Reviewing the Recovery Practitioners Handbook

Posted on Friday, January 13th, 2012

An opinion piece by – Bob Mckerrow – Head of Delegation, IFRC, Sri Lanka


When you are dog tired after 3 months of running a disaster relief operation, exhausted from having early recovery planning thrust on you, your wife is threatening to divorce you, then suddenly your boss comes along and in a chirpy mood and says “you will be the right person to run the recovery operation” you crumple on a heap on the ground and look for guidance from above. Having been in that type of situation many times, your first thought is “why didn’t we plan this better at the outset?”

So today was an exciting day for me in what I call a crucial part in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami legacy as I am with my Red Cross colleagues Dr Mahesh Gunasekera, Gothami Chandrarathna and Colin Fernandes at a Stakeholder Consultation workshop to review the recovery practitioner  handbook.  The whole toolkit process has three components:

1. Development of Handbook for Recovery Program Practitioners

2. Technical Guidelines on “Build back better”, Scoping Document

3. Development of Training course curriculum on recovery program implementation targeted at national and local agencies/institutions responsible for recovery

So seven years after the tsunami struck on Boxing Day 2004, most of the tsunami recovery work is over, but capturing the good practices and lessons learned is still continuing and this workshop is trailing the draft handbook.  Hopefully this toolkit/recovery handbook will ensure there will be improved recovery planning for future large-scale recovery operations, reduce staff melt-down and avoid divorces from overwork and absence from the family.

In the publication The Tsunami Legacy – Innovation Breakthroughs and Change , the last chapter poses the question, “Will we do better next time?”

We have a moral duty to ensure that future generations have access to our tsunami lessons learned to ensure mistakes are not repeated and good practices improved upon.

The IFRC has contributed US $250,000 towards the development of the below listed Tsunami Global Lessons Learned (TGLL) initiatives and have been active throughout the process.

1. A publication that records cross border experiences, the good practices and lessons learned so that future leaders, practitioners , administrators can learn and use the good practices, especially ones that accelerate recovery operations.

2. To make a documentary to be released on the 5th anniversary of the tsunami that will reach as many people as possible around the world by showing it on Discovery TV, and once shown, as many other TV channels around the world.

3. A toolkit/handbook for practitioners, Government administrators, NGO , INGO and community leaders.

Items one and two have been completed some time ago but the toolkit is the final product.

So how did all this start ? Way back in earlier 2007 Dr.Kuntoro Mangkusubroto the Minister of Tsunami in Indonesia had the vision to call together a group of about ten of us working on the tsunami recovery operation in Indonesia, to what he called a tsunami legacy workshop. Out of this initiative over a delicious breakfast, the idea of a Global Lessons Learned steering committee was born.



Leading disaster officials from India, Sri Lanka, Maldives , Thailand and Indonesia were brought to Bangkok where they Decided to come up with 3 key key initiatives:

So as the tsunami operation nears a close, it really is both exciting as it is reassuring, to see that a learning legacy will be left thanks to the vision of Dr Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Minister for tsunami Indonesia, supported by the governments of the tsunami affected countries, the UN, especially Satya Tripathi and IFRC. I am sure this recovery practitioners manual will guide people to plan for better recovery operations that provide an integrated recovery package to affected communities in a timely manner.