Characterisation

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Characterisation

  1. 1. Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border
  2. 2. 2 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Credits International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Consultant Raquel Narváez Villalobos With support from the Reference Centre for Community Resilience (Spanish acronym ‘CRREC’) Graphic Design Karina Barrantes Zúñiga With financial support from the European Commission, as part of the DIPECHO VII Action Plan framework for Central America. The content of this document does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union. Photographs: Taken by members of the Red Cross National Societies from the Central American region, humanitarian organisations and partners of the DG ECHO within the framework of the implementation of disaster preparedness projects in the Seventh DIPECHO Action Plan 2010-2012.
  3. 3. 3 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 1-Characterisation 1.1 Homogenous Area The territory that includes the Guabito community (Guabito subdivision in the Changuinola Municipality of the Bocas Del Toro province) in Panama and the Sixaola community (in Sixaola district in the Talamanca canton of the Limon province) in Costa Rica is considered an area that shares similar characteristics, such as education and health care. With regards to education, schools in both Guabito and Sixaola have students from both Panama and Costa Rica. In terms of health care, residents from Sixaola often take advantage of the services provided in Panamanian territory since they are more accessible in terms of distance, variety, efficiency and economically than those in Costa Rica. With regards to production, some products are sold from Panama to Costa Rica, as is the case with peeled green bananas, and from Costa Rica to Panama, as is the case with lower quality bananas. Furthermore, the majority of their daily activities, as well as the surrounding environment, are of the same nature and condition. Being a border area, people of different nationalities can be found living on both sides of the border, where all residents alike suffer nature’s wrath when it comes to flooding, high winds and earthquakes. At the same time, they share the properties and dangers of living in this area, which, in addition to being rich in natural resources, is exposed to constant flooding. In general, the everyday relationship between the populations is friendly. In both countries, jurisdictions located within the territory of the basin possess socioeconomic indicators that are substantially below the national average. The Talamanca canton ranks last on Costa Rica’s Cantonal Human Development Index and holds 61st place out of 81 on the Cantonal Human Poverty Index (50% of the population). In Changuinola, poverty is as high as 40,5% of the population. More than 70% of the population on either side of the border works in agricultural activities (Sustainable Development Strategy in the Sixaola River Binational Watershed, 2003).1 1 Durán Vargas, Luis Rolando, Majano Ana María. Current Status of the Framework for Climate Change through Water Resources Management in Mesoamerica. Study of Governance. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Page
  4. 4. 4 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 1.1.1 Geographic continuity The Binational Sixaola River Basin is the meeting place of the South Caribbean in Costa Rica and the Northern Caribbean in Panama, covering an area that stretches from the Caribbean coastland to the mountainous regions of Talamanca in Costa Rica and Central in Panama. The Basin has a drainage area of 2.848,3 square kilometres, of which 19% is in the Republic of Panama and 81% in the Republic of Costa Rica.2 Sixaola is the second district in the Talamanca canton in Costa Rica, with the geographic coordinates: 9º 15’ and 9º 40’ N latitude and 82º 50’ and 83º 30’ W longitude. The elevation is 10 m.a.s.l. Guabito Sixaola 2 Durán Vargas, Luis Rolando, Majano Ana María. Current Status of the Framework for Climate Change through Water Resources Management in Mesoamerica. Study of Governance. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Page 51.
  5. 5. 5 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 1.1.1.1 Coastal Neither of these two communities is on the coast, though the Sixaola district does possess some coastline located at the mouth of the Sixaola River, more specifically in the community of Buena Fe, which is 10 kilometres from the Sixaola community. The tides affect both communities during floods since they allow or prevent the river from emptying its waters more quickly. 1.1.2 Common areas of production As previously mentioned, these populations are located along the Sixaola River, and although these communities belong to different countries, they are joined by a series of unique elements, such as trade, use of soil, direct impact of floods and cultural diversity, amongst others. 1.1.2 Common areas of production In both countries, this zone is used primary for banana farming by multinational companies, such as the Chiquita Fruit Company, who have established plantations in the territories of both countries. There are also independent farmers and small growers who plant plantain, squash, cocoa, cassava, pejibayes (Bactris gasipaes) and citric fruits, such as oranges and limes. 1.1.3 Ethnicity Close to 58% of all residents in the Sixaola River Basin are indigenous people, including the Bribri, Cabécar, Naso-Teribe and Ngobe Bugle. The remaining population is Afro-Caribbean and Latino. The Bribri, Cabécar and Teribe (Naso) peoples are settled in the upper and middle territories of the Basin. The Ngobe Bugle lives in the lower area of the Basin and is employed by the banana plantations (Sustainable Development Strategy in the Sixaola River Binational Watershed, 2003).3 3 Durán Vargas, Luis Rolando, Majano Ana María. Current Status of the Framework for Climate Change through Water Resources Management in Mesoamerica. Study of Governance. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Page 51
  6. 6. 6 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies People of different nationalities also reside in the area, especially Central Americans. There is a large population of Nicaraguans who primarily participate in Sixaola district’s community economy. Guabito possesses a strong indigenous presence as well as Central Americans and Arab Muslims, who arrived to the region during the development of Changuinola. Both communities possess a Chinese population, who together make up the largest trading bloc. 1.2 Homologous area The territories inhabited by the Guabito and Sixaola communities are considered homologous because they have essentially the same living conditions. The majority of the population is employed by the banana companies or as small independent producers. A small part of the population is public officials. The commerce of both areas is shared by Costa Ricans and Panamanians. For example, some articles are less expensive for Panamanians in Costa Rica, such as basic grocery needs. Similarly, Costa Ricans can purchase some articles for less in Panama, including appliances, clothes and perfume, amongst others. The residents are mostly lower and middle class and also share the same natural and man-made disasters 1.2.1 Size The Sixaola district has a surface area of 237.01 square kilometres, which is 8.4% of the total area of the Talamanca canton.4 * Information on the territorial size of the Guabito community is not available. 1.2.2 Soil usage In this area, soil is used for agriculture and livestock. Multinational companies, as well as medium and small growers, have deforested the land on both sides of the river to plant their crops because, as a result of the flooding, the soil is rich in natural nutrients. More than 70% of the population on both sides of the border works in agriculture (Sustainable Development Strategy in the Sixaola River Binational Watershed, 2003).5 4 Delgado, Carlos. Report on field visit to Guabito-Sixaola. 5 Durán Vargas, Luis Rolando, Majano Ana María. Current Status of the Framework for Climate Change through Water Resources Management in Mesoamerica. Study of Governance. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Page 51.
  7. 7. 7 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Banana, plantain and squash are the most commonly grown crops, not because nothing else will grow, but because they are the most commonly sold. The soil is apt for many other types of crops, but a local market does not exist, making them unprofitable for farmers to grow. The inhabitants of the zone maintain a ‘backyard economy,’ where they grow cassava, plantain, corn, beans, squash, coriander, peppers, tiquisque (Xanthosoma violaceum), limes, oranges, and mountain apples, amongst others.6 1.2.3 Area: Density According to information from the last census by the National Statistics and Census Institute of Costa Rica (Spanish acronym ‘INEC’), the Sixaola district has a total population of 10.234 inhabitants, or a density of 43 persons per square kilometre. The Department of Vector Control of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Panama recorded a total of 5.798 people in 2008. 1.3 Urban characteristics Urban is a dynamic context of social connections of production, distribution, services and consumption. This space corresponds to a technical, social and territorial division of labour. The territorial division of labour is established with respect to other urban spaces of varying hierarchy or against rural settings, to which the urban space is dominant. The concentration and density of the population, construction, vital lines and road networks are a hallmark of this geographical area (urban). In this area, we can find different types of services typical of urban areas, such as customs offices, supermarkets and general commerce, and public transportation, including taxis and buses that leave every half hour. Within the communities there are also medical services, electrical services, primary and secondary education centres, and public security, amongst others. “This is an area where different flows of population, transportation, services and trade exist. The socioeconomic development processes and the material conditions upon which it sits (buildings, vital lines, highways) present inherent vulnerabilities.”7 6 Interview with Bermont Rojas Cerdas, community leader of Sixaola, October 10, 2011. 7 Building a conceptual and methodological approach on urban risk reduction - draft. Page
  8. 8. 8 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 1.3.1 Structure Both communities are structured similarly. Both Guabito and Sixaola have a main road where the railroad used to run. The road goes from north to south in Costa Rica until it reaches the Sixaola River on the other side of the bridge, and then continues south, running through the commercial zone in Guabito, Panama. This street divides the two communities in half. The communities’ neighbourhoods are located off of the main street. Guabito possesses 15 neighbourhoods and Sixaola possesses ten. 1.3.2 Ownership and cohesion Many people living in the area are local to the area as well, more so in Guabito than Sixaola. Some say that this is why they cling on to their ‘tiny piece of land.’ They are accustomed to living with the risk of frequent floods. Every time after a flood happens, they sweep out the mud from their homes, they wash them and carry on with their daily lives. Some locals say that Guabito and Sixaola are ‘the two communities that refuse to die’ because, despite the insistence of government authorities to evacuate them from this high risk area, the population hangs on and is not willing to leave. With regards to community cohesion, multiculturalism, diversity and the different origins of the population limit the cohesiveness in the area, similar to cities and urban neighborhoods where there is less sense of community. This makes prevention and preparedness work in these communities difficult. 8 “This is an area where different flows of population, transportation, services and trade exist. The socioeconomic development processes and the material conditions upon which it sits (buildings, vital lines, highways) present inherent vulnerabilities.” 8 Interview with Mrs. Mélida Arauz, Panamanian Red Cross, October 7, 2011.
  9. 9. 9 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2 ‘Border’ processes Unlike other borders, this border is considered an open border since standard border controls are not in place. Several Costa Ricans that were interviewed believe this is due to lack of personnel and specialised equipment, such as detection of illegal drugs and control of illegal persons who elude the authorities. 2.1 Commercial The economic condition of both countries has changed considerably with time, which has adversely impacted the communities’ economies and impoverished trade in general. In the 1980s, trade was booming on this border, due in large part to a law from the Costa Rican government called ‘Courtesy Law,’ which was a permit that allowed people to transport a total of $25 in merchandise from Panama tax free. During that time, it was common for many people to cross the border, including groups from the country’s interior arriving in buses to shop, especially at the end of the year. Immigration officers say up to 15 buses crossed the border every day, with shoppers coming from different places in the country. Also, from Panama, a significant amount of the population crossed the border to buy basic food items for daily consumption. According to reports from customs personnel, 4.000 people crossed weekly from Panama to Costa Rica, spending appoximately $90 each on basic food items, or a total of $360.000. It was common for the banana companies to provide a train car exclusively for their employees so that they could bring food from Costa Rica on paydays. From Costa Rica to Panama, it is estimated that 3.000 people crossed weekly, spending approximately $150 each, or a total of $450.000, on clothing, electronics, perfume, chocolates and liquor, amongst others.9 9 Interview with Mr. Bermont Rojas Cerdas, community leader and former officer of the Sixaola customs office, October 10, 2011.
  10. 10. 10 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Trade dropped considerably in the 1990s on both sides of the border. Trade in Sixaola has decreased dramatically, and one of the reasons is the constant flooding that, according to the population, has reached unexpected levels, causing significant losses. Conversely, the opposite has taken place in Guabito. This community’s commercial zone has grown in the last year due to foreign investment. Most notable is the Arab investment, which includes the construction of commercial buildings.10 2.1.1 Medium and small Many inhabitants of Sixaola purchase basic food items in Guabito because prices are more affordable, such as cooking gas. In Costa Rica, a 20-pound cylinder costs $20, whereas it costs $6 in Panama. Businesses are able to sell 15 cylinders daily to the inhabitants of the Sixaola community and neighbouring areas (as stated by Guabito supermarket owners). 10 EInterview with Mr. Belisario Fernández from the financial department of the Municipality of Changuinola, October 7, 2011.
  11. 11. 11 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Ironically, clothing and shoe stores in Sixaola are primarily directed towards Panama’s indigenous people since they are the majority who purchase goods from these stores.11 In Guabito, many stores, including clothing, home appliances, mobile phones, chocolates, cookies and perfume, are owned by Iranians. Also, numerous supermarkets are owned by Asians. The owners indicated that some Costa Ricans shop at these stores, but that their clientele is primarily Panamanians. The busiest days are weekends or holidays.12 2.1.2 Tourism Since this is a border area, tourists are constantly passing through. However, their presence is unfelt since they hardly ever consume or stay in this zone. Many tourists that cross this border are foreigners, the majority from Europe. Due to Colón Island’s tourist boom, vacation packages from Costa Rica include travel into Panama, which contributes to Panama’s transportation and travel guide services. An average of 800 to 900 people uses these services each month. Sixaola does not have this type of service because the major tourist beaches are rather far away. Also, there is only one place for lodging and just a couple of restaurants and night life venues.13 Tourists that enter Panama must pay a $3 fee upon entrance and exit of the country.14 2.1.3 Port Guabito and Sixaola do not have ports in their jurisdictions, although there are ports on either side of the border. The port in Costa Rica is located approximately 90 kilometres away from Sixaola and the port in Panama is located approximately 50 kilometres away from Guabito. In the event of an employee strike or other problem, both communities are affected becaus e cargo from one port must be transported by land to the other, making it necessary to cross the border. Oftentimes, truck drivers wait several hours for their paperwork to clear customs. Drivers use this time to buy/sell goods and services, including sexual activities.15 11 Interview with Mrs. María del Carmen Reyes, Sixaola merchant, October 6, 2011. 12 Interview with Mr. Muin Alatrch, owner of store Markas Center, formerly known as Caimán, in Guabito, October 6, 2011. 13 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011. 14 Interview with Mr. Belisario Fernández, Financial Department of the Municipality of Changuinola, October 7, 2011. 15 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011.
  12. 12. 12 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2.2 Services Given that the communities that possess the highest concentrations of the population are the Sixaola district and Guabito subdivision respectively, some basic services are also concentrated here as well, including health, transportation, electricity, public security, commerce, education, customs and telephony, amongst others. 2.2.1 Health With regards to health, two specific topics will be addressed with regards to border dynamics since they are considered to be part of the daily routine in both communities. However, it is important to mention that the Panamanian government assists the families of indigenous children that are born under weight, supplying diapers, milk and food until the age of three. In Costa Rica, a similar situation takes place, but the assistance is not only for indigenous people, but rather any family that qualifies for the benefits. Panamanian indigenous people that work in the Costa Rican territory possess a migratory permit that allows them and their families to receive medical care from the Costa Rican Social Security (Spanish acroynym ‘CCSS’). It is common for Sixaola inhabitants and people from neighbouring areas, both Costa Ricans and other nationalities, to travel to Panama for health care because the Guabito Community Polyclinic and the Panamanian Social Security health clinics possess general practitioners and specialists, as well as laboratories, X-ray and ultrasound facilities, amongst others, at affordable prices, especially when compared to the same services in Costa Rica.16 2.2.2 Pre-hospital care In Sixaola, Costa Rica, pre-hospital care is provided by the Costa Rican Red Cross. In Panama, this care is provided by Panama’s Social Security and the Ministry of Health. These last two entities possess resources and infrastructure well- distributed throughout the communities. In Panama, inter-institutional coordination exists, which allows them to transfer resources between institutions.17 16 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011. 17 Interview with Mr. Santos Carreño, community leader of Guabito, October 7, 2011. Panamanian indigenous people that work in the Costa Rican territory possess a migratory permit that allows them and their families to receive medical care from the Costa Rican Social Security (CCSS).
  13. 13. 13 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2.2.3 Private care In Sixaola, private practice is limited to a dental clinic, which is why people must travel outside the community for private care. In Panama, these services exist and are more affordable, accessible and efficient for Costa Ricans, which is why many inhabitants decide to cross the border in order to utilise them. 2.2.4 Education Sixaola has only one elementary school, one secondary school, and one Secondary Education Centre for Adult Education (Spanish acroynym ‘CINDEA’). Guabito has an elementary education centre and one secondary school. Many Panamanians live in Sixaola for work, but send their children to school in Panama. Some Costa Ricans also send their children to school in Panama because the schools are nearby and affordable. Also, there are no private schools in Sixaola. To receive a technical or university education, inhabitants from both Guabito and Sixaola must relocate. In the case of Costa Rica, people can go to BriBri or Limon. In the case of Panama, people can go to Changuinola or other places in the interior of the country.18 2.2.5 Disaster response The population has tried to be self-sufficient and help one another as much as possible. For example, during recent floods, people gathered against the wall on both sides of the bridge over the Sixaola River for shelter. Others took shelter in a locale that is now occupied by the Zona Libre store in Guabito. There, both Panamanians and Costa Ricans stayed until first response units from both countries could arrive. During emergencies, it is common for communities to help and cooperate with one another. Cooperation takes place not only amongst civilians but also amongst some institutions and authorities by making services and resources available to each other in times of emergencies. Whenever floods occur, the National Civil Protection Service in Panama (Spanish acronym ‘SINAPROC’) and the Panama National Guard have participated in watching over and transporting food and water from Guabito to Sixaola since there was no safe place to land a plane in the Costa Rican territory due to flooding. 18 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011.
  14. 14. 14 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Similarly, emergency management institutions in Panama coordinate with the Talamanca Municipal Emergency Committee in Costa Rica in order to transport materials from Costa Rica to Panamanian territories that are not accessible by land from Panama. During the 1991 earthquake, people in need of emergency medical care were transported from communities in Sixaola to the Changuinola Hospital in Panama to receive medical assistance because several bridges and roads leading to the closest hospital in the Costa Rican territory were destroyed. The same is true today in the event of emergencies during floods, where the Changuinola Hospital in Panama is the nearest place accessible.19 2.2.6 Security The Sixaola district has 26 law enforcement troops divided into four shifts to look after the safety of the community. They receive back up during emergencies since insecurity and criminal activities increase. Their work also consists of safekeeping the supplies and equipment that arrive to the zone for community aid. In addition to their security work, they sometimes carry out rescue efforts and humanitarian work. Their facilities can also be used as shelters. Being a very open border, illegal passage to Costa Rica often takes place, which complicates the criminal situation not only for the community, but for the entire country as well. Lately, murders have been carried out by hired assassins, a situation which makes it more difficult to solve these cases since they are illegal immigrants that enter the country, commit the crimes and leave undetected. Similarly, some sanitation issues have arisen where immigrants enter the country with a transmittable disease, and since they entered illegally, it went undetected and was not immediately treated. 20 19 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011. 20 Interview with Mr. Melvin Gómez Rojas, District Delegate of Sixaola Law Enforcement, October 11, 2011.
  15. 15. 15 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Both countries have very different laws and regulations with regards to safety, as stated by citizens from both communities. They say Costa Rican laws are more lenient, and perhaps this is why towns in Panama are safer and have less crime and drug addiction. However, there is prostitution in Panama, and although it is not publicly displayed, citizens acknowledge that it does exist in their communities. Panamanians state that minors are not allowed to walk by themselves on the streets after 9 p.m. Also, drinking alcoholic beverages and not wearing a shirt are prohibited in public areas. The opposite happens in Sixaola, where these types of situations occur frequently until late at night by people of all ages. 21 The National Border Service (Spanish acronym ‘SENAFRONT’) in Panama is responsible for protecting the border, along with Costa Rican Law Enforcement. They maintain public order and safety in the community and support inhabitants during emergencies (with support from the National Police). These two institutions provide community training in both countries to organise neighbourhoods, under the motto ‘Community Safety.’ 22 21 Interview with Mr. Santos Carreño, community leader of Guabito, October 7, 2011. 22 Interview with SENAFRONT Sub-lieutenant Diomedes Castillo, October 15, 2011.
  16. 16. 16 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2.3 Political - administrative A community house exists as well, where the representative of the Guabito subdivision is found. Representatives from the various judicial administrative departments and the mayor dictate the remaining guidelines for community action and development from the Changuinola Town Hall. Guabito is a subdivision of the Changuinola Municipality in the province of Bocas Del Toro and is made up of 15 communities. The actions of the regional DIPECHO VII project are being carried out in the central area of this district. Sixaola is the second district of the Talamanca canton in the province of Limon and is made up of more than 10 communities. Sixaola is the head of the district and where the activities of the regional DIPECHO VII project are being implemented. Political and administrative decisions are made at the local Municipality, which is located in the Bribri community, head of the Talamanca canton and located 33 kilometres away from Sixaola. In Costa Rica, the highest authority in the cantons is the municipal mayor and the municipal council. The council includes the mayor, two deputy mayors, the municipal council and the district council. The municipal and district councils represent the communities before the municipality and are responsible for proposing community development projects to the municipal council.23 2.3.1 Governance Communities actively participate in community organisation and in activities ranging from the celebration of national holidays to peaceful demonstrations or strikes in protest to a situation that affects their rights as citizens. The authority of local and national governments are recognised during these activities. According to observations and interviews with the community, community organisation is stronger and more visible in Costa Rica than in Panama. 2.3.1.1 Decision making In Costa Rica, the hierarchical structure flows from the municipal government, where the Mayor is the primary decision maker, followed by the Municipal Council and the District Council. 23 Interview with Mrs. Olga Mireya Araya, Deputy Mayor of Talamanca, October 24, 2011. In the Costa Rican territory on the cantonal level, the highest authority is the mayor and the city council.
  17. 17. 17 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies The District Council makes decisions regarding community investment and is responsible for presenting investment proposals before the Municipal Council, who reviews the paperwork and meets with the Mayor. If approved, the Mayor and Municipal Council implement the community projects along with the local government, such as the Comprehensive Development Association. In Panama, a subdivision’s representative and the police magistrate govern at a local level and, therefore, make the majority of decisions that pertain to these communities. At the municipal level, the councillors and mayors rank above these figures, and are important decisions makers at a higher level. 2.3.1.2 Community decisions and local authority relationship In Costa Rica, the community government acknowledged by the law is the Comprehensive Development Association, who works closely with the Municipality, NGOs, specific associations and other institutions for the development and well- being of the community. It is normal for these development associations to work hand in hand with the municipalities, who recognize their members as democratically elected leaders of the community.24 There are different community organisations in Panama, such as the parents’ association, women groups from church or organised indigenous women that work with the subdivision’s representative whenever community activities take place. 25 2.3.2 Autonomy En el caso de Costa Rica existe una legislación especial para atender las In Costa Rica, special legislation exists to assist indigenous communities located in duly- recognized territories. However, this is not the case for the Sixaola district, which is a dependent sector of the municipal authority and, therefore, must comply with their policies and guidelines, such as waste collection, tax collection, licenses and patents, amongst others, which are issued from the Talamanca Municipality. 24 Interview with Mrs. Olga Mireya Araya, Deputy Mayor of Talamanca, October 24, 2011. 25 Interview with Mr. Santos Carreño, community leader of Guabito, October 7, 2011.
  18. 18. 18 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies A similar situation takes place in Guabito since they are completely dependent upon the Municipality for public investment in the community and for other public processes. 26 2.3.3 Municipal services The Talamanca Municipality provides the following public services to the Sixaola community: waste collection for 317 taxpayers27 , road maintenance and street paving. The Changuinola Municipality provides the following services to Guabito: road and highway maintenance and paving, cleaning the edges of properties and waste collection, amongst others. 26 Interview with Mr. Belisario Fernández, Financial Department of the Municipality of Changuinola, October 7, 2011. 27 Report from the Patent and Collections Department, Talamanca Municipality
  19. 19. 19 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2.3.3.1 Patents and permits The Talamanca Municipality has issued a total of 278 commercial licenses for the Sixaola community, including lodging, ‘sodas’ (establishment where food and drink is sold quickly) and restaurants, supermarkets, bazaars, shops and shoe stores, bars, hairdresser’s and street vendors, amongst others.28 For residents of Guabito to obtain permits and licenses, they must visit a number of different offices, including some that belong to the Municipality and others that belong to the corresponding ministry, since this service is not centralised in the Municipality.29 2.4 Immigration Due to the cross-border dynamics of both countries, immigration agreements exist for indigenous Panamanians that work on the banana farms in Sixaola. This allows them to have access to health services in Costa Rica, including the workers and their families. It is common for Panamanian citizens to visit beaches and tourist sites in Costa Rica and vice versa. The passage of undocumented people from Panama to Costa Rica still takes places, though the situation in the area has changed since it was previously common for Panamanians and Costa Ricans alike to cross the border without much control from the authorities, though now the process is stricter..30 2.4.1 Demand for services Currently, the demand for services from tourists in Sixaola is minimal. Following transportation, the immigration office is virtually the only service that is utilized, which is visited in passing. The same circumstances are true for Guabito. 2.4.2 Productive structure In the border zone, the main activity is agriculture, where some inhabitants form part of the workforce for the banana companies, some are labourers on farms and others are independent farmers. 28 Report from the Patent and Collections Department, Talamanca Municipality. 29 Interview with Mr. Belisario Fernández, Financial Department of the Municipality of Changuinola, October 7, 2011. 30 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011.
  20. 20. 20 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies The area has no factories or large manufacturing companies, which is why a minority are able to obtain employment in the public sector. 2.4.3 Employment Due to the tourist boom from Costa Rica to Panama (Colón Island), vacation packages include travel in both countries, which contributes to Guabito’s transportation and informal travel guide services. It is common to see employment exchange between both countries, where some Costa Ricans seek temporary work in the stores of Guabito and, to a smaller degree, indigenous Panamanians work for the banana companies and for some businesses in Costa Rica. Some indigenous people work as labourers on plantain, squash and other farms in Sixaola. With regards to the administrative staff of the Chiquita Fruit Company, the majority is Panamanians that relocate to work in Sixaola, and whom are transferred back to Panama if necessary. Business is affected during floods, and due to decreased banana production, there are less employment opportunities. For this reason, the Changuinola Municipality has implemented a policy to help businesses that are affected by floods, which includes not having to pay taxes during this time. In Costa Rica, they are currently working on the construction of a new bridge over the Sixaola River, which has generated some new employment for the people of both communities.31 31 Interview with Mr. Belisario Fernández, Financial Department of the Municipality of Changuinola, October 7, 2011.
  21. 21. 21 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 3-RISK 3.1. Threat The most recurrent threat, and the one that the population considers most important in the region of the Sixaola Lower River Basin, is flooding. This is considered the most important threat because it affects 100% of the Sixaola community. Earthquakes and strong winds are the threats that follow flooding in terms of importance. The history of Sixaola and Guabito cannot be separated from the floods that they have suffered. There is information about a major flood in 1935 that primarily affected the riverside areas of the Panamanian and Costa Rican territories, which led banana growers on both sides of the border to build canals and pipes that would drain the water. In Sixaola, a large canal was built know as the ‘faucet breaker’ (‘quiebra caños’ in Spanish), which runs behind the Sixaola community and parallel to the plots, and drains into the river five kilometres below. In 1969 and 1970 there was another major flood, and this area was largely affected since the drains moved great amounts of water, causing a significant loss of materials and crops. People mentioned that the floods’ behaviour was cyclical, returning approximately every 35 years. The 1991 earthquake possessed an epicentre in the Caribbean and caused two situations that changed this pattern: the coast rose approximately two metres and the landslides from the mountains that fell into the river. The landslides produced a highly sedimented river bed with a blocked river mouth, which prevents the river from handling large quantities of water and makes it more likely to overflow. In recent years, floods occur an average of once per year.32 Both countries constantly monitor the Sixaola River Basin, but it is considered that Costa Rica has better control. Therefore, Costa Rica issues the warning to the communities of both countries when flooding is imminent. 33 32 Local Development Plan. Talamanca Municipality. 2003-2013. 33 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011. Both countries constantly monitor the Sixaola River Basin, but it is considered that Costa Rica has better control. Therefore, Costa Rica issues the warning to the communities of both countries when flooding is imminent.
  22. 22. 22 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 3.1.1 Climate and hydrological scenarios The climate of this border area is humid and tropical, with temperatures ranging from 28 to 33 degrees Centigrade. The Basin is divided into zones: high (204.000 hectares), encompassing the highest elevations; middle (51.000 hectares), comprising the Talamanca Valley; and low (34.000 hectares), encompassing the Sixaola River Valley. Hydrologically, the Basin is composed of six major watersheds: Yorkin, Uren, Lari, Coen, Telire and Sixaola. Mountains occupy 70% of the territory and, along with the marine-coastal plain and fluvial plain, comprise the three morphological elements present in the basin. 34 3.1.2 Geological and geotechnical The area is located within a seismic region where the collision of the Cocos and Caribbean plates leads to earthquakes of large magnitudes and that cause significant damage. According to records, the strongest earthquake in recent years took place in 1991, which resulted in significant damage and loss of human life in the area. The seismic wave caused openings and fractures in the earth in some lower areas, especially in lands of low soil compaction.35 3.1.3 Industrial – anthropic “The anthropic activities that have the greatest territorial and environmental impact are concentrated in the eastern third of the Basin (middle and low) around the Sixaola River, taking advantage of the favourable topography of this river valley. These activities include the Bribri, Sixaola and Guabito human settlements, intensive agricultural use of the Sixaola River floodplain (primarily plantain and banana), road infrastructure and tourist sites.” 36 34, 35, 36 Durán Vargas, Luis Rolando, Majano Ana María. Current Status of the Framework for Climate Change through Water Resources Management in Mesoamerica. Study of Governance. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Page 51.
  23. 23. 23 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 3.2 Vulnerability There is great social, economic, structural and environmental vulnerability in these communities, amongst others, which is exacerbated by the settlement of people in the river floodplain, the type and quality of construction and the lack of preparedness before disasters. Some large turbines existed in California near the community of Guabito. The function of these turbines was to pump water, the product of overflow, back towards the river so that Changuinola would not be so affected during floods. However, these turbines were removed and there is currently just one, which causes the water from the floods to cover more ground and cause more damage in areas near Guabito.37 3.2.1 Root causes Possible causes for vulnerability could be: Limited access to education, unemployment and few development opportunities, topography, settlement on the river floodplain, lack of drinking water, production ability in high-risk areas, consumption and trafficking of drugs, pollution of land and water sources by chemicals from large producers, lack of vision and planning during the construction of housing infrastructure, business, government offices and utilities. The welfarist policies of some governments in power have contributed to the creation of a culture that expects to receive without putting forth effort of their own. The absence of zoning plans, or if they are not applied, hinders the generation of opportunities for development, as well as creates legal uncertainty with regards to the possession of land. 3.2.1.1 Transnational Heavy trucks regularly cross the border from Costa Rica to Panama and vice versa. In most cases, while the truck drivers wait on the Costa Rican side, they contribute to the contamination of Sixaola by dumping their garbage while parked. Furthermore, during these waiting periods, it is common that drug addiction and prostitution increase since they provide the conditions for the exchange of money or drugs for sexual favours. 37 37 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011. It is common to see employment exchange between both countries, where some Costa Ricans seek temporary work in the stores of Guabito and, to a smaller degree, indigenous Panamanians work for the banana companies and for some businesses in Costa Rica.
  24. 24. 24 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies These people’s presence allows informal vendors and local businesses to generate some revenue, especially from food consumption. 38 3.2.1.2 International commerce: Prices and competition The dynamics of international trade is mainly focused on the purchase and sale of plantains and bananas. These products are exported to different countries around the world, especially the banana, which is commercialised in Europe through the multinational company Chiquita Fruit Company. Furthermore, bananas are shipped to Central America through smaller transportation companies. Other products, such as squash, araza (Eugenia stipitata) and cocoa, are also exported in smaller quantities through community organisations, such as the Talamanca Association of Small Producers (Spanish acronym ‘APPTA’), and some independent exporters. However, the international market affects the prices of these products since they fluctuate according to the ups and downs of the world economy, which impacts the economy of the local farmer. Also, since it is a border area, it is common for trucks to pass from one country to another, transporting products that are not necessarily generated in that particular area. These products are transferred to the Limon Port in Costa Rica or to the Almirante Port in Panama, or to the capital cities of both countries. 3.2.2 Dynamic pressures Indirect actions often negatively impact the community environment, including the misuse of natural resources and chemicals, as well as approving laws that increase the vulnerability of the area. 3.2.2.1 Natural resource pressures Deforestation of river banks, caused by multinational companies to plant bananas as well as by small- and medium-sized farmers to plant other products on a smaller scale, has created a condition of environmental vulnerability, causing land slides on the banks of the rivers, which has resulted in a radical change in the water dynamics that affects the zone. 39 38 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011. 39 Interview with Bermont Rojas Cerdas, community leader of Sixaola, October 10, 2011.
  25. 25. 25 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 3.2.2.1.1 River usage Over the last few years, banana companies have constructed a network of canals so that plantations can drain more easily during the normal rainy season. However, during floods, these canals cause water to enter the communities more quickly as the river’s water level rises. In Costa Rica, it is prohibited to utilize river materials. The only entities that can utilize or authorise actions of any kind are the National Commission for Risk Prevention and Emergency Management (Spanish acronym ‘CNE’) and the National Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (Spanish acronym ‘MINAET’). Also, fishing in the Sixaola River is prohibited by the Costa Rican authorities.40 In Panama, laws exist that regulate the utilisation of the river. The Municipality of Changuinola and the Ministry of Public Works are in charge. 3.2.2.1.2 Protected Areas There are six indigenous territories that serve as buffer areas for the Wildlife Protected Area (Spanish acronym ‘ASP’), which contain extensive woodlands and high levels of biodiversity. In Costa Rica, these include the Bribri and Cabecar of Talamanca, the Bribri of Keköldi and the Cabécar of Telire, which are legally constituted as indigenous reservations. In Panama, these include the Bribri and Naso-Teribe, which are not legally constituted as indigenous reservations. These six territories comprise an area of 1.127,9 square kilometres, equivalent to 39,5% of the Binational Basin territory. In Sixaola, the areas are part of the Biological Corridor in the sector of Buena Fe (coastal and riverside) and are recognized as protected areas.41 3.2.2.1.3 Irrigation On both sides of the border, large banana companies use extensive amounts of chemicals and fertilisers on their banana and plantain crops, which are applied by overhead irrigation. This practice contaminates the environment, which in turn affects the population’s health and rainwater quality, which is used on a daily basis due to the lack of potable water. 42 40 Interview with Bermont Rojas Cerdas, community leader of Sixaola, October 10, 2011. 41 Durán Vargas, Luis Rolando, Majano Ana María. Current Status of the Framework for Climate Change through Water Resources Management in Mesoamerica. Study of Governance. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Page 53. 42 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011.
  26. 26. 26 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 3.2.2.2 Impact of ‘major’ disasters Throughout history, the impacts of major disasters have marked the lives of people in this area. In 1970, major flooding of the Caribbean’s coastal rivers damaged plantations, houses, buildings, roads, railroads, bridges, canals and claimed the lives of people in Guabito and Sixaola. The flooding of November 1968 and of January, April, November and December of 1970 prevented the expansion of banana plantations in the Sixaola sector. Floods and earthquakes have been present throughout the history of this area. In 1991, an earthquake measuring 7,4 on the Richter scale caused loss of life and damage to infrastructure, roads, bridges, railways and plantations, as well as causing multiple-storey houses to collapse. Therefore, the floods that occurred following this earthquake had a very large impact on the area. These events have caused the greatest impact throughout the history of this area. A chain of events takes place that causes the disaster’s impact to be even greater. Thepopulationisisolatedandthebananaplantationsthatemployalargepercentage of the population are adversely affected, which leads to unemployment, causing a significant increase in the poverty rate since agriculture is the only means of subsistence for many. Another major impact is environmental pollution because the banana and plantain plantations use extensive amounts of toxic chemicals, and once the flood waters sweep over the area, they pollute the earth, wells and rivers.
  27. 27. 27 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Furthermore, a lot of houses use latrines instead of septic tanks. This situation contributes to contamination during and after flooding, as well as the possibility of disease outbreak, including primarily hepatitis, diarrhoea and skin diseases. 3.2.2.3 Limited public investment During interviews with long-time residents of Sixaola, they expressed feelings that the area is neglected by the current and previous governments of Costa Rica. After the flood of 2005, the National Emergency Commission declared the Sixaola area as high risk. For this reason, public institutions avoid investing in Sixaola, which prevents the community from possessing the necessary infrastructure to provide basic services, including potable water, medical attention and banking, amongst others.43 The feeling is mutual for the population of Guabito. Residents commented that the situation is purely political. When candidates are campaigning, they offer everything in order to get votes. However, once they are in office, they forget about the community. The Panamanian government invests more in Guabito than the Costa Rican government does in Sixaola, which is easily observable and is also confirmed by Costa Rican and Panamanian residents. Panama possesses a better road network, health services and public security than Sixaola.44 3.2.2.4 Absence of development policies in the region In both countries, the socioeconomic indicators of the jurisdictions within the Basin’s territory are substantially below the national average, and the Talamanca canton occupies the last position on Costa Rica’s Cantonal Human Development Index and holds 61st place out of 81 on the Cantonal Human Poverty Index (50% of the population). In Changuinola, poverty is as high as 40,5% of the population. More than 70% of the population on either side of the border works in agricultural activities.45 Although development-focused policies have existed, the community has lacked the capacity to manage them. The government should be more involved to ensure success.46 43 Interview with Bermont Rojas Cerdas, community leader of Sixaola, October 10, 2011. 44 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011. 45 Durán Vargas, Luis Rolando, Majano Ana María. Current Status of the Framework for Climate Change through Water Resources Management in Mesoamerica. Study of Governance. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Page 52. 46 Interview with Bermont Rojas Cerdas, community leader of Sixaola, October 10, 2011.
  28. 28. 28 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 3.2.2.5 Lack of territorial planning and limited urban regulation Since zoning plans have never been used to either side of the border, each person builds where they can. In Sixaola, property owners, of both land and houses, are not subject to loans from banks, so they are unable to mortgage their properties. In Guabito, the same situation takes place in certain zones. The Changuinola Municipality has possessed a zoning plan since 2009, but has yet to use it since it is being revised in order to make some modifications.47 In Sixaola, municipality regulations exist to grant building permits in areas at risk. However, for financial reasons, citizens often bypass these regulations when building. 3.2.2.6 High centralisation and institutional dependency in disaster preparedness and management According to a number Guabito residents, some authorities have not considered the needs of the community where risk reduction is concerned. They believe that this issue is taken advantage of for political means, which results in inadequate management during an emergency. Furthermore, the process is delayed due to favouritism.48 There is nobody in charge of risk prevention or management in the Changuinola Municipality. In Sixaola, the person in charge is the municipal engineer. During emergency situations that affect the community, the residents must collaborate and be resilient. The residents of both communities insist on having a binational protocol. The Panamanian Red Cross and the Costa Rican Red Cross, together with SINAPROC and CNE, can to work together on both sides of the border in order to manage emergencies in a timely manner. 3.2.3 Unsafe conditions In this area, unsafe conditions exist that adversely affect the general population. Most homes are located in flood zones, though some are located in areas that do not flood. Although these homes are not located in the flood zones, they are left completely isolated and exposed to risk, uncertainty and difficultly when flooding occurs. For example, it is difficult to seek medical attention and food, as well as take their products to market. 47 Interview with Engineer Enrique Sandoya, Changuinola Municipality, October 7, 2011. 48 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011.
  29. 29. 29 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 3.2.3.1 Social vulnerability The poverty level of the majority of Sixaola residents prevents them from leaving this area in spite of the threats and risks to which they are exposed. Although they lose a lot during the floods, their crops are free and clear of bank loans, so they can replant and improve once again their financial situation. Another aspect that influences social vulnerability is the lack of adequate infrastructure for recreational activities, which is why residents hardly play sports. This creates opportunities for children and young people to become involved in other less beneficial activities. For example, in Sixaola, alcohol addiction predominates amongst women, where 85% have problems with addiction. This figure is alarming since it was lower in previous years, and now includes women of a very young age.49 49 49 ASIS 2008. CCSS. EBAIS of Sixaola. Most homes are located in flood zones, though some are located in areas that do not flood
  30. 30. 30 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 3.2.3.1.1 Criminal activities According to authorities in charge of security from both countries, crime is not a serious issue. However, criminal activities, such as robbery and assault, frequently take place. The perpetrators of these crimes are usually drug addicts, whom authorities recognize, and residents. The incidence of these crimes increases during paydays.50 3.2.3.1.2 Prostitution Prostitution is more common in Sixaola. According to residents of Guabito, this activity is uncommon on the Panama side of the border, which may be due to stricter laws regarding this type of work. In contrast, the Sixaola population recognises that prostitution exists in their community. Furthermore, in addition to adults and minors taking part in this activity, there are places in the community where prostitution is practised illegaly.51 3.2.3.1.3 Informal labor Banana companies provide the majority of jobs in the area, and are currently issuing labor contracts for three months, which prevent workers from obtaining stable employment since very few employees work consecutively for over three months. Some residents work as day labourers on small- and medium-sized farms. In some cases, residents participate in others activities for work, such as selling illegal lottery tickets, selling pirated entertainment products, smuggling people, selling drugs, trafficking illegal goods and transporting merchandise from Panama to Sixaola. When the transported merchandise is legal, they travel over the bridge. If it is illegal, they travel by the river to avoid customs.52 3.2.3.2 Physical vulnerability The infrastructure of this area is highly vulnerable since it is constantly exposed to floods and other threats, such as earthquakes and strong winds. 50 Interview with Mr. Melvin Gómez Rojas, District Delegate of Sixaola Law Enforcement, October 11, 2011. Interview with SENAFRONT Sub-lieutenant Diomedes Castillo, October 15, 2011. 51 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011. 52 Interview with Mr. Melvin Gómez Rojas, District Delegate of Sixaola Law Enforcement, October 11, 2011.
  31. 31. 31 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies During the 1991 earthquake, the railway suffered significant damage due to twisted rails and out of place railroad sleepers and poles. Almost 90% of the houses that were built on stilts collapsed. Sections of road collapsed and bridges were destroyed, leaving the area isolated. Each flood affects or destroys portions of the road, buildings constructed at ground level, including the schools of Sixaola and Guabito, houses, businesses, banana plantations and packing plants. 3.2.3.2.1 Unsafe construction In the past, the majority of homes were built at ground level. The large cocoa and banana companies constructed many homes for their employees, either on stilts or two stories high. However, 90% of these structures were destroyed during the 1991 earthquake. In Sixaola, families that live in extreme poverty occupy these houses even though they are considered slums. The majority are indigenous immigrants that live in deplorable, overcrowded conditions. In Guabito, the majority of residents are indigenous, who by their culture and customs built wooden huts with thatched roofs and dirt floors. Floodwaters do not greatly affect the neighbourhoods where they live. However, the majority of people that live in the neighbourhoods that are most affected by the floods have houses that are built at ground level. 3.2.3.2.2 Informal construction Urban planning and zoning are not used in this area, which is why the majority of construction is informal. Residents living in extreme poverty create a small wooden structure and, with time, add rooms to this structure according to their needs and financial ability. This situation is common in Sixaola and Guabito. 3.2.3.2.3 Poorly designed infrastructure In Sixaola, one can observe that the infrastructure was designed without taking into consideration constant flooding, which is why each flood affects a significant area of the community. For example, water levels reach 4,5 metres around the school, the square and the majority of businesses. This situation has caused some places to be Community organisations exist in both communities that are first-responders during emergencies in order to assist their neighbours.
  32. 32. 32 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies abandoned, such as the local market, which used to possess approximately 40 operating locales. Now, there are only nine locales because the owners would lose almost everything with each flood. The situation is similar in Guabito, except that some commercial locales, especially those owned by Iranians, are two stories tall. These locales have been used as temporary shelters during floods for residents from both Guabito and Sixaola.53 3.2.3.4 Legal uncertainty over land tenure The situation is complicated for border areas such as Sixaola because they are located within two kilometres of the border. According to Article 2 of the Autonomous Border Land Lease Regulation, these are inalienable lands that belong to the Costa Rican government, meaning that the State, through the Agrarian Development Institute (Spanish acronym ‘IDA’), is in charge of deciding what to do with this area. The biggest problem facing this legislation is that numerous legitimate property titles do exist in the area, which were given to rural families who met all the requisites necessary to obtain a deed.54 3.2.3.5 Production: Monocrops, access to farming lands and production techniques An obvious problem in this area is the small amount of employment opportunities (banana and plantain plantations and daywork on small farms), which are severely affected by floods. The dynamics of supply and demand force the area to only grow banana, plantain and squash, since a profitable market does not exist for other products.55 53 Interview with Mrs. Miriam Castilla, Talamanca Auxiliary Committee Administrator and former member of the Sixaola Emergency Committee, October 18, 2011. 54 Environmental Kiosk Partner Programs for Community Organisation - University of Costa Rica 55 Interview with Mr. Bermont Rojas Cerdas, community leader and former officer of the Sixaola customs office, October 10, 2011.
  33. 33. 33 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 3.2.3.5 Institutional vulnerability The fact that some of the institutions and organisations in charge of humanitarian aid do not have response and contingency plans, or if they do, they are out of date, exacerbates institutional vulnerability since their response is not as fast, efficient and adequate as it could be during emergencies. 3.2.3.5.1 Operational capability of municipal and local emergency committees A local emergency committee exists in Sixaola, which is supervised by the Municipal Emergency Committee and recognized as acting within the community. However, their exact function is often not clear due to the lack of information and training of its members. Staff from the National University of Costa Rica trained the members of this committee on the legislation and regulations that govern them. In addition to explaining the functions of each one, they also distributed flyers in the community with information on the responsibilities of the civil population and the local emergency committee. 56 56 Interview with Mrs. Sandra Vargas Badilla, October 14, 2011.
  34. 34. 34 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies The Municipal Committee’s operations should be strengthened in order to make timely, situationally appropriate decisions.57 In Guabito, work is done through a C.O.E inter-institutional, which is activated during each emergency. In both countries, by decree, the entities in charge of managing emergency situations are the National Emergency Commission in Costa Rica and the National System of Civil Protection in Panama. In both countries they assist the population along with the institutions in charge of responding.58 3.3.3 Capacities Community organisations exist in both communities that are first-responders during emergencies in order to assist their neighbours, even though they are also affected. Residents consider that this sense of humanity, which leads them to work selflessly and to continue despite adversity, is an important trait of the community. In both countries, institutions and organisations dedicated to response are considered capable, even though many do not have offices or warehouses in the area. Prior to emergencies, they have been able to identify strategic points and supply containers to meet some of the communities’ basic needs during the early hours of the event or until units can arrive via air, water or land. In Sixaola, the main road, located in the centre of the community, is built on a wall approximately five metres high. This site is utilized by residents as a safe zone during emergencies since it is the only place that the water has not yet been able to reach. A container loaded with mattresses and blankets, property of the National Emergency Commission, is located there for community use in the case of an emergency. In the hours before a flood, the Costa Rican Red Cross sends a group of trained people, rescue equipment, a boat, a car and supplies to the Sixaola area in order to provide the population with a more efficient response and prevent the loss of lives.59 Among the capacities, one of the positive results is the establishment of strategic alliances, such as that between the National Emergency Commission of Costa Rica and the Program of National Units for Development (Spanish acronym ‘PNUD’). With technical and financial support, this alliance was able to install an early 57 Comment from Mrs. Miriam Castilla, Committee Administrator in Talamanca. Response and Contingency Plans Workshop. 58 Interview with Mrs. Mélida Arauz, Panamanian Red Cross, October 7, 2011. 59 Comment from Mrs. Miriam Castilla, Committee Administrator in Talamanca. Response and Contingency Plans Workshop. In the area of Sixaola exists a local emergency committee, under the supervision of the municipal emergency committee.
  35. 35. 35 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 60 Guabito Focus Group, September 2, 2011. warning system in Sixaola near the river bank. The system is a high intensity siren that goes off during floods, producing a strong sound that alerts both the Sixaola and Guabito communities. This is reinforced by the constant monitoring of the basins located in the Talamanca sector, which release their waters into the Sixaola River, which increases flow and causes floods. 60
  36. 36. Annexes Compilation of lessons learned and best practices for cognitive, organisational and operational processes applied to the border area related to risk reduction in the urban context - small comparable towns. Annexes
  37. 37. 37 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Annex 1: Lessons learned and best practices with respect to the application of different IFRC tools and methodologies in the border area N° Topic Best practice Lesson learned First approach with the community 1 1- Coordinate with recognized community leaders and, when possible, involve them in or- der to effectively approach the community 1.1 Contact with community leaders resulted in a positive attitude and willingness towards the project. 1.2 Through community leaders, it was possible to interview key people and gain access to valuable informa- tion to reach the project’s potential scope. 1.3. By way of a recognized commu- nity leader, two Panamanian chiefs from the Ngöbe indigenous group living in Sixaola were present and participated in some of the trainings.
  38. 38. 38 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2- Contact all organised com- munity groups and involve them. 2.1. It was possible to inform and in- volve a large part of the community since many belong to different com- munity organisations and therefore did not feel excluded. - Be in contact with authorities from government institutions, such as the Ministry of Public Education, to get authorisa- tion so that students, faculty and administrative staff can be present at trainings held during school hours. 3.1. Having permission from authori- ties facilitated the willingness and participation of school faculty and administrative staff. 3.2. The workshop was completed on a consecutive schedule. 4- Do not create false expecta- tions about potential material benefits brought to the com- munity. 4.1. The application of this best practice prevents the community from feeling disappointed at a future date and from closing their doors to possible projects and trainings. Of- tentimes, the communities do not want to involve themselves with or- ganisations or institutions due to pri- or experiences, especially those that use politics to make false promises. During the process2 1 Give each organised group a number of places to participate in the various processes. 1.1 Community organisations were involved and felt taken into account. 1.2 Community leaders decided which people from their organisation would attend the trainings. 1.3 This is a way for organisations to get a commitment for the project and the community. 1.4 Approached and trained people that would have been otherwise dif- ficult to engage. N° Topic Best practice Lesson learned
  39. 39. 39 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 2 Offer a prize to the organisa- tion that attends all the train- ings, such as a first aid kit. 2.1. This incentive motivated groups to participate and complete the pro- cesses. 3 Try to involve children, par- ents and school staff dur- ing the process of Protected School. 3.1. A significant number of people participated in the processes. 3.2. Having permission allowed stu- dents and teachers to participate in the trainings during school hours without any problem. 4 Assign the children’s favour- ite teacher to each group. 4.1. Children participated with great- er confidence and enthusiasm in the processes. 4.2. Immediately following the work- shop, the children took initiative and formed brigades called “Mosquito Hunt”, where they made cleaning sweeps of the school and its sur- rounding, involving the parents and community in general 5 Involve recognized commu- nity leaders in the processes that understand local issues. 5.1. This facilitates processes since involving people with knowledge of local situations results in greater group participation and issue enrich- ment. 5.2. The community that participates in the processes feels as though they do not impose different ideas, but rather that, through their expe- riences and knowledge of the com- munity, they are an important part in the prevention and preparation pro- cesses, thereby increasing the value and esteem that they have about their own abilities. N° Topic Best practice Lesson learned
  40. 40. 40 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 6 Take the indigenous popu- lation into account during the training process. 6.1. There has been a rapproche- ment with this population, to the point that they have been involved in project activities, passing the knowl- edge gained to other members of 7 Apply the V.C.A. workshop as a basis for all others. 7.1. Through this process, people are able to identify and locate real threats. 7.2. The Social and Institutional Fab- ric tool gives participants a different view on the role of institutions and organisations present in the com- munities. 7.3. Initially, participants tried to use this tool as a weapon against institu- tions they considered inefficient or not involved enough in the commu- nity. In the end, they recognized that the tool does not only identify guilt, but also participation with and sup- port for the organisations. 7.4. Tests the facilitator’s tact to smooth things over between officials of different institutions if their issues are the topic of discussion. 7.5 The V.C.A. has served as a tool to raise awareness among partici- pants. 7.6 Has generated a change in atti- tude on issues of disaster and risk reduction through recognizing the capabilities of the communities. 7.7 The knowledge acquired by the community during these processes is being put into practice by some through performing a census and by mapping the community to update the local emergency committee’s information. N° Topic Best practice Lesson learned
  41. 41. 41 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 8 Perform community first aid ‘marathons,’ which consist of training a large amount of people in just one day or one weekend, including a team of several instructors and a suffi- cient amount of resources and necessary materials. 8.1 Resources are saved through this practice, such as transport and food, as well as time. 8.2. It is a way for members of the community to share, learn and so- cialise with each other. 9 Demonstrate community first aid practices in open places, such as the town square. 9.1. This allows the dissemination of Red Cross project activities amongst he population that is not involved, which generates interest in the work of the global Red Cross movement. 10 Involve school teachers in first aid training 10.1. In Panama, as a result of the first aid demonstrations, first aid will be added as part of the school cur- riculum. 11 Achieve participation of both communities in joint ac- tivities. 11.1 Exchange of experience and knowledge of the border area strengthened the ability to jointly re- spond to an event. 12 For the preparation of con- tingency plans in Panama, each institution provides a list of supplies they have. 12.1. Having necessary information saves time during the preparation of a plan. N° Topic Best practice Lesson learned
  42. 42. 42 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Annex 2: Summary of the process of strengthening the Red Cross in Talamanca and in Changuinola Some volunteers from the Talamanca committee participated in the V.A.C. workshop. Four Workshops on Flood Operations and Rescue (Spanish acronym ‘TERPI’) were given, of which two were at an institutional level, involving staff from both the Changuinola and Talamanca committees. Through an internship at the CRREC, four volunteers from the Talamanca committee were trained on flooding. Staff from the Changuinola committee participated in the workshops on flooding that were given in Sixaola, and which were then replicated in Guabito. A workshop was given on Temporary Shelter in Changuinola, where staff from both committees and institutions participated. Two workshops were given on response and contingency plans, one in Costa Rica and the other in Panama, where groups created the response and contingency plans of both committees. In the case of Costa Rica, work was done on the contingency plan for flooding for the Sixaola district, as well as elaborating the municipal response plan. In Panama, work was done on a response plan for earthquakes in Changuinola, with the participation of Red Cross personnel and response institutions. In Guabito, work was done on a response plan for flooding, with the participation of members of the Red Cross and the community. These two groups were joined together in order to create one response and contingency plan for Changuinola. Staff from Panama and Costa Rica participated in a workshop in Guabito on Makeup Techniques for Victims, in order to strengthen and support the practices and drills in their respective committees. Institutional Strengthening Training Processes
  43. 43. 43 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies When creating the contingency plan for flooding in Sixaola, the need for personnel in the field with EDAN training was identified. Therefore, a course on EDAN for members of the Red Cross in Talamanca and Changuinola, as people in the community that are part of the emergency committees, is being coordinated through the CNE, which is the lead agency on risk prevention and emergency management in Costa Rica. The National Youth Service in Costa Rica, through the National Coordination of Red Cross in School, trained young people from the youth programs of both Red Cross offices to work with children in schools in Sixaola and Guabito. Actions developed by the Talamanca committee on project support can serve as orientation material for other committees in the area with regards to the Red Cross’ relationship with other institutions and organisations. Through this project’s implementation, which involved the majority of staff from the Talamanca committee, ties between the committee’s different services have been strengthened. There has been an increase in the number of volunteers in both committees as people from the community, both young people and adults, have decided to get involved in the actions of the Red Cross. For the Talamanca committee’s administrative staff, the project’s actions and achievements have acted as an incentive in the workplace. The project has been an opportunity to reach out to community organisations with the challenge of the Strategy 2020 ‘Saving Lives, Changing Minds’ through community management actions. Internal capacities have increased through training of staff. Increasing the skills of the staff has positively influenced their self esteem, leading to greater involvement not only in the project, but also in the committee’s day-to-day actions. Through the project, skills amongst staff have been identified for community work. Therefore, there is currently trained staff to follow up on some of the actions in the community. Organisational accompaniment
  44. 44. 44 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Volunteering Alongside the youth of the Talamanca committee, a group of young students, parents and taxi drivers from the Sixaola community have been trained on the prevention of AIDS and HIV. Other coastal communities will receive this training as well. Young graffiti artists were involved in project activities. During a work session, they listened to a radio drama on risk reduction, and then created a sketch of their ideas on prevention in the Sixaola community. They were given the phrase “Sixaola is preparing” and, together with members of the community, they chose the colours and the picture to paint. Then, with the support of young people, students and neighbours, they painted the drawings on the wall that is located in the centre of the community. In Talamanca, there are people that work for the C.C.S.S. as nurses and are also Red Cross volunteers. These people have been involved in the project, providing technical support during community first aid and the risk reduction fairs. Generating synergies with municipal governments, ministries, community and others In Costa Rica, a workshop was given to municipal emergency committee staff in Talamanca on response and contingency plans, who were involved in the creation of the response plan. The relationship of the Red Cross with the municipal emergency committee in Talamanca and the institutions that it represents has strengthened, leading to a closer, more open dynamic. The project has led to a closer relationship with the health institutions of both countries. A workshop on response and contingency plans was given in Changuinola, which included the participation of Red Cross staff from the Changuinola committee and other government institutions. Together, they participated in developing the response plan for earthquakes in Changuinola. The relationship between the Changuinola and Talamanca committees has been friendly and closer. With funding from UNICEF, a workshop on Protected School and Return of Happiness was given. The Costa Rican Red Cross Youth Program trained
  45. 45. 45 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies the youth staff of both auxiliary committees using the Red Cross School methodology and applying the actions to Sixaola’s school, which have supported the DIPECHO project. The Red Cross has won recognition from government institutions, especially the municipalities, with which it has developed a stronger rapport. For Guabito, the district representative has supported the actions of the community and the community brigades. Community work in the border area has generated a positive change of mind and attitude towards the Red Cross. Weaknesses or difficulties VAC. participants commented that the duration of this training is very little to capture, manage and apply all the information that this workshop includes. The fact that the vast majority of the facilitators are not trained to handle feelings in the case that a participant is affected psychologically by a dynamic, such as tool development or participation in one of the different processes, makes it difficult to control a possible situation during training. Project coordinators have found some difficulty in finding and achieving the way to link the community brigades with competent organisations or institutions that are present in the community. In Costa Rica, it would be the local emergency committee. In Panama, it would be SINAPROC. In the case of Costa Rica, the initial approaches with the Sixaola community were affected by the resistance of residents to participate in activities, which stems from previous experiences with institutions and NGOs. Prior experiences have left the residents feeling used since the processes and information gathered did not result in any benefits for the communities, but instead ended up in the database of these organisations. The committee in Changuinola does not have sufficient volunteers to support project activities.
  46. 46. 46 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies General Recommendations Identify appropriate strategies and methodologies to facilitate interaction between the community teams in both countries so that they can collaborate with each other during emergencies. Coordinate joint practices for the TERPI teams of both countries, at a community level as well as the Red Cross. Document the agreements on both sides of the border between organised groups and the Red Cross to serve as a precedent and basis for future agreements or bilateral management. Inform stakeholders of agreements and bilateral negotiations that take place, as well as prevention, preparation and emergency management issues, so that communities can strengthen their working relationships and, therefore, their capacity to respond. To the extent possible, ensure that staff responsible for the application of processes in communities on both sides of the border is at the same level with regards to their knowledge of tool application, times and their scope. This way, once the project is complete, the results with regards to quality, quantity, efficiency and benefits are balanced, while taking into account that political- administrative and cultural differences may exist between countries working on the same project. It is necessary to measure the reach of follow up and sustainability actions in border communities after project completion.
  47. 47. 47 Characterisation of Guabito-Sixaola’s Dynamic Border International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies The 7 Fundamental Principals Humanity The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, born of a desire to bring assistance without discrimination to the wounded on the battlefield, endeavours, in its international and national capacity, to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found. Its purpose is to protect life and health and to ensure respect for the human being. It promotes mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all peoples. Impartiality It makes no discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. It endeavours to relieve the suffering of individuals, being guided solely by their needs, and to give priority to the most urgent cases of distress. Neutrality In order to continue to enjoy the confidence of all, the Movement may not take sides in hostilities or engage at any time in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature. Independence The Movement is independent. The National Societies, while auxiliaries in the humanitarian services of their governments and subject to the laws of their respective countries, must always maintain their autonomy so that they may be able at all times to act in accordance with the principles of the Movement. Voluntary service It is a voluntary relief movement not prompted in any manner by desire for gain. Unity There can be only one Red Cross or one Red Crescent Society in any one country. It must be open to all. It must carry on its humanitarian work throughout its territory. Universality The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, in which all Societies have equal status and share equal responsibilities and duties in helping each other, is worldwide.
  48. 48. Norwegian Red Cross The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) promotes the humanitarian activities of the National Societies in the favor of vulnerable persons. By coordinating international disaster relief and promoting development assistance, it seeks to prevent and alleviate human suffering. The IFRC, National Societies and the International Committe of the Red Cross together constitute the International Red cross and Red Crescent Movement.

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