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 citizen’s rights especially of women and young people
Hamyaran Iran NGO Resource Center
  • Awareness raising and public outreach
  • Community support, engagement & empowerment
  • Network development and partnerships
Society for the Protection and Assistance of Socially Disadvantaged Individuals (SPASDI)
  • Emergency Planning,
  • Building Programs
Earthquake Hazards Reduction Society of Iran(EHRSI)
The Iranian residents IN Vien
  • Protection and Care facilities of children
SINA  Association
  • Educational assistance for refugees or Iranian street children
Association for Protecting Child Laborers
  • Architecture
  • Building safe houses
Mehrazan  Javan
  • planning to cope with natural disasters
  • training through workshops
and seminars
  • organizing a rescue team and performing rescue operations
  • Manages orphanages
  • facilitate cultural events such as education, sports, and care for children

International NGOs' Activities in Bam
International NGOs played an important role during the emergency period because they provided enormous, effective, and relief operations with their expertness and experience. However, most had left Bam by mid April after 3 months of operations. (Okano and Atsum, 2004). Table 2 presents the name and activities of some International NGOs (5).
Table 2: The name and activities of some International NGOs
Name Activities Country
  • Emergency relief
  • peace buildin
  • respect for human rights, development of social justice
USA, Switzerland, Italy
  • Works for poor people
Operation Mercy
  • Reelief and development programs
People in Need
  • Rebuilding of health and education facilities
  • social and medical services
  • Respond to suffering victims in war and disaster situation
  • Giving direct aid to children
  • emergency relief
  • rehabilitation measures
IBC Turkey
  • Training of crisis management period
  • Psychosocial therapy for children
Help Germany
  • Emergency assistance
  • rehabilitation and development projects
  • Medical activities
  • Rebuilding of house units
ADF Turkey
  • Disaster relief services
  • Refugee assistance
World Vision Relief and development organization working for the wellbeing of all people, especially children Germany
STL Emergency operations
Trainings and other capacity building programs
  • Active in decreasing  poverty and injustice
  • Campaigning to responding to emergencies
Mercy Corp-USA
  • Alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities
  • Urgent disaster assistance
  • Self-reliance support
  • Rural environment protection
  • Human resource development.
Merlin Provides medical relief in the aftermath of conflict, natural disaster or epidemic disease UK
Relief International Build the capacity of communities through the use of innovative educational and ICT programs Bangladesh
Action Hambre End the cause of hunger in the world Spain
ICCO The structural reduction of poverty and the realization of internationally recognized human rights Netherlands
  • Social welfare
  • Running and taking care of hospitals
  • Providing services  for elderly, disabled, orphans and other vulnerable groups
European Perspective
  • Promote sustainable development
  • Provide humanitarian assistance
  • Contribute towards the establishment of democratic institutions in the target countries
  • Community development
  • Food distribution
  • Institutional development
  • Ongoing disaster relief
  • Advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises
  • Aid and assistance to the hungry, those affected by disasters and others in need
Doctors without Boundaries
  • Provide urgent medical care in countries to victims of war and disaster
Save the Children
  • Building the care and protection of children into broader social welfare
  • poverty reduction and other national development strategies
For instance, Caritas as a famous NGO performed the emergency and post emergency operations in Bam. In Figure 4, its operation is detailed.

Figure 4: The Caritas Operations in Bam (The authors)
The challenges of NGOs’ activities in Iran during disasters:
  • People' lack of knowledge about NGOs and their roles during disasters.
  • The government is uncooperative and there are some administrative problems on their activities.
  • The society is not self-confident enough for cooperating in NGOs activities.
  • Some NGOs disregard the role of victims during disasters.
  • The amount of financial aids and the way of spending them is not determined.
  • Inaccessibility to enough information for implementing the process of disaster management.
  • The management weakness in organizing the NGOs.
  • Lack of suitable cooperation between all NGOs in Iran.
  • The NGOs do not have long-term plans in responding disasters.
  • Lack of progressive laws about NGOs in Iran.
Solutions and suggestions for improving the NGOs activities during the disasters:
  • Broadcasting culture of public contribution and motivating the youth and experts to establish NGOs.
  • Public education for planning activities of NGOs during disasters through holding workshops and offering training courses in universities.
  • Enactment of comprehensive laws for empowering the NGOs.
  • Increasing the transparencies of governmental organizations and NGOs to determine their functions, properties and the amount of effectiveness.
  • Decreasing the government tenure and increasing their supervision on NGOs’ operations.
According to a wide extension of the disaster occurred in the country as well as the high vulnerability of cities against the earthquake, developing the NGOs’ activities in all levels, including technical, social, cultural, and economical aspects, is an appropriate reaction strategy to reduce and/or even omit the existing risks. On the other hand, Iranian NGOs’ operations focus on response and recovery phases in disaster management; whereas, improving the level of the capabilities can be useful in pre-emergency phase, such as preparedness processes. Although the government plays a significant role in the process of improvement, it is so important to give enough opportunity to NGOs in order to be more active and productive during disaster management. The results of the NGOs’ activities during Bam earthquake demonstrate that a successful coordination between victims of the earthquake and NGOs is taken place. However, there were some uncoordinated relations among NGOs and governmental organizations that could influence their functions. Therefore, solving the problems can be effective in decreasing the negative consequences of oncoming disaster.
Particular thanks are owed to Mr. Akbar Alavi and Mr. Mohammad Iranmanesh for their help in gathering data for conducting this study.
Funding source
This article had no financial involvement for the conduct of the research.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests
Authors' contribution
All of the authors approved the content of the manuscript and agreed on all aspects of the work.
Type of Study: Review | Subject: Special
Received: 2018/03/3 | Accepted: 2018/03/3 | Published: 2018/03/3

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