From East Asia, South Asia, and Africa to Latin America, disaster events such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes are on the rise, destroying homes and claiming lives.
Climate change is making it worse. , causing greater losses.
While historically confined to medical and academic research, challenge funds – competitive financing for innovative solutions to entrenched problems – have gained traction in the international development field over the last decade.
Pioneered by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), challenge funds have championed transformational disruptive technologies, such as M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile money transfer service. The electronic payment system, which allows users to withdraw, deposit and transfer cash through their mobile phones, started as a pilot project funded by DFID’s Financial Deepening Challenge Fund. Today, more than two thirds of Kenyans use the channel, and the innovation has changed the scope of financial inclusion programs globally.
Cities in East Asia and the Pacific can be vibrant, exciting, and filled with opportunities. Yet we are always struck by their dichotomies: there are the bright lights, modern skyscrapers, air-conditioned malls, and the hustle and bustle of people coming and going to offices and shops.
And there are also neighborhoods with no safe drinking water, sanitation, or waste collection; where houses flood every time it rains; and where families spend long hours trying to earn enough to feed themselves and keep their children in school.
With an estimated 250 million people living in slums across the East Asia and Pacific region, and much more urbanization to come, prioritizing the delivery of basic services and ensuring opportunities for the urban poor presents an urgent call for action.
Over the last two weeks, we’ve witnessed three hurricanes in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico as well as a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in Mexico, killing people and destroying homes. They serve as a reminder that natural hazards pose a greater threat to our lives and livelihoods than we may think.
Libraries Without Borders (BSF), an international organization that expands access to information, education, and cultural resources to vulnerable people around the world, knows that very well.—ones that can help vulnerable people and communities better prepare for, and recover from, disasters.
In 2010, BSF was building libraries in Haiti when the well-known earthquake struck. At the time, local partners asked BSF to help them create information and cultural access points in refugee camps. This experience led to the development of the “Ideas Box," an innovative tool that provides vulnerable communities in disaster-prone areas with access to information, education, and cultural resources.
Last week, on the International Literacy Day, I talked to BSF’s Director of Communications and Advocacy, Katherine Trujillo, about the Ideas Box, as well as how their innovative ideas and actions have helped promote literacy and build resilience in disaster-hit communities.
While some strides have been made in addressing the needs of persons with different disabilities in response and recovery efforts, fewer efforts are aimed at incorporating lessons into long-term disaster and climate risk management at a systemic and/or policy level.
– a topic that was discussed during a Facebook Live chat on September 19.
: refugees, rapid and unsustainable urbanization and climate change, failure to meet basic infrastructure needs, youth unemployment and disengagement, and stubbornly poor health and education outcomes, to name a few. Set against a backdrop of political and public pressure to do more with less – and see results faster than ever – even the most optimistic among us are likely to view the glass half empty.
“This can’t be Karamoja,” I thought, looking around me. I had read the reports, which focus on the vulnerability and poverty of this region in northern Uganda, home to the Karamojong, a nomadic people with their own language, traditions, and customs. But it’s one thing to read about a place, and quite another to visit it. Karamoja was stunningly beautiful: there were boulders the size of mountains scattered across the horizon, vibrant green bushes and pasture atop red clay earth, and uninterrupted blue skies.
Recently, I had traveled to Karamoja on a field trip to review the implementation of a government safety net, the Third Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF III), which had scaled up in response to the recent drought.
Uganda’s population is predominantly rural and is limited in its ability to cope with production shocks. The country’s smallholder farmers, and especially the poorest 40% of households, are extremely vulnerable to drought [Uganda poverty study, WB 2016]. Drought response in Uganda has primarily been financed by international donors and delivered through humanitarians and NGOs, with the government playing a coordination role. This ad hoc, reactive approach presents drawbacks, including delayed response.
There is no doubt that extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity. While we cannot stop them from striking, we can tell people about them, managing the risk that they present – by advancing our work in hydromet.
Hydromet is the union of hydrology and meteorology, combining water, weather, and climate studies as a formidable force in a government’s ability to accurately understand, forecast, and communicate storms and hazards. This means that something as simple as an accurate weather forecast, or the monitoring of river levels could make the difference between a farmer losing his/her entire crop or a fisherman knowing when best to head out to sea.
Because of the lack of high-quality hydromet services, countries suffer GDP losses every year from flooding, cyclones, and other storms.
However, instead of looking at potential future damages, we must look at