Volume 1, Issue 1 (Jan-June 2018)                   JDER 2018, 1(1): 43-50 | Back to browse issues page

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Fallah S, Hosseini nejad J. The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in Disaster Management: A Case study of Bam Earthquake, Iran. JDER. 2018; 1 (1) :43-50
URL: http://jder.ssu.ac.ir/article-1-27-en.html
Department of Natural Disaster Management, Faculty of Environment, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
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The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in Disaster Management: A Case study of Bam Earthquake, Iran
Saeed Fallah1 Jhila Hosseini nejad2
1 Department of Natural Disaster Management, Faculty of Environment, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
2 Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran
REVIEW ARTICLE Introduction: On December 26, 2003, a devastating earthquake jolted historic city of Bam in Iran. About 26000 people were killed and more than 30000 were injured. The historic monuments including the 2500 year old  Arg-e Bam were destroyed severely. Since the scale of the disaster and the number of human casualties was high, management of the crisis became more complicated. Thus, people who were affiliated with different Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) helped the government to rescue the affected people.
Methods: In the present case study, by interviewing experts and NGOs, their contribution and activities in Bam earthquake were investigated.
Results: A few hours after the earthquake, the local and international NGOs started their rescue activities spontaneously and continued their help even during the reconstruction period. Their activities included relief and rescue, food support, sanitation, treatments, emergency settlement, as well as providing physiological treatment and training. It was shown that the affected people were satisfied with NGOs’ activities while governmental organizations could not coordinate well with them.
Conclusion: Well organized civilian and religious groups can be helpful for governmental organizations in assisting people affected by the earthquake. Therefore, different techniques were proposed to improve the process of preparedness and response during disasters and to have a better communication and coordination between governmental organizations (that are in charge of the crisis situations) and NGOs.
Keywords: Disasters, Earthquakes, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Bam, Iran
Article history:
Received: 23 Des 2017
Revised: 7 Jan 2018
Accepted: 10 Feb 2018
*Corresponding author:
Saeed Fallah
Natural Disaster Management Department, Graduate Faculty of Environment, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran
ran is a disaster-prone country, which experiences many disasters such as earthquakes every year. Historical data show the occurrence of a major earthquake every 2– 3 years in Iran. In the 20th century alone, 20 major earthquakes claimed more than 140,000 lives, destroyed several villages and cities and caused extensive economic damages to Iran (1). On the morning of  December 26th 2003 at 05:28 (local time), a major earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale struck the city of Bam, Kerman Province, and south eastern of Iran. According to later estimates regarding the worst earthquake hitting the country during the last decade, more than 25000 people were killed and approximately 30000 were injured (2). Although the impact of the earthquake was limited to a relatively small area of about 16 Km in radius, in Bam city more than 85 percent of the buildings were completely destroyed. Its impact on surrounding rural areas was also severe. More than 39361 residential and commercial units in Bam and 34,000 houses in 250 villages were destroyed and 75,000 left homeless by the major earthquake (3). The earthquake caused the electricity, water supply and most public health and education services to be completely disrupted. The 2500 year- old historic city of Bam, an internationally renowned heritage site in the center of Bam, was almost completely destroyed (4). The Ministry of Education reported that all 131 schools in Bam and the surrounding villages, with a combined capacity of 32843 students, were either destroyed or rendered unusable. From early hours after the earthquake, people from other cities and provinces helped people of Bam. Since the scale of the disaster and the number of human casualties and damages to infrastructures were high, management of the crisis became more complicated (5). Thus, people who were affiliated to local and international NGOs helped the government to rescue affected people.
NGOs and Disaster Management
Disaster Management definition
A disaster is a sudden unplanned event
that causes great damage or serious loss to an organization (6). There are two main origins of hazards, namely natural and technological disasters. Natural disasters include hydro-meteorological, geophysical and biological disasters. The technological disasters comprise industrial, transport and miscellaneous
accidents (7).
Disaster management involves plans, structures, and arrangements established to engage the normal endeavors of governments, voluntary and private agencies in a comprehensive and coordinated way to respond to the whole spectrum of emergency needs. Disaster management cycle has components that might interact with each other and even covered partially by another component (8). Each component of comprehensive disaster management cycle is shown in Figure1.

Figure1: Disaster management cycle (9)

NGOs definition
the World Bank defined NGOs as private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development (10). NGO activities can be local, national or international. NGOs have contributed to the development of communities around the world and are important partners of many governments – while remaining independent from governments (11).
NGOs are usually an element of voluntary participation in the organization and also independent, in particular of government and other public authorities and of political parties

or commercial organizations (12).
NGOs are not self-serving in aims and related values. Their aim is to act in large public arena and dealing with concerns and issues related to people's wellbeing and specific groups of people or society as a whole. They are not pursuing the commercial or professional interests of their members. (13). Their activities are based
on the process of disaster management. According to 4 phases of disaster management, they can be active in all processes; however, their activities are often in response and recovery phases. The NGOs’ activities in 4 phases of disaster management are mentioned in Figure 2.

Figure 2: The NGOs’ activities in 4 phases of disaster management (The authors)
The NGOs’ activities after the Bam earthquake
Following the devastating earthquake in the south-eastern city of Bam on December 26th 2003, at the request of Iranian government, a lot of local and international NGOs took part in Bam and started their activities for helping the victims of this catastrophic earthquake. Figure 3 indicates activities of NGOs in Bam.

Figure 3: The activities of NGOs in Bam (The authors)
Activities of Local NGOs in Bam:
Local NGOs from Kerman province and other cities of Iran gathered in Bam, some hours after the devastating earthquake. Their activities were useful but their coordination with international NGOs was weak; therefore, they could not improve their plans there. A Few days after the earthquake, the relationship between international and local NGOs was established and international NGOs could apply their proceedings. Table 1 reveals the name and activities of some Iranian NGOs. (5)
Table 1: The name and activities of some Iranian NGOs
City Type Name
  • Create a community-based model, emphasizing sustainable development
  • Protection of the environment, community participation
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Vulnerable groups
  • Equality of