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disaster risk management

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? 

Connecting with the people beyond the computers: my experience in flood risk management in Buenos Aires

Catalina Ramirez's picture
Also available in Español 

After spending several years in front of a computer every day, I began to feel removed from those people who were the real reason for my work, which aims to build a safer, healthier and more prosperous environment. But when people I knew were directly affected by the issues I was working on, my work took on more meaning and urgency.

Managing climate risks in South Asia: A “bottom up” approach

Poonam Pillai's picture
Surma river between Bangladesh and India
The Surma River that flows between Bangladesh and India. Photo Credit: Poonam Pillai

Being from Kolkata, I have always been used to floods. Prolonged flooding typically meant schools and offices closed, traffic jams and a much-needed respite from the tropical summer heat. However, it was during a field visit to the flood prone northeastern border of Bangladesh, where rivers from India flow downstream into Bangladesh, that I fully appreciated the importance of disaster early warning systems and regional collaboration in saving lives, property, enabling communities to evacuate and prepare for extreme weather events.

Disaster early warning systems, along with other information services based on weather, water and climate data (sometimes known as “hydromet” or “climate services”) play a key role in disaster preparedness and improving the productivity and performance of climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture.  Along with investments in resilient infrastructure, risk financing strategies and capacity building measures, they are a key part of a toolkit for strengthening disaster and climate resilience.  Research shows that for every dollar spent on disaster early warning systems, the benefits range from $2-10.  In South Asia, these are particularly important given the region’s extreme vulnerability to climate risks and staggering socio-economic costs arising from extreme weather events.

Mind the gap: How bringing together cities and private investors can close the funding gap for urban resilience

Marc Forni's picture

Image: World Bank

By 2050, two-thirds of all people will live in cities. Each year, 72.8 million more people live in urban areas. That’s the equivalent of a new San Diego appearing every week.
 
But fast growth, and a high concentration of people and assets, makes cities vulnerable to climate change and disasters. By 2030, climate change alone could force up to 77 million urban residents into poverty.

As we celebrate Earth Day 2018 and continue the fight against climate change, cities are striving to become more sustainable, investing in ways to reduce their vulnerability to disasters and climate change. Achieving resilience is the goal – and the good news is that cities aren’t alone on the team.

Even duller disasters? How earlier finance can save lives in emergencies

Nicola Ranger's picture
© International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank 2016
© World Bank


Putting in place the funding, systems, and plans before a disaster strikes can help dull the impact of disasters by enabling earlier, faster and more effective response and recovery.

But can we go further, making disasters even ‘duller’ by also releasing finance before a disaster strikes? 

UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, recently set out a compelling vision for how the humanitarian system can be improved. He argued that “disasters are predictable… we need to move from today’s approach where we watch disaster and tragedy build, gradually decide to respond, and then mobilise money and organisations to help, to an anticipatory approach, where we plan in advance for the next crises, putting the response plans and money for them before they arrive, and releasing the money and mobilising the response agencies as soon as they are needed…”

Celebrating 85 years of Civil Protection in Romania to thank those who save lives, alleviate suffering and protect livelihoods

Tatiana Proskuryakova's picture

 
Romania recently celebrated 85 years of civil protection. In our day-to-day lives, we rarely pause to think of the decisive role played by civil protection agencies. But as soon as disaster strikes, these dedicated men and women lead efforts to save lives, protect livelihoods, and alleviate suffering. Your rescuer of the day may be a police officer directing evacuation, a volunteer providing first aid and shelter, a paramedic treating injuries, a weather forecaster providing timely advisories, or a local official coordinating actions. In other words, a well-functioning civil protection system is a diverse ecosystem of people and agencies - all with a clear and valuable role to play.

This was not always the case.

Maximizing finance for safe and resilient roads

Daniel Pulido's picture


Around the world, roads remain the dominant mode of transport and are among the most heavily-used types of infrastructure, accounting for about 80% of the distance travelled for individuals and 50% for goods.

Despite this intensive use, the funding available for road maintenance has been inadequate, leaving roads in many countries unsafe and unfit for purpose.

To make matters worse, roads are also very vulnerable to climate and disaster risk: when El Niño hit Peru in 2017, the related flooding damaged about 18% of the Peruvian road network in just one month.

It is no surprise then that roads are the sector that will require the most financing. In fact, the G20 estimates that roads account for more than half of the $15 trillion investment gap in infrastructure through 2040.

Building safer and more resilient homes in post-earthquake Nepal

Anna Wellenstein's picture
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Two earthquakes that struck Nepal in 2015 killed 9,000 people and left thousands homeless. Recovery has been a major challenge to which the government and development partners have rallied.

In this video, Anna Wellenstein, Director of Strategy and Operations in the World Bank’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, and Kamran Akbar, Senior Disaster Risk Specialist in the World Bank’s Nepal office, discuss the resilient reconstruction program undertaken by the Nepalese.


Under this program, the government of Nepal has supported over 650,000 households to build back their homes stronger and more resilient to natural disasters. 

The program includes innovative approaches that help ensure the country is building back better, building a cadre of tradesmen skilled in resilient construction, and increasing financial access for beneficiary families. 

These good practices not only apply to World Bank-funded reconstruction, but to the overall program supported by the Nepalese government and donors, creating country-wide and lasting impacts for a safer and more resilient Nepal.

Why we must engage women and children in disaster risk management

Monica Vidili's picture

students in Bislig Elementary School in Leyte Province, Philippines

Disasters hit the poorest the hardest. Poor people are not only more vulnerable to climate-related shocks, but they also have fewer resources to prevent, cope with, and adapt to disasters. The poor tend to receive less support from family, community and financial systems, and even have less access to social safety nets, as a recent World Bank report explains.

So, yes, disasters can discriminate on the same lines that societies discriminate against people.

Disasters tend to discriminate along generational and gender lines, as well. Several studies analyzing the impact of disasters have revealed that women and children have greater risks to their survival and recovery in the aftermath of natural disasters. The vulnerability of women and children to natural disasters can be further aggravated by other elements of discrimination such as race, poverty, and disability.

During the 2017 Hurricane Harvey in the U.S., many women—especially women of color—decided to not evacuate risk areas despite all the warnings. Why? All over the world, women and girls are overwhelmingly tasked, personally and professionally, with caring for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. So, simple life-saving decisions, like discerning whether to evacuate a disaster area, can become a difficult choice.

Poverty and gender norms shape basic survival capabilities as well. For example, according to an Oxfam survey, four times as many women than men were killed in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India during the 2004 tsunami, because men were taught how to swim and climb trees at young ages, while women were not.

Access to food and nutritional conditions also determine people’s capacities to cope with disasters. Mercy Corps reports that women and men tend to adopt different resilience strategies during droughts in the Sahel region of Africa—and reducing food intake is one of them. In South and Southeast Asia, 45% to 60% of women of reproductive age are below their normal weight, and 80% of pregnant women have iron deficiencies. During food shortages, women are more likely to suffer from malnutrition because they have specific nutritional needs while pregnant or breast feeding. Women also sometimes consume fewer calories to give priority to men and children.


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