Strengthening Communities: Partnering with Refugee, Immigrant and Migrant Communities During Hurricane Season

Truck in Hurricane

As May 5, 2024, kicks off hurricane preparedness week, it’s essential to recognize that Afghan newcomers may need to become more familiar with the challenges of extreme weather events that are unique to the United States. Communities are best equipped to determine the best messaging, formats, and strategies for emergency preparedness, and public health practitioners should look to them for ideas.

Involving Communities in Emergency Preparedness Efforts

Community partnerships are essential and valuable during weather events such as hurricanes. Collaboration between local organizations, community leaders, and government agencies ensures community safety. Afghan newcomers and other refugee, immigrant, and migrant (RIM) communities have shown their ability to overcome challenges and lead public health responses within their communities. These same skills apply to emergency preparedness. Before a hurricane reaches your area:

  • Consider creating a community advisory board to assist with project planning and communicating with Afghan community members. 
  • Coordinate information sessions with community partners to educate Afghan newcomers on hurricane preparedness strategies, terminology, evacuation procedures and emergency response. 
  • Teach Afghan newcomers mental health and coping strategies before an emergency to set communities up for success; your advisory board can help ensure these are culturally relevant.

Ensuring Communications are Relevant

Emergency preparedness in Afghan communities or any other RIM community will require that communications are linguistically and culturally relevant:

  • Deliver information in Dari and Pashto for Afghan communities to fully engage and spread awareness of hurricane preparedness. Make sure your translations are rigorous and incorporate cultural validation. 
  • Adopt a trauma-informed lens that considers the context of Afghans’ displacement, including that many Afghan newcomers were evacuated from their homes very suddenly. 
  • Ensure Afghan community leaders and local organizations have access to resources tailored to the needs and preferences of Afghan newcomers, ensuring accessibility and effectiveness in hurricane preparedness efforts.

Guided Support Before, During and After Hurricanes

IRC and NRC-RIM’s Hurricane Preparedness Collection outlines the terminology, potential risks, actionable steps, and appropriate precautions to keep families safe during a hurricane. These materials are: ​​

  • Informed by community perspectives 
  • Designed in a way that reflects the preferences of many Afghan communities 
  • Rigorously translated and validated for accuracy and cultural relevance 
  • Customizable and scalable for a hyperlocal approach

These materials support health departments and community organizations in the following ways:

  • Hosting multilingual education workshops 
  • Sending crucial information over text or WhatsApp 
  • Posting to social media

We understand the importance of supporting community partnerships, creating culturally informed materials and resources for Afghan communities, and learning from their experiences. Public health departments and community-based organizations can use these tools to support and weather life’s storms.