Just consider a few simple statistics. On average, more than 1,000 lives are lost every year in the Philippines, with typhoons accounting for 74 percent of deaths, 62 percent of the total damages, and 70 percent of damages to agriculture.
Typhoon Haiyan struck in November 2013, known as Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. The country though is also highly exposed to other hazards, including earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Venice may seem like an unlikely location for an international development conference. But even though the Italian city is best known for its touristic appeal, it also turned out to be the perfect setting for the Understanding Risk Forum 2016, where representatives from 125 countries exchanged knowledge on disaster risk management and explored ways of adapting global lessons to their own local context.
At merely 1 meter above sea level, Venice has had its fair share of natural disasters, especially floods. In 1966, the record-high 194-cm flood had severe consequences on the Old Venice, causing an estimated $6 million worth of damage (1966 US dollars). Given the city’s touristic and historical significance to Italy and the world, protection from flood is a top priority.
That's why the Government of Italy has invested over €5.5 billion on the MOSE Project, which involves constructing 4 mobile barriers at the mouth of the water basin to the sea in order to better control high tide and prevent it from flooding the Old Venice. Each barrier consists of several energy-efficient flap gates that can be deployed quickly when high tide occurs, maintaining the ideal water level in the basin while safeguarding the natural ecosystem in the laguna area. Once the project is completed in 2018, it should fully protect the city, and allow future generations to admire the beauty of its glory days.
Too many times after a natural hazard strikes, public outcries follow once the level of devastation becomes clear. People wonder – and often rightly so – if the disaster could have been prevented. After the 2015 Nepal earthquake for example, years of investment in school buildings was wiped away in seconds because schools were not built to withstand earthquakes – often because people were not aware of the earthquake risk. Fortunately, it was a Saturday so the schools that collapsed did not also result in unimaginable human tragedy.
We’re witnessing an unprecedented uptick in record-breaking storms. In October last year, Hurricane Patricia came ashore in Mexico with record breaking 200 miles per hour winds. A few months later on the other side of the world, Cyclone Winston broke records for Pacific basin wind speeds, destroying parts of mainland Fiji with 180 miles per hour winds. More recently, Cyclone Fantala became the most powerful storm in the Indian Ocean ever recorded.
Experts agree that its activities by people which are increasing the severity of storms like these. Climate change isn’t just projected to increase the intensity of hurricanes and cyclones, but a whole other range of other natural hazards, like droughts, floods, storms, and heat waves.
Small Island States are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change and natural disasters. In fact, 2/3 of the countries that have been most severely impacted by disasters are small island nations, which have lost between 1 and 9% of GDP annually due to weather extremes and other catastrophes. The severity and recurrence of disasters makes it hard for those countries to recover, and seriously undermines ongoing development efforts.
What does it take to prevent or mitigate the impact of natural disasters?
For many, disaster resilience is all about better infrastructure, efficient early warning systems, and stronger institutions. While those aspects are obviously crucial, we shouldn’t overlook the role of communities themselves in preparing for and responding to disasters. After all, the success of both preparedness and recovery efforts depends largely on local residents' ability to anticipate risk, on their relationship with local and national authorities, and on the way they organize themselves when disaster strikes. In the aftermath of a catastrophe, rebuilding not just the physical environment but also the livelihoods of people is also essential, including through effective social protection systems and safety nets.
In this video, Senior Social Development Specialist Margaret Arnold explains how the World Bank is working with client countries and local communities to bring the social dimension of disaster risk management to the forefront.
Singapore: the beautiful city state, famed for its lush gardens, splendid food, culturally diverse communities, and the cocktail Singapore Sling. I was there last week for the World Bank’s 2016 Urban Week. The event brought together leading city officials from all over the world and staff from international organizations. It was an excellent exchange on how to tackle urban planning in a sustainable and integrated way. One lesson that emerged from the gathering is that cities that are resilient to natural disasters are also more economically competitive. Singapore is itself a prime example of a city that has understood the importance of connecting disaster risk management, urban planning, and quality living.
Every 2 to 7 years, the cyclical warming of Pacific Ocean waters triggers a global pattern of weather changes that can be felt across many different parts of the world. This phenomenon, known as "El Niño", translates into intense rainfall and floods in certain areas, and severe drought in others. Due to its impact on precipitation, El Niño can seriously undermine water security, decrease agricultural yields and threaten livestock–putting considerable pressure on the livelihoods of affected communities.
Ahead of World Water Day 2016, Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist Christoph Pusch explains how the World Bank helps client countries anticipate, respond to, and recover from El Niño-related shocks such as droughts or floods.
Lessons learned over time from post-conflict recovery and reconstruction efforts reflect the need to reinforce stabilization immediately following the end of a conflict.
Being ready in advance with a recovery and reconstruction plan is one way to ensure that critical interventions can be implemented quickly following the cessation of hostilities.This can be achieved to a large extent by coordinating with humanitarian efforts in the recovery continuum during active conflict.
Such a plan helps to identify actionable opportunities that can help to support local-level recovery. This includes immediate improvements in services and enhancing livelihood opportunities essential to establishing popular confidence in state institutions and to fostering social cohesion.