A conceptual framework for disaster risk participatory communication for at-risk communities in South African municipalities
South Africa, like many other developing countries, faces a growing problem of informal settlements which are mushrooming in and around the major urban centres. Living conditions within these settlements are typically poor with residents facing a range of basic livelihoods challenges, exacerbated by poverty, inequality and social exclusion. Unplanned and rapid urbanisation, from which informal settlements originate, and existing conditions in these areas, heighten risk to disaster and provide the conditions that turn natural and man-made events into major livelihoods disruptions. The most devastating of these disruptions are disasters brought on by uncontrolled fires, extreme wet weather and associated flooding. To forestall disaster, minimise livelihoods disruptions and debilitating loss of assets, and safeguard developmental progress, local governments have increasingly adopted risk reduction approaches to their development planning and implementation. Among some of the critical risk reduction measures adopted is the deployment of communication interventions meant to cultivate a culture of risk avoidance among at-risk communities. While it is largely accepted that developmental losses can be considerably reduced if people are properly educated and well-prepared for a disaster, it is also widely recognised that current tools and guidelines for communication of disaster risk in developing communities have largely proved inadequate. Among leading criticisms is that the communication interventions implemented neither fully cater for the contemporary proactive and pre-emptive (risk minimising) approach to disaster risk management nor the developmental imperatives of the disaster risk reduction paradigm. This study, therefore, sought to propose a conceptual framework for the reorientation of thinking and improvement of the on-the-ground practice of disaster risk communication in South African municipalities, and to ensure, among other things, that the practice of disaster risk communication in South Africa places participation of at-risk communities at the centre of communication interventions for disaster risk reduction. A literature study was conducted to explore what principles of the participatory approach to development communication could be applicable to a framework for disaster risk communication interventions. Following the literature study, an empirical study into the contemporary disaster risk communication practice in the three study sites of Cape Town, George and uThungulu District was carried out. The field study comprised semi-structured interviews with disaster risk communication managers and other key informants, and focus group discussions with members of informally settled communities in the study areas. Using a hybrid thematic analytic approach, the data gathered empirically were analysed against the salient themes derived from the literature study and those emerging as the empirical study progressed, and from that process a conceptual framework for disaster risk participatory communication for at-risk communities in South African municipalities was developed and proposed. In conclusion, guidance was also given for translation of the conceptual framework into actual practice by disaster risk managers and other disaster risk reduction role-players in South Africa.
- Humanities