The SOCHARA Disaster Response Archive

“Responding to disasters in South Asia has been a long standing strategy of SOCHARA especially since many of the pioneers associated with the evolution of SOCHARA had their own life changing experiences in disaster responses including the East Pakistan Refugee Camps (1971); Andhra Cyclone (1978) and other disasters.”

Source: SOCHARA website section on Disaster Response introduction

Audioclip on why responding to disaster has been a long standing strategy of SOCHARA [….coming soon]

“How does engaging in disaster response/relief help the larger goal of Health for All?”

We have now decided that we would like to work at a more grassroot level supporting the growing community health movement. We have discovered that we are committed to a process of attitudinal change not a speciality; a value system not a university curriculum or regulation; a health movement not a medical institution and hence we realise that we have now grown beyond the perspectives of a preventive and social medicine department….. We have now felt the need to move out of the confines of a university regulated teaching department to an informal, small documentation and research cell, which will encourage and catalyse the growing awareness and interest in Community Health and Health by the people.”

[Source: letter of resignation by Ravi and Thelma Narayan before leaving SJMC to start CHC with the other two co-founders.]

” Equity, ecologically – sustainable development and peace are at the heart of our vision of a better world – a world in which a healthy life for all is a reality; a world that respects, appreciates and celebrates all life and diversity; a world that enables the flowering of people’s talents and abilities to enrich each other; a world in which people’s voices guide the decision that shape our lives. There are more than enough resources to achieve this vision”

[Source : The People’s Charter for Health – The People’s Health Movement, Dec. 2000]

To create an awareness in the principles and practice of Community Health among all people involved and interested in Health and related sectors. 

۞ To undertake research in Community Health Policy issues particularly: – Community health care systems – Health human power training strategies – Health and development interactions – Medical pluralism and integration of medical systems. 

۞ To evolve educational strategies that will enhance the knowledge, skill and attitudes of people involved in Community Health and development. 

۞ To dialogue with health planners decision makers and administrators to enable the formulation and implementation of community oriented health policies. ۞ To promote and support community health action through voluntary as well as governmental initiative. “

[Source:   First pamphlet of CHC, 1992, Aims and Objectives ]

If you are someone looking for a guide to help you understand how to be a “volunteer” who is “effective” and want to understand the aspects of disaster management then the following sections might help you gain some clarity.

If not, skip ahead to the sections on SOCHARA’s disaster response efforts

The volunteer’s corner

What is a Disaster

Disaster is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as ‘a sudden, great misfortune’. 

For practical purposes, it has to be understood that disaster is not the event itself

Disaster is the situation arising out of an event where disruption of a great magnitude occurs in life (human, animal and plant) and life supporting systems (water, air, sunlight, food etc). This separates a disaster from an accident or incident

Source: Disaster Relief Through Voluntary Agencies chapter by Dr. Shirdi Prasad Tekur in WHO sponsored Report on Core Faculty Training workshop on Disaster Preparedness, National Teacher Training Centre, JIPMER, 1991

Classification of disasters

Natural: Human made:Others:
EarthquakesCommunal riotsEpidemics
FloodsEthnic conflictsIndustrial disasters
TsunamiRefugee situations after warFires
CycloneDevelopment displacementMajor transport accidents
DroughtMigrationFestival/ Pilgrimage related disasters including stampede
Minor: Heat/Cold waves/ Avalanche/Landslide/HailstormsLarge scale food poisoning
Alcohol/Liquor tragedies
Types of Disasters [Sources: India Disasters report-2000(OUP) and Disaster Response: SOCHARA experience training module for CHLP (SOCHARA- SOPHEA)]


  • Injury & Disability,
  • Infectious diseases,
  • Psychosocial consequences,
  • Nutrition challenges,
  • Water and Sanitation challenges
Social/ Societal
  • Human rights,
  • Gender,
  • Ecological,
  • Urban mal planning,
  • Displacement,
  • Marginalisation/Social exclusion/Discrimination
Health & Humanitarian Challenges

Components 1-6

[Refer: Disaster Response: SOCHARA experience training module for CHLP (SOCHARA- SOPHEA)]

Here is a sequence to help you understand how to prepare for a stint of volunteering in a disaster/crisis situation

Step 1:

  • Understand the nature of the disaster you are dealing with
  • Health problems that are common to all disasters are due to :- climatic exposure, food and nutrition issues, mental health issues, communicable diseases, injuries following a disaster 
Diseases to be monitored when people are housed in temporary shelters after an onslaught or disaster event
  • Due to overcrowding: diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory complaints, TB scabies, tinea, skin conditions,
  • Vector borne diseases due to sanitation issues: dengue, malaria (region specific), meningococcal meningitis(region specific), hookworm infestation, 
  • Food scarcity, nutritional deficiencies– xerophthalmia, anemia
  • Injury related– tetanus. 
  • Women’s health issues related to menstrual hygiene, pregnancy, lactation
  • Point to remember: Important to gather information on the vaccination cover in that particular place before deciding on the need for mass immunisations

Step 2:

[Refer: Distance learning in health and family welfare management, Module 9, disaster management, 1993 by National Institute of Health & Family Welfare, Disasters and Dimensions for management in Health ]

  • Who is delivering health care during a crisis like this- local health personnel, community, local authorities/ individuals/groups, NGO’s, volunteers
  • What do you need to consider prior to managing the health aspects?[Refer:Dimensions of health management (pg12-13)]
  • Planning to manage a disaster [Refer: (pg 13-17)]
  • Implementing disaster management strategy [Refer: (pg 17-19)]

Step 3:

Planning for Post disaster action- what can you and the community expect (pg 19-23)

Assessing the services and resources

General information on:

  • Inventory of support material required for assistance,
  • Family groupings,
  • Temporary shelters and sanitation,
  • Disposal of the dead,
  • Dealing with animals,
  • Health problems in this phase:- monitoring the community’s health, health education, reporting by the local health personnel


  1. Distance learning in health and family welfare management, Module 9, disaster management, Pg: 2-24, 1993 by National Institute of Health & Family Welfare, Disasters and Dimensions for management in Health
  1. Disaster Management A Reader,by National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISC Bangalore,2003. Article by Dr.Sanjiv Lewin: Health and Psychosocial Consequences of Disasters- A Bangalore Response
  2. A guide to Disasters and Emergencies: Preparedness and Management of Health Services by Indian Society of Health Administrations (ISHA), First Edition 1997
  3. Coastal Orissa after Super Cyclone- A new solidarity unites Orissa villagers as they struggle to build new life- Bharat Dogra- pg 15- The basic principles of rehabilitation,pg 16- Role of NGO’s, Key indicators to be monitored


  1. Report on Core Faculty Training Workshop on Disaster Preparedness (WHO sponsored)- Disaster relief through voluntary agencies by Dr. Shirdi Prasad Tekur
  2. Tsunami Response in Kanyakumari district, TN Report of work done by….. (a formal detailed report of use for a more administrative purposes)
  3. India Disasters Report towards a policy initiative edited by Parasuraman S and Unnikrishnan P.V. (chapter written by Dr. Ravi Narayan, Epidemics: Disease as Disasters)
  4. Unified Response Strategy(URS) Sphere India , 2007, UNICEF  section on Tools and Instruments and why to adopt  URS(pg 10-12), Common Rapid Assessment Format on pg 16. 
  5. The Sphere Project- Humanitarian Charter and minimum standards in humanitarian response, 2011 Edition


  1. Cyclones in Andhra Pradesh A multidisciplinary study to profile cyclone response to coastal AP, India(chapter on Rescue, Relief, Rehabilitation)
  2. Riding the Storm Community Experiences from Disaster Preparedness Initiatives in Andhra Pradesh, 1996.
  3. Tsunami Evaluation Coalition Synthesis Report: Expanded Summary. (Joint evaluation of the international response to the Indian Ocean tsunami, 2007- special note: Summary of TEC findings. (pg 3)
  4. Case Examples from Manual for Child Health Workers in Major Disasters pg 33-36
  5. Coastal Orissa after Super Cyclone- A new solidarity unites Orissa villagers as they struggle to build new life- Bharat Dogra pg-7 Mamta Gruha inmates support community rehabilitation, pg 11- A dog who saved children

Government Resources

  • Link to NDMA website
  • Dos and Don’ts for each type of natural disaster and man made disaster links available on the site along with resources for each. (Note:-at present there aren’t any resources on conflict related disasters. No specific information for volunteers in disaster relief)
Resources to train local community on aspects of disaster management
  • Aapda samvaad,
  • Awareness sections,
  • Booklets,
  • Sign language videos

Tools to help in psychosocial care:

  1. You can help yourself diagram on pg 6, Recovery mechanisms

[Refer: Super Cyclone information manual Psychosocial Care for Individuals: Books for Change ActionAid India 2000]

  1. Are you a Community Level Helper?

[Refer: Super Cyclone information manual Psychosocial Care for Community Level Helpers: Books for Change ActionAid India 2000]

  1. Psychosocial care in Disaster Management- My work book by NIMHANS- CARE-GHP 2004 edition
  2. Riots Manual for Psychosocial Care for Individuals
  3. Helping techniques (pg 28-31), Burnout (pg: 39-40), Appendix: Colouring book for the child from Manual for Child Health Workers in Major Disasters, NIMH US1986
  4. How helpers can cope, (pg 10-14 )in Carer’s for Disasters by Dr. S Abbas

The volunteer’s backpack

Essentials to carry along (coming soon….)

What happens after the disaster or the response?

What are the long term ethical and practical issues that arise?

How does one reconcile with the fact that the work in health can never end?

[Refer: MFC 50 years discussion on MFC’s response to Bhopal and the concerns raised by Satinath Sarangi]

SOCHARA’s Disaster Response (Curated list)

  1. Bangladesh Refugee camps 1971– Dr. Ravi Narayan
  2. Andhra Cyclone 1977– Dr. Thelma Narayan
  3. Bhopal Gas Tragedy 1984 – Dr. Thelma Narayan
  4. Bangladesh Cyclone 1991– Dr. Shirdi Prasad Tekur, Dr. Sanjiv Lewin. Mr. S J Chander, Mr. Anand
  5. Latur Earthquake 1993– Mr. S J Chander, Dr. Sanjiv Lewin, Dr. Arvind Kasthuri, Chandru and Krupa 
  6. Orissa Super Cyclone 1999– Dr. Ravi D’souza, Mr. S J Chander
  7. Gujarat Earthquake 2001– Mr. S J Chander
  8. Gujarat Riots 2002– Dr. Thelma Narayan, Babu Mathew, Ruth Manorama
  9. Tsunami 2004– Mr. Ameer Khan, Dr. Rakhal Gaitonde, Dr. Vinay Vishwananth,Mr. Naveen Thomas 
  10. Raichur Floods 2009– Dr Eddie Premdas
  11. Chennai Floods 2015– Mr. Ameer Khan, Dr. Suresh Raghunath
  12. Nepal Earthquake 2015– Ms. Yomri Dabi

Relief efforts to be curated:

  1. Tamil camps, Sri Lanka
  2. Rajendra nagar fire
  3. Ejipura eviction
  4. Hooch tragedy
  5. Uttarakhand earthquake
  6. Rohingya camps

coming soon…..

Bangladesh Refugee camps (1971)

  • The Bangladesh Chronicles are an experiential resource that has been curated by Dr. Ravi Narayan
  • Special Archives photo album 
  • A Doctor in Neelganj-A first hand report on the national problem by Dr. Ravi Narayan in Retort July-Oct 1971 article
  • A Refugee Story
  • Typed document of “things to be ready to do with instructions” for the team going
  • Handwritten notes of Dr. Ravi Narayan based on newspaper articles by various authors on the Bangladesh refugee camps 
  • Handwritten and typed reflections by Dr. Ravi Narayan on his Bangladesh experience
  • Observations by Mr. H.G.T Carpenter of SJMC of Neelganj Camp with the 1st Team for Bangladesh, 20th August, 1971, Bangalore
  • Work at Neelganj– extract from letters of Dr. Ravi Narayan published under News and Notes in The Sword of the Spirit , November 1971
  • Indent of Medicines
  • SJMC medical relief work in refugee camps 
  • Rewarding Experience at Refugee Camp article in The Hindu October 1st 1971 
  • Link to article Beyond Neelganj– understanding the crisis blog written by Ravi Narayan on Bangladesh experience, under Community Tales on NarayanBlog
  • Inspiration at Neelganj under Community Tales on NarayanBlog 
  • Oral interview with Dr. Ravi Narayan 

Andhra Cyclone (1977)

  • Report of Cyclone Relief work by first 2 groups by Dr. Padmini Urs
  • Report of Cyclone Relief Work done in Andhra Pradesh, handwritten account  by Dr. Thelma Narayan
  • Vijayawada Diocese Tidal Wave and Cyclone Relief Operations Progress Report 2 upto December 31,1977
  • Catholic Mission Relief and Rehabilitation Centre Diocese of Vijayawada Progress report 4 upto 25th January 1978
  • Deccan Herald article in March 1979, Bangalore. Divi Taluk: The cyclone-ravaged people smile again by Harji Malik
  • Diviseema Development Society, Nagayalaka Socioeconomic and Health Survey
  • Oral interview with Dr. Thelma Narayan

Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1984)

  • Chapter 2: Story Of Bhopal (pg16-31) in SOCHARA July 2012 publication, Examining Environment and Health Interactions- Responding with communities to the challenges of our times written by Dr. Adithya Prashanth and Dr. Ravi Narayan
  • Combating Inequality by Dr. Thelma Narayan, published in Health Action issue 5 June-August 1993(
  • Bhopal- A Testimonal to the Impact of Technological Disasters by Dr. Thelma Narayan
  • Rationale for the use of Sodium Thiosulphate as an antidote in the treatment of the victims of the Bhopal Gas Disaster- A review in June 7th, 1985 by Thelma Narayan, C. Sathyamala, Mira Sadgopal and Vijaya Shankar Varma
  • Summary of Need for communication strategy on health issues following the Bhopal gas tragedy typed on 20/4/1985, ?author
  • People’s right to information -Interview with Dr. Thelma Narayan in ECC News No.22, Dec 1985 
  • MFC bulletin’s 109, 112, 114 on Bhopal 
  • Oral interview with Dr. Thelma Narayan 

Bangladesh Cyclone (1991)

  • Notice for call for volunteers for Bangladesh cyclone disaster 
  • Report of the ABC Volunteers from Bangalore 21/6/1991 Cyclone Relief at Ujantia of Cox’s Bazar District (Anand , Beatrice and Chander)
  • Dr. Sanjiv Lewin’s Bangladesh logbook– daily notes, illustrations, his handwritten report, letters of correspondence
  • Service Civil International Bangladesh- May 30th 1991 (document containing names of volunteers from organisations Shirdi P T,S J Chander, Sanjiv Lewin)
  • The 1991 Bangladesh Cyclone by Dr. Shirdi Prasad Tekur
  • Letter written to Dr. Sanjiv Lewin from Prasanto on 12th April 1992 
  • Mr. Soumya Kumar’s letter from Nandurga to his team mates in CHC, Bangalore
  • Community Health Cell Report by Mr. S J Chander
  • Letters of correspondence with Dr. Shirdi Prasad Tekur in relation to the Bangladesh Cyclone
  • Bangladesh Cyclone Disaster – Relief by CHC
  • Minutes of informal meeting of concerned individuals and organisations of Bangalore interested in sending a relief team to Bangladesh, 14th May, 1991
  • Oral interview with Dr. Sanjiv Lewin
  • Oral interview with Mr. S J Chander 

Latur Earthquake (1993)

  •  “ A preparatory text for volunteers from Bangalore ” handwritten notes by Mr. S J Chander on the relief efforts from NGO reports and newspapers
  • 1/10/1993-18/10/1993Voluntary Health Association of India- Maharashtra Earthquake an Update 13/1/1994 (DR. PV Unnikrishnan, Christina De Sa, Dr. Anil P, Nilina Mitra, Sanjoy Sen Gupta and Chandrashekharan)
  • Letter from Fr. John Vattamattom from CHAI on a Request for Reflection on the Relief and Rehabilitation Work and preparation for a disaster management scheme
  • Earthquake report by Dr.Gerry Pais – a fax report dated 5/10/1993
  • Report by Dr. J Anthony Dass, President, Service Civil International India on his visit to Earthquake areas in Maharashtra State from 11th to 18th October 1993.
  • Letter written by Mr. S J Chander to Chandru, Krupa and all the Bangalore NGO’s while in Nandurga, Latur.
  • Report of the 21st October Earthquake Relief team to Nandurga (21/10/1993-30/10/1993)
  • Fax message received from Dr. Arvind Kasthuri on 9/11/1993 via CHAI Hyderabad.
  • List of volunteers from Bangalore for Earthquake relief on 31st October 1993
  • To Lathur in Solidarity -2 on 21/10/1993 by CHC
  • Report of the Earthquake relief work being carried on at Nandurga of Latur district by Sanghi group of Industries and CHAI Hyderabad by S J Chander 12/11/1993
  • The Earthquake Relief Programme- CHAI camp at Nandurga Village, Latur District, A report by Dr. Arvind Kasturi, 16/11/1993 has a schematic map at the end of the report. 
  • Reminiscences of a Volunteer by Mr. Soumya Kumar
  • The Killari Quake – Marathwada, Maharashtra 1993 A CHAI Response
  • Documents of Habitat International Coalition provided by Kirtee Shah, includes correspondence to the then CM of Maharashtra Sharad Pawar in relation to the earthquake in 1993
  • First Newsletter from CHAI-Sanghi Relief Camp, Nandurga Village, Latur District written by Dr. Mani Kalliath the Co-ordinator dated 16/10/1993
  • New Year’s Greeting 1994 from Community Health Cell written by Dr. Shirdi Prasad Tekur the Co-ordinator
  • Message from S J Chander complied by Dr. Ravi Narayan based on phone conversations between the two on 24th and 25th October. Drafted on 26th October 1993
  • Disaster Relief Agenda: Earthquake relief for Marathwada, Minutes of the Voluntary Agencies meeting held on 1/10/1993 and 5/10/1993 at Ashirvad, St, Mark’s Road, Bangalore Shirdi was a representative from CHC. 
  • Visit to Earthquake affected villages in Latur and Umarga by Krupa in 1993 8th-13th October
  • Latur From Relief to Disaster
  • Video by Action Aid “ A Year after the earthquake: What’s done. What isn’t “
  • Volunteer sign up sheet sample document
  • A Call from Latur by CHC 
  • Letters of correspondence with Dr. Shirdi Prasad Tekur regarding the Latur earthquake
  • Oral interview with Mr. S J Chander  
  • Oral interview with Dr. Sanjiv Lewin

Orissa Super Cyclone (1999)

  • Orissa Cyclone disaster response– handwritten interview notes from an interview by Dr. Thelma Narayan with Dr. Ravi D’souza 1/12/1999
  • Orissa Cyclone Update by ODMM 26/11/1999- Our response section and Bulletin-5 News from the field- 09/11/1999- highlights of ODMM activities
  • Jagatsinghpur Update(Action Aid India included in it)1-31st august 2000, report sections on community mobilisation, capacity building (of special interest to me)
  • Save Us Lord We Are Perishing account by Sr.Margaret, Sr.Mariamma and Sr.Sahaya 30/02/1999
  • Article published in Outlook 3/11/1999 but sent as an email with his “Opinion” by Unnikrishnan P.V
  • Cyclone resistant dwelling unit floor plan draft in Baxipalli

Gujarat Earthquake(2001)

  • Doctors and Pediatricians required– message from Dr. P. V Unnikrishnan on behalf of OXFAM dated 19/2/2001 
  • Gujarat Shattered by a Killer earthquake, note prepared by Dr. Unnikrishnan
  • The Earthquake an update by Sridhar from MFC dated 18/2/2001
  • Gujarat Earthquake Strategy Building for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction: A preliminary Appraisal by Mohamad Asif, Prakash Louis, Prasad M. Chacko dated 13/2/2001 dated 13/2/2001
  • Gujarat 21 days later impressions by Raju and Geeta Rajagopal dated 18/2/2001
  • Gujarat Earthquake: Healing the wounds Oxfam India’s Interventions – A mission to put people back on their feet, Community based rehabilitation of physically challenged/ disabled people 
  • magazine snippets the Cover Story section from The Week about the aftermath written by various individuals.
  • Movie by Indian People’s Tribunal and Oxfam India in Gujarati and English titled Voices from a Disaster

Gujarat Riots (2002)

  • A Humanitarian Crisis: Gujarat Genocide 2002, A Humanitarian Needs Assessment Report by a Multidisciplinary Team-summarised note
  • The Displaced and Dispossessed Survivors of Mass Violence in Gujarat- A Report on Relief Colonies, article in Splash, January 2010 pg4-6 by Harsh Mander, Prita Jha and Dipa Sinha titled 

Tsunami (2004)

  • Tsunami Response in Kanyakumari district, TN Report of work done and compilation of related documents
  • Tsunami Evaluation Coalition Synthesis Report: Expanded Summary. (Joint evaluation of the international response to the Indian Ocean tsunami, 2007. Summary of TEC findings. (pg 3)
  • The Journey Beyond the Waves,CHC
  • Goodwill is not enough video
  • Community Health Initiatives with Tsunami affected Coastal Communities in Tamil Nadu, India- Project Completion Report April 2006-September 2007) by Rajendran, Ameer Khan, Asha Thotta and Rakhal Gaitonde
  • Oral interview with  Mr. Ameer Khan 

Raichur Floods (2009)

  • A Brief report of the North Karnataka Meeting in Dharwad on the Flood Affected Areas– By Mr. E Premdas CHC
  • Report on Visit to Flood affected Raichur district-9th and 10th October 2009 by Mr. E Premdas CHC

Chennai Floods (2015)

  • Chennai Flood Response, Section 1- clinical camps pg 22- 25. Section 2 pg 25-30 School Programs:Children as Instruments of Change. Section 3 pg 31-34 Community dialogue : needs and assessment. By Dr. Suresh Raghunath CHLP 2015-16 (page 16) 
  • Personal learning from Chennai Flood Response. By Dr. Suresh Raghunath, CHLP 2015-16 page 34 
  • Oral interview with Dr. Suresh Raghunath 
  • Oral interview with Mr. Ameer Khan

Nepal Earthquake (2015)

  • Nepal Earthquake Response: Field experience by Yomri Dabi, CHLP Fellow 2015-2016 Batch (Sochara webpage)

Interviews with SOCHARA Disaster Respondents….coming soon

  1. Dr. Ravi Narayan
  2. Dr. Thelma Narayan
  3. Dr. Sanjiv Lewin
  4. Mr. S J Chander
  5. Mr. Ameer Khan
  6. Dr. Suresh Raghunath