Research

For the first research strand, I focused on caste, class and gender theories to understand women headed households’ vulnerabilities in multiple disasters (flood, cyclone, drought affecting one specific place) in Odisha and whether micro-credit initiatives can reduce women’s vulnerabilities. This research was funded by the Ford Foundation’s International Fellowship Programme (2002-2006) and led to a PhD thesis (Supervisors: Professor Christina Hughes and Dr Parita Mukta), a monograph (Caste, Class and Gender in Multiple Disasters, VDM Verlag, 2010), newspaper column and five peer-reviewed journal articles. This research project also captured coping and adaptation strategies that households develop to survive, promote health and wellbeing and eke out livelihood outcomes. In order to promote disaster resilience, I also analyse disaster management policies and programmes taking sociological and anthropological approaches (Social Policy and Administration, Disasters).

Funded by ESRC-DFID (2007-2009) (PIs: Professors Andrew Collins at Northumbria and Abbas Bhuiya at ICDDR,B) I studied the everyday health security practices at household levels in disaster prone locales of Bangladesh and how health securities can be promoted in order to offset disaster risks. I used the lens of UN’s human security frameworks, Amartya Sen’s ‘capability approach’ and sociology of health and illness theories. This research project led to four co-authored peer-reviewed journal articles and two book chapters, three of which are led and published by me. My article ‘Exploring the Meaning of Health Security’ published in Health and Place was submitted at Leicester’s REF 2014, as well as part of Northumbria University’s ‘REF Impact Case Study 2014’.

After joining Leicester in 2012, I developed my second research strand, which involves studying vulnerabilities that exist at the seams of disaster management organisations. From my PhD research in India and ESRC-DFID project in Bangladesh, I found that the community living ‘at/with risk’ is likely to receive poor services when the actors and organisations for disaster risk management are ill-equipped and under-skilled to deal with disaster response and recovery. This is partly because developing the capacity of organisations and actors, as well as understanding their vulnerabilities was amiss in the UN’s international convention called the ‘Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015’ (currently known as the ‘Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030’). I made this case by winning a competitive bid with UN’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) to bring novel insights on ‘hyper risks and reflective disaster response’ in the second phase of the Hyogo Framework (http://www.preventionweb.net/english/hyogo/gar/2015/en/bgdocs/RayBennett%20et%20al.,%202014.pdf).

Funded by Leicester’s Professional Development Innovation Fund, this research also led to the development of a continuing professional development (CPD) course called: ‘Practicing Reflection: Reflective Practises in Disaster Risk Reduction’ (course webpage: https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/business/research/units/cssu/reflectivepractices). Reflective response deals with how to reduce inaction, complacency, human errors, poor decision making of actors and organisations for effective disaster risk management.

Funded by Leicester’s Research Development Fund, Hokkaido University’s fieldwork fund and Kansai University’s one month Visiting Research Fellow Fund, I extended this research project further to develop a research monograph called Avoidable Deaths: A Systems Failure Approach in Disaster Risk Management for Springer Nature (2017). In 2017, this research also led to a successful research bid with Dr Sophie Hebden from Leicester’s National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) for the Natural Environmental Research Council’s (NERC) ‘International Development Innovation and Impact Award’. This research project studied as how to improve the capacity of early warning systems for droughts in East Africa with the help of earth observation tools. I also made a successful bid with the ESRC-NERC to attend the Networking Workshop on Newton Fund for ‘Impacts of Hydrometeorological Hazards in South East Asia, 10-11 October, Jakarta, Indonesia.’

The research monograph Avoidable Deaths addresses one of the fundamental questions of the 21st Century: why deaths continue to occur in ‘natural’ disasters and how they may be reduced. With particular focus on early warning systems (EWSs) to prepare the disaster response system to save lives, this research introduces ‘complex perspective’ to understand the network and complexity of actors and decentralisation of decision making processes in disaster management. The complex perspective developed from the theories of organisation, risk, vulnerability, crisis management, systems thinking, Amartya Sen’s ‘theory of justice’ and violence identifies actionable plans, goals, targets and disaster climate scenario to develop the capacity of primary, secondary and tertiary responders to reduce human deaths in cyclones and in doing so this research directly addresses the Sendai Framework’s Global Target One which is ‘reducing human mortality by 2030’. Research findings from this research project were also published in MAP Bulletin, World Development and contributed to the UNISDR’s Guidelines on ‘Words in Action: Accountability in the Context of Disaster Risk Governance’ and Global Assessment Report 2019.

From October 2015 to August 2018, I studied the challenges and opportunities during a flood in Bangladesh. Funded by IPPF, this was a collaborative research project between IPPF’s-South Asia Region Office (IPPF-SARO), icddr,b, the Government of Bangladesh and Data Management Aid in Bangladesh (project webpage: http://www.le.ac.uk/healthbangladesh ). This research project developed an intervention package called RHCC in order to improve the quality and availability of post abortion care services (PAC) during a flood in Bangladesh. RHCC included: i) pre-positioning the UNFPA’s Interagency Reproductive Health Kit 8 (which consists of medicines, renewable medical devices such as gloves and syringes, stationary and treatment guidelines, medical equipment such as manual vacuum aspiration); ii) developing the capacity of health workers by training them on safe and unsafe menstrual regulation and post-abortion care; and iii) raising community awareness on sexual and reproductive health during a flood.

Impact of this research project during the June-August floods in 2017 was featured on the UNISDR’s PreventionWeb in light of the ‘International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction’ (http://www.preventionweb.net/experts/oped/view/5533). The research findings have fed into the Government of India and Royal Thai Government’s ‘Asia Regional Plan 2016’ on ‘sexual and reproductive health in disaster risk reduction’. A ‘Top Level’ dissemination meeting was arranged on the 1st of March 2018 in Dhaka to disseminate the preliminary research findings. A short brief of this event was featured by Dhaka Tribune (http://www.dhakatribune.com/health/2018/03/01/dma-leicester-ippf-projects/). Behaviour change communication posters developed from the research findings have been accepted by the Upazila Health and Family Planning Officer to be displayed in 37 government clinics in Belkuchi Upazila (sub-district). The research project has been recognized as a ‘high profile’ by the funder IPPF due to its innovation, engagement and outreach and was shortlisted for Leicester’s Excellence Award in 2018.

In light of the above research projects, I have extensive applied knowledge and experience of using quantitative and qualitative methods, mixed methods procedures, case study designs. More concretely, this includes large scale household and community surveys, interviews (in-depth, focus group discussions, key informant interviews), participant observation, documentary analysis, content analysis. I have also used participatory rural appraisal (PRA) tools, reflective practice and soft systems thinking tools and theory of change tools. I have successfully developed and implemented complex research designs which involves feasibility research, intervention research and evaluation research.

Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of my research projects, I work with geo scientists, social scientists, natural scientists, physical scientists, medical doctors, policy makers, practitioners, multi-lateral organisations such as the UNISDR, UNDP, IPPF, IPPF-SARO, IGAD-ICPAC – amongst others.

I was a visiting Research Fellow at Kasai University in Japan in 2016. Twice I have been selected by ESRC-NERC to attend the Newton Fund Networking Workshops in Chengdu (2014) and Jakarta (2017).

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