Education; and the Association of Municipalities of Valdesia Region (ASOMUREVA). Although they have all shown an interest in DRR, they all have very limited technical capacity (few trained personnel), management capacity (no emergency plans), or capacity to implement their own institutional mandates in relation to DRR (lack of tools).

A lack of policies and plans within INAPA leads to minimal support from the central level to the provinces, a weakness bordering on collapse when it is necessary to respond to emergencies. INAPA’s own emergency plan has not been updated since 1996. Most provincial and municipal actors, while willing, are unable to prepare for or respond to disasters.

Tropical Storm Sandy (2012) revealed a massive failure in leadership at municipal level in particular. Likewise, the elements of an early warning system (EWS) that are present in the province are insufficient for disseminating a widespread alert that might save lives and livelihoods. In addition, there is marginalisation of the population of Haitian descent results living in flood-prone areas with minimal access to services and sanitation and no meaningful emergency management service from the state. Women and children are also excluded from predominantly centralized and militarized DRM planning processes.


Azua Province – Dominican Republic

How was the problem addressed?

The project aimed to strengthen the capacity of communities and state institutions in disaster preparedness and response through innovative awareness raising and community mobilization interventions. It was implemented in the province of Azua, which was badly affected by Tropical Storm Sandy in 2012 as well as many previous hurricanes, earthquakes and a tsunami in 1961.

The project aimed to ensure that the most at risk communities, municipalities and institutions are better prepared to cope with disasters, ensuring the inclusion of groups with specific vulnerabilities: women, children, people of Haitian descent and persons living with disabilities (PWDs). To accomplish this a key objective was to ensure communities have a better understanding of disaster risks, and are better prepared and able to respond to such risks while paying attention to groups identified with specific vulnerabilities (previously listed). Sustainability was developed through the development of work plans for the various actors involved and the securing of institutional commitments to the United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) Resilient Cities and Safe Schools campaigns.

The project targeted the following actors:

·       Capacity building and DRM action planning – INAPA, municipal DRR Units, municipal DRR committees;

·       Provincial DRR Committees – USAR (BREC), CTPMR, Civil Defence Units;

·       DRM awareness raising - university journalism students, community based mobilisers, transport companies (inter-state buses);

·       Safer Schools - students of the target schools, personnel of the regional education department, national authorities whose staff participate in developing the safer schools tool/index, the students of the safer schools who directly benefit from the existence of emergency plans, committees teaching of risk reduction and teachers and students of the Urania Montas teacher training college.


303 multipliers were trained to provide advice and guidance to the families on the following themes: how to prepare the family emergency plan, self-protection measures for earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and hurricanes. The families were also guided on how to prevent vector-transmitted diseases like chikungunya and dengue fever. Talks on cholera prevention were organised in cooperation with the general provincial health board.

A total of 21,593 people who took part in the DRR awareness and community education activities have become aware of the importance of preparing themselves for emergencies and DRR. Through home visits a total of 15,090 people received house-to-house guidance on self-protection measures. Of these 15,090 people, 7,605 are women and 7,485 are men, 6% are elderly (906), 44% are children under the age of 18, 4% (578) are Haitian nationals, and 133 persons with disabilities were guided in their homes on self-protection measures. In total, the community multipliers visited 3,018 families and each of them prepared their family emergency plan.

A total of nine talks and 13 cinema forums were organised, in which 1,575 and 2,824 people took part respectively. Two of these talks were in Creole to encourage participation by Haitian nationals. Three workshops on community advocacy techniques were held with the aim of providing the communities with tools that will help them to demand that the authorities fulfil their obligations to DRR.

The project made the most of the celebration and commemoration of some special dates to hold mass awareness actions. Two International Women’s Day events were organised, one for the launch of the “Women and Girls in the Context of Natural Disasters” study by Plan and Oxfam, and the other for the screening of a documentary, “Women and Girls, the Visible Force of Resilience.” In both forums a panel of experts spoke about women’s role in DRR, but especially, made a call to the authorities on the importance on incorporating a gender and protection focus during emergency responses. /

To mark the start of the 2014 hurricane season, an awareness-raising event was organised in the main park in Azua, with an exhibition of a house simulating the effects of being hit by a hurricane. The partners of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (DIPECHO) in the 2009-2011 Action Plan made this house. Public awareness was raised about the importance of being prepared during this season. During the exhibition, the multipliers explained preparedness actions to passers-by. A total of 103 people took part in this activity. On 10 and 11 June, in coordination with the Comision Nacional de Emergencia (CNE), the Emergency Operations Center (COE) and the Ministry of the Presidency, and in the framework of the national hurricane drill, a training course targeting journalists was organised, where the Director of the Oficina Nacional de Meteorología (ONAMET) explained the concepts related to alerts and information bulletins, and how these messages needed to be translated into simple language for the public to have a better understanding of these alerts.

10 journalists attended this workshop.

Measuring Success

With the aim of raising awareness among the different at-risk population as well as with the authorities, seven communications tools were developed. These tools have been developed through a participatory and innovative approach taking into account the power of media and communications to bring about behaviour change in support of resilience building:

1. Radio advertisements on protection measures: “Be Alert Campaign” – several radio advertisements (“spots”) were made on self-protection methods and were used in the project for a publicity campaign in Azua. For eight months these spots were transmitted via local radio and TV stations. The Child Ambassadors produced a new spot on self-protection measures for hurricanes.

2. Documentary videos: three documentary videos highlighting the impact of disasters on the most vulnerable groups were produced. These documentaries, which were shared and analysed in discussion panels with gender and disability experts, called on the authorities to take measures that guarantee the protection of vulnerable groups particularly persons living with disabilities as well as women and girls. The documentaries produced were:

·       Disability and Disaster – Not Such An Obvious Conversation

·       Women, the Visible Force of Resilience;       

·       22 September – Learning from a Disaster

3. DRR Blog: an advocacy and learning tool developed by the Child Ambassadors, with the support of a consultant. The children and young people designed a blog about DRR in which they post news from their communities and report the lack of action on the part of the authorities, and promote DRR in the province of Azua. This tool has turned out to be innovative, as other young people may be motivated to replicate the work in their communities.

4. Risk-Land: An enjoyable way of learning about DRR is the Riskland game. The child ambassadors with support from staff in the schools where the project was implemented painted the game on the schoolyard floor, so that students and teachers can play it every week and learn about the risks in their communities and how to reduce them. The children say they like the game, because they can gain knowledge, have competitions and play in a healthier way.

5. Get down, cover up and hold on: An enjoyable and lively video clip produced by the Child Ambassadors. Using song and dance the children teach the three essential elements of self-protection in the event of an earthquake. The video clip emphasises the protection measures recommended by the SNPMR in the event of an earthquake, which are: to crouch down, cover and hold on. The children and youth did the words and choreography of the video clip.

6. Capitalization of the “mobile and modular shelters tool” – the project produced a document synthesising the mobile and modular shelters methodology, which was shared and discussed at the DIPECHO regional workshop during an event called “tools market”. During the presentation of the activity, four national systems showed an interest in the tool and expressed interest in adapting it to their contexts.

7. Be Alert Journalism Competition: 10 journalists from the country’s main communications media took part in this initiative, whose objective was to motivate communicators to write DRR related articles. A total of 10 journalistic works were submitted, and the three best ones were awarded prizes. As a result of the competition, the first prizewinner wrote a report on tsunami risk and the lack of evacuation routes and signposting for this type of hazard, after visiting several of the communities of intervention and highlighting some of the work.

8. Lastly, an interactive DVD was produced highlighting the project’s best practices, and was shared on the websites of implementing partners.


Targeted journalists and journalism students published fifty journalistic works during the project.

Seven tools/methodologies for community communication were developed and shared.

At the end of the action at least 70% of the populations of target communities (of whom 50% are women) has increased awareness of disaster risks and the protection of vulnerable groups.

Further information on activities

A range of awareness raising and sensitisation strategies for the population most exposed to disasters was developed; 3,018 home visits, 13 cinema forums and nine talks were organised throughout the project. These actions enabled the project to reach a total of 21,593 people who joined these activities. A total of 303 community multipliers, 199 of whom were women, were trained in awareness raising and DRR methodologies. It is worth highlighting the work done by the first group of multipliers, who took charge of motivating and training their peers who joined the project

The multipliers led the awareness raising and sensitisation work. The final knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) report stresses that, “85.5% of the population is more aware of DRR. The adult population with increased awareness of disaster risk totalled 48.6% – 49.01% in the case of women. The percentage of children, adolescents and young people with increased awareness of disaster risk reduction reached 73.77 % of the total”.

The project’s awareness raising activities placed a strong emphasis on protection for vulnerable groups. For this purpose, several activities were held on commemorative dates. As a result of this sensitisation, the persons living with disabilities associations asked the project team for a joint training course for them, the RCMPR and the DC, on how to conduct evacuations in emergency situations. Thirty-one people took part in this activity, 25 of them with some sort of disability. This element is highlighted in the final KAP: “In terms of identifying vulnerable population groups in an emergency, practically all those interviewed recognise that women (96.2%), children (94.7%), elderly people (95.2%) and people with disabilities (94.8%) are the most vulnerable groups, which need to receive special protection during an emergency. Nonetheless, the recognition of the Haitian national population group as vulnerable is mentioned by 65.8% (an increase from 50.2% in the initial KAP), with disabled people and women being the least likely to recognise their situation of vulnerability (57.2% and 62.7% respectively). In this aspect an increase can be noted in comparison with the initial KAP in terms of protection for elderly people, people with disabilities and Haitian nationals, although the last group does still not reach the levels of the other subgroups”.

Relevance to HFA

The project focused on promoting DRR actions that are closely linked with people’s basic rights, especially in crisis situations. At risk groups were empowered to better understand their vulnerabilities to disaster risks and duty bearers were supported through training and tools/technical assistance to respond to the rights of vulnerable groups in emergencies. The project promoted a greater participatory approach to the Dominican Republic’s commitment to HFA and its priority actions.

The project focused on the inclusion of vulnerable groups and some activities aimed at demonstrating the gaps and challenges faced by some of the most at risk groups. Groups who participated were: PWDs – 343, people of Haitian descent – 578, elderly people – 906. According to the KAP, “it is important to highlight how the PMR Committees have taken on the theory, as some have with planning, the inclusion of vulnerable groups such as [persons] living with disabilities.”

The project encouraged women to take leadership roles in some community and municipal structures. It also placed eight women in top management posts of the eight community networks (three coordinators and five sub-coordinators) to promote women’s empowerment. In all, women hold 50% of the management positions. Of the 331 people who make up the RCPMRs, 214 (65%) are women. Women’s participation in community response actions and their decision-making capacity, will better ensure that the child protection approach and that of protecting women themselves is guaranteed in the response. In addition the project was able to create greater understanding amongst men of the need to empower women in DRR and to address their needs, and that of other vulnerable groups in DRM planning.

Potential for replication

Extensive work on the awareness raising, communications and education components was carried out by the project. A total of 303 community multipliers, of whom 199 (66%) are women and 6% are Haitian nationals were trained over three months on how to guide families on disaster preparedness and knowledge of self-protection techniques. These house-to-house visits were supported by teaching and instructive materials developed by the project, with the aim of providing the families with a source of information in their hands. A total of 3,018 house-to-house visits were made by multipliers, reaching a total of 15,090 people, of whom 7,605 are women and 7.485 are men, 6% are elderly, 44% are children under the age of 18, 4% are Haitian nationals and 133 are PWDs, who were advised on self-protection in their homes. The community multipliers visited a total of 3,018 families and each household prepared a family emergency plan.

A total of 13 DRM forums were held, attended by 2,824 people, as well as nine community awareness-raising talks attended by 315 families. Two of the nine talks were in Creole (Los Parceleros and La Bombita), and were attended by 28 families of Haitian descent, with support from RCPMR members and project staff for translation. According to the final KAP, the impact of these actions on the population’s knowledge about disaster risks was demonstrated as follows: “In relation to training on DRR in the community, table 3.12 shows how 44.7% refer to having received information compared to 97.3% of people interviewed in the initial KAP, which recognised not having received any training or instruction on the matter. The group with the highest percentage that mentioned having received training were the Haitian nationals with 57.4% (…) 80.5% of the adults interviewed mentioned knowing self-protection measures in the case of any hazard, compared to 63.8% who said so in the initial KAP. These percentages have also increased among the people with disabilities who were interviewed, reaching 93.2% compared to 45% who in the initial KAP said they knew self-protection measures for facing hazards. In the case of people of Haitian origin, the same change is evident with 88.4% stating they know protection measures compared to 59% in the initial KAP”.

Three workshops on community advocacy were held, with the objective of providing the community members with tools for demanding that State institutions implement DRR actions. A women’s group in the La Bombita neighbourhood demanded that INAPA extend the coverage of the aqueduct to ensure community access to potable water. This demand was resolved by INAPA; before the end of the project, work was already being done on extending the aqueduct. Community members in Palmar de Ocoa also demanded that the municipal council clear the gullies, while the group in Las Charcas secured a donation of food for the summer camp. According to the KAP, in the advocacy themes for the community groups: “A high level of awareness is evident among the networks in Bombita, Parceleros, Puerto Viejo and Palmar de Ocoa on the advocacy capacity that they as networks can conduct with a view to asking the municipal authorities to invest in DRR. In this context they have been identified as the community networks with the greatest capacities and commitment to DRR”.

Making the most of a variety of strategies, extensive dissemination of DRR related messages was achieved by the project. Several public spaces in the communities were used for painting DRR related murals. These messages targeted the population of each targeted community and encouraged residents to carry out preparedness work. 10 murals were painted in several strategic points in the communities.

During the school holidays a DRR summer camp was held in the eight schools were the project was implemented. A total of 331 children, 200 of whom are girls, took part in this camp, which lasted three weeks. At the camp children learned self-protection methods, the meaning and function of the emergency warnings, and how to produce family emergency plans. Each child who attended the camp received a pack of information materials on DRR, developed by DIPECHO (2011-2012) and a basic emergency preparedness kit containing a backpack, a torch, a whistle, a water bottle, a rain cape, and other items. The camp enabled the children to work on the family emergency plans together with their families, as the materials they were given included activities for them to do with their parents. As a result of this summer camp the children and their families prepared 331 family emergency plans. It is worth mentioning the work done by the child ambassadors and the multipliers to obtain the food and some of the information materials from the municipal councils. According to the final project evaluation, the summer camp stands out as a good practice by the project, in as much as it consists of a non-formal space for learning about DRR, and promoting peer-to-peer learning on DRM.

DRR messages were placed on 56 public transport buses, in the province and beyond. This good practice was so successful among the transporters that private car owners as well as taxi drivers asked for the IEC materials with the DRM messages. These buses displayed:

·       19 posters on the Azua-San Juan route which pass through communities in San Juan (Villarpando, Arroyo Salado, Bastidas, Las Guanábanas, Canoa, Los Bancos);

·       10 posters on the Azua route that travels from Azua-Santo Domingo and through 15 communities in Puerto Viejo, Los Jovillos, Proyecto 2-c, Ganadero, Proyecto 4, Sabana Yegua;

Posters were also displayed on seven private taxis that travel to different points around the country, while five posters were displayed on state institutions (Azua Municipal Council, Estebania Municipal Council, Las Charcas Municipal Council, the Celida Perez School).

The children and youth ambassadors group composed several DRM songs that were recorded on a CD. These songs were shared during the Regional DIPECHO workshop held in Jamaica in October 2014. Also, children and young people recorded a video clip “Get down, cover up and hold on” that promotes protection measures for earthquakes. This video was also screened in Jamaica during the communications session as an example of good practice in communications for DRR.

52 children, 27 of whom are girls (52%), were trained as DRR ambassadors for their communities. Five training meetings took place for instructing the children in DRR and advocacy techniques. In the first meeting the facilitators covered aspects linked to the Children’s Charter for DRR and its five priority points. During the meeting the children were able to identify that these five DRR priorities were not being taken into account by the authorities. As a result of this meeting the children organised several actions to promote advocacy with the local authorities.

Together with the multipliers, the children requested the local authorities to provide for the refreshments and information materials for use in the summer camps. The children also asked the COE for training on the sectoral panels in emergency situations, and the COE designated two technicians who trained the children in one working day. At the end of this training session the children held a drill in the municipal council hall, which they called a Mini-COE, in which they carried out role-plays on taking on the coordination of the sectoral panels. UMdGR technicians took part in this exercise. The children recognised the experience as positive, and according to their comments, they did not know prior how emergencies were managed in the country.

Aware of the fact that school is one of the places where they spend most of their time, and aware that school safety is one of the essential elements of the Children’s Charter for DRR, the children asked the school principals for physical spaces to paint the Riskland game in their schools. The tool has been adapted to the context of each hazard and risk in their communities. This initiative has had a great impact because it has committed teachers to keep up to date on DRR in schools. In order to play the game, the children, with support from the teachers, hold group competitions about knowledge of hazards, risks and capacities in their communities.

Seventy-nine people, including 57 women attended four advocacy workshops. The objective was to provide the community leaders with practical tools for conducting advocacy work on DRR issues.

The work coordinated with the journalists enabled the media to cover the demands of the communities. One of the demands, from the leaders of La Bombita was to supply potable water, as the deficiencies in this service put the population at risk of an epidemiological outbreak. After sending several letters and obtaining support from several neighbourhood associations, the community received a reply from INAPA.

The tools have been disseminated via the DIPECHO LAC Facebook page, managed by UNISDR, and the project’s partners’ websites and Facebook pages. The methodologies can be replicated in other countries and this has taken plan in Paraguay, El Salvador and other Latin American countries where partners are implementing DRR work.


Plan Dominican Republic DIPECHO Project Manager – Diana Diaz

Plan Dominican Republic DRM Advisor – Daniel Stothart

Plan UK – DRR & Resilience Advisor – Kelly Hawrylyshyn