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East Asia and Pacific

Tackling a known unknown: How post-disaster aid can provide what people really need

Markus Kostner's picture
Photo: Patrick Barron (World Bank)

Within a few weeks of the disaster, the tents, half a dozen of them, were lined up along a creek where houses with bamboo walls and nipa roofs had once stood. They were brand new… and empty. They had been provided to survivors of Nargis, the cyclone that killed an estimated 140,000 people in the Ayeyarwady Delta of Myanmar in one night in 2008.
 
However, despite these provisions, the cyclone survivors preferred to stay in makeshift huts they had built on the other side of the village path with any materials they could find. The tents were too flimsy, they said, and could fly away if another storm kicked up.

Sometime thereafter, they packed the tents neatly and stored them with other items they had also received and never used: sleeping bags much too warm for the monsoon climate, and gasoline stoves where no gasoline was sold.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture
Ponto-cho Alley, Kyoto. (Barbara Minguez Garcia / World Bank, 2016)
Ponto-cho Alley, Kyoto. (Barbara Minguez Garcia / World Bank, 2016)
 

Ponto-cho mapIt is 7:45 p.m. in Ponto-cho, the historic narrow alley at the core of the Japanese city of Kyoto. Close to the Kaburenjo Theater – where still today Geikos and Maikos (Kyoto Geishas) practice their dances and performances – the traditional adjoining buildings with restaurants and shops are full of guests. Local people, tourists, students… On this Saturday in mid-April, the warm weather brings a lot of people to the streets nearby.

At 7:46 p.m., a M 5.1 earthquake strikes. Seven seconds of swaying. It doesn’t cause major damage, but it is enough to spread panic among a group of tourists. Screams, shoving, confusion… drinks spill, candles fall, people rush.

At 7:49 p.m., the fire starts spreading through the old wooden structures, also threatening the historic theater. Access is difficult due to the narrow streets and panicking crowd.

What happens next?

It could be a fire in the Ponto-cho traditional alley. It could be an earthquake shaking the historic center of Kathmandu (Nepal), the archaeological site of Bagan (Myanmar), or the historic town of Amatrice (Italy). It could be Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean, blasting sites with rain, flooding, and gale-force winds.

Cultural heritage assets around the world are at risk. They are often vulnerable due to their age, as well as previous interventions and restorations made without disaster risk or overall site stability in mind. Heritage sites reflect legacies, traditions, and identities. With all this, they carry a large cultural and emotional value of what could be lost – certainly beyond the traditional calculus of economic losses.

In many cases, it is not possible or advisable to conduct reconstruction on cultural heritage sites post-disaster. Therefore, the essence and soul of a cultural heritage site is at risk of being lost forever, making preparedness and preservation even more critical.

How can we protect these special places and traditions from the threat of natural hazards?

Going in-depth: A qualitative application of Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI)

Sonia Akter's picture

Photo courtesy of Sonia AkterEmpowerment is an intangible, multidimensional and culturally defined concept. This presents major challenges for researchers, development practitioners, and donors seeking to measure women’s empowerment. How do we know if women are empowered through a particular intervention or initiative? And how can we measure women’s empowerment in an effective, robust, and practical manner?

To try and gain a better understanding of the global landscape of women’s empowerment in agriculture, our research team—comprised of researchers from the National University of Singapore and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)—combined elements of one of the most common tools used to measure empowerment, the quantitative Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), with the qualitative approach of Focus Group Discussions (FGDs). In addition to expanding upon the tool, we expanded the geographical scope of the study of empowerment in agriculture, which has typically focused on Sub Saharan Africa. We collected qualitative cross-country data from four Southeast Asian countries (Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines) and explored overall regional trends as well as intra-regional variation in women’s empowerment in Southeast Asian agriculture.

Our research demonstrates that focus group discussions offer a valuable complement to traditional quantitative instruments, but also bring some challenges.
 

Financial inclusion for Asia's unbanked

Manu Bhardwaj's picture

Asian economies are well positioned for robust growth — with GDPs expected to rise by an average of 6.3% in each of the next two years. Emerging markets in Asia are also the best performers in economic growth in recent years, especially when compared with emerging markets outside of Asia.

But to ensure this growth is equitable and inclusive, Asian business leaders, academics and policymakers need to confront a host of challenges, including significant “unbanked” and “underbanked” populations. More than 1 billion people within the region still have no access to formal financial services — meaning, no formal employment, no bank account, no meaningful ability to engage in commerce online or offline. By some estimates, only 27% percent of adults have a bank account, and only 33% of firms have a loan or line of credit. As was highlighted by the speakers at the recent Mastercard-SMU Forum in Singapore, greater financial inclusion must become an essential component of Asia’s economic development.

Better forecast, better preparedness – investing in improved weather services

Adeline Choy's picture

Sun or rain? Most of us rely on the daily weather forecast to know what to wear or whether to bring an umbrella. However, for millions of people living in flood prone areas, timely and accurate forecasts, as well as early warning, can impact more than just clothing choices –they can help minimize flooding impacts.
 
Floods are the most frequent and damaging among natural hazards. Between 1980 and 2016, floods led to economic damages exceeding US$1.6 trillion, and more than 225,000 people losing their lives. Compounded by rapid urbanization and climate change, these losses will likely increase, especially in fast-growing countries.

Communicating volcanic risk: lava, eruptions and uncertainty

Jon Mikel Walton's picture
Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala, one of Central America’s most active volcanos, spews ash and lava flows in January 2018, just 70 kilometers west of Guatemala City. Image credit: NASA
Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala, one of Central America’s most active volcanos, spews ash and lava flows in January 2018, just 70 kilometers west of Guatemala City. Image credit: NASA

We live in an age of compounding uncertainty. The unpredictable impacts of climate change and the rapid urbanization of societies is increasing the complexity, difficulty, and necessity of making sound decisions when faced with numerous options. This uncertainty is acute with respect to natural disasters – for example, predicting hurricane intensity or locating the next big earthquake remain challenging tasks despite advances in science and monitoring tools.
 
The challenge of anticipating and communicating the risk of volcanic eruptions to communities requires complex decision-making. Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Volcano and Indonesia’s Mount Agung are recent examples where the warning signs were present (small earthquakes, increasing gas emissions, and more), yet an eruption came much later than expected. Volcanic eruptions are therefore a double-edged sword that often creates a decision-making dilemma. While signs of volcanic activity can provide adequate time for preparation and evacuation, the very same signs can also create conditions of extreme uncertainty, which can be exacerbated by piecemeal communication around eruption events.
 
So, what have we learned from recent experiences on the challenges of communicating volcanic risk? 

Mongolia, despite a scattered population, works to make every voice heard

Amarbayasgalan Dorj's picture

With only 2 people per square kilometer, Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth. While that can make public service delivery daunting, improving health and education outcomes is possible if we include citizens in the decision-making process.

The country is taking steps to ensure this: Its second Open Government Partnership National Action Plan outlines specific measures to improve transparency, public accountability and citizen participation. With the World Bank and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, the government is also working to mainstream social accountability to empower the poor and vulnerable segments of Mongolian society.

How is your life different from that of your parents?

Venkat Gopalakrishnan's picture
© You Ji/World Bank
© You Ji/World Bank


Yunus owns a fabric store in Blantyre, Malawi. The store was founded by his grandfather, who immigrated to Malawi in 1927, and has now been in his family for three generations. Business is good, Yunus said, but that the cost of essential services like electricity and water has gone up since his grandfather and father owned the store. Even so, he remains optimistic.
 
Marija Bosheva is a student at an agriculture and forestry vocational high school in Kavadarci, Macedonia. Like many high school students around the world, she takes daily lessons in history, math, biology, and chemistry. However, unlike many of her peers, she is also studying oenology — the art of making wine.
 
Are you carrying on a family tradition, like Yunus? Do you work or study in an entirely new field that didn’t exist when your parents were your age? How has life changed for you compared to your parents or grandparents when they were your age, and how do you see your children’s lives and possibilities compared to your own? Are you in the same position vis a vis your peers as your parents were vis a vis theirs?
 
Share your story, using the hashtag #InheritPossibility.

Record high remittances to low- and middle-income countries in 2017

Dilip Ratha's picture
The World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief shows that officially recorded remittances to developing countries touched a new record—$466 billion in 2017, up 8.5 percent over 2016. The countries that saw the highest inflow in remittances were India with $69 billion, followed by China ($64 billion), the Philippines ($33 billion), Mexico ($31 billion), Nigeria ($22 billion), and Egypt ($20 billion).

New data reveals uptick in private investment in EMDEs in 2017

Deblina Saha's picture
Also available in: Español | Français 


Photo: Creativa Images | Shutterstock

Critically constrained public resources on the one hand, and huge existing infrastructure needs for basic services on the other, make private participation in emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs) not just critical, but in fact, imperative. Crowding in private finance is essential to spur economic development and meet the twin goals of shared prosperity and elimination of extreme poverty, as well as to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
The Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) Database, with data spanning over almost 27 years, has become a powerful tool and measure for gauging the level of private investment in infrastructure in EMDEs.  


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