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Disasters

Need better maps? Take it to the crowd!

Charles Fox's picture
A detailed map of the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Open Street Map
Amateur mappers the world over have long known that they can support global development, from the comfort of their homes, through one simple tool: OpenStreetMap (OSM). What has been less clear is how we can build this effort into the fabric of World Bank operations.

OSM has revolutionized geography. It is the ‘Wikipedia’ of mapping: anyone can edit the map by tracing features such as roads and buildings against free, high-quality satellite imagery. In contrast to other map services, the platform is entirely open:  anyone can download a layer of the roads and buildings that make up the map. It is built for the people, by the people, in all regions of the world. It epitomizes the best features of open digital collaboration: leading-edge technology made freely available to all, regardless of location. Because everyone can contribute, OSM maps are often much more complete than commercial alternatives—especially in areas that are hard to survey, such as informal settlements].

The World Bank makes frequent use of OSM for research purposes, and occasionally supports one-off initiatives to complete OSM maps in specific areas, e.g. after natural disasters (Nepal and Haiti are recent examples). But we have put less effort into nurturing the community of altruistic mapping volunteers who make OSM so special, and play a critical role in keeping the map updated over time.

A recent series of initiatives, however, is bucking that trend.
 

How stories can help communicate volcanic risk to communities

Alanna Simpson's picture
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Violent volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, Hawaii, and Guatemala have made the world’s headlines in the past few weeks. The eruption of Guatemala’s Fuego volcano has claimed the lives of 110 people and triggered the evacuations of thousands from their homes.

Despite popular belief and public expectation, volcanic eruptions are extraordinarily difficult to predict. Oftentimes, they happen with limited warning, which leaves little if any time for authorities to react, much less communicate the risk to those affected. At other times, a volcano may seem to show all the signs of an imminent eruption, but it doesn’t happen.

When communicating disaster risk and coordinating a response, there’s also more to it than merely predicting whether an eruption will occur. Scientists need to use data and information to determine the potential size, duration and characteristics of the eruption. Will it be explosive, triggering deadly pyroclastic flows and widespread ash, or something else?


The scientific uncertainties surrounding volcanic eruption forecasting are among the many challenges associated with communicating the potential for volcanic eruption to surrounding populations. This is especially true for communities living near volcanoes that have not erupted in recent memory. Science can help, but far too often, it’s not enough to get people and communities to take action.

Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth, makes the case that risk communicators also need to leverage the power of stories and narratives to help communities understand the situation. “When you go look at examples where disaster preparedness has failed, it’s because there’s been no enduring, compelling narrative beneath it,” Stewart pointed out.

In this video interview from the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum, hosted by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the World Bank, Stewart discusses the role of stories and narratives in volcanic risk communication with Alanna Simpson, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist at the World Bank. 

From Japan to Bhutan: Improving the resilience of cultural heritage sites

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture
This page in: 日本語
 Barbara Minguez Garcia 2018
When it comes to their heritage buildings, both Bhutan and Japan have one common enemy: Fire. A view of Wangduephodrang Dzong in Bhutan which was destroyed by fire in 2012. Credit: Barbara Minguez Garcia 2018

About 2,749 miles, three countries, and a sea separate Kyoto, Japan, and Thimphu, Bhutan. The countries’ languages are different, and so are their histories.

But when it comes to their heritage buildings, both nations have one common enemy: Fire.

And to help prevent fire hazards, there’s a lot Bhutan can learn from Japan’s experience.

To that end, a Bhutanese delegation visited Tokyo and Kyoto last year to attend the Resilient Cultural Heritage and Tourism Technical Deep Dive to learn best practices on risk preparedness and mitigation, and apply them to Bhutan’s context.

Such knowledge is critical as Bhutan’s communities live in and around great heritage sites.

Applications open for third round of funding for collaborative data innovation projects

World Bank Data Team's picture
Photo Credit: The Crowd and The Cloud


The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and the World Bank Development Data Group are pleased to announce that applications are now open for a third round of support for innovative collaborations for data production, dissemination, and use. This follows two previous rounds of funding awarded in 2017 and earlier in 2018.

This initiative is supported by the World Bank’s Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) with financing from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Korea and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland.

Scaling local data and synergies with official statistics

The themes for this year’s call for proposals are scaling local data for impact, which aims to target innovations that have an established proof of concept which benefits local decision-making, and fostering synergies between the communities of non-official data and official statistics, which looks for collaborations that take advantage of the relative strengths and responsibilities of official (i.e. governmental) and non-official (e.g.,private sector, civil society, social enterprises and academia) actors in the data ecosystem.

After disasters hit, how countries and communities can build back better

Sameh Wahba's picture
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Disaster losses disproportionately affect poor people, according to the 2017 “Unbreakable” report. The Caribbean Hurricane season of 2017 was a tragic illustration of this.

Not one, but two Category 5 hurricanes wreaked destruction on numerous small islands, causing severe damages on islands like Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Martin. The human cost of these disasters was immense, and the impact of this devastation was felt most strongly by poorer communities in the path of the storms.
 
And yet, amidst the destruction, it is essential to look forward and to build back better.
 
A new report, “Building Back Better: Achieving Resilience through Strong, Faster, and More Inclusive Post-Disaster Reconstruction,” explores how countries can strengthen their resilience to natural shocks through a better reconstruction process. It shows that reconstruction needs to be: 

Resilience is more than income – lessons from Accra’s 2015 floods

Stéphane Hallegatte's picture

In June 2015, after two days of heavy rain, flood water washed away Sarah’s small store in Accra, which provided for her family of three (1). The flood that hit the city in June 2015 affected around 53,000 people in the city and caused an estimated US$100 million in damages. Slum areas in the Odaw basin were among the worst hit.

Thank goodness, we had an extra bridge in stock!

Malaika Becoulet's picture
Credit: Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory
On October 4, 2016, category 4 Hurricane Matthew struck the southern part of Haiti. Strong winds and rain triggered heavy flooding and landslides that resulted in 500 fatalities, along with widespread infrastructure damage and economic loss. The hurricane caused the collapse of the Ladigue Bridge, a vital asset connecting the southern peninsula of Haiti to the capital city and the rest of the country. The collapse left 1.4 million people completely isolated, making it extremely hard to deliver the aid and humanitarian assistance they needed. Overall damage and losses were equivalent to 32% of GDP, with transport accounting for almost a fifth of the total.
 
Haiti is among the countries that are most vulnerable to natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes—the result of a combination of factors that include high exposure to natural hazards, vulnerable infrastructure, environmental degradation, institutional fragility, and a lack of adequate investment in resilience. In Haiti, 80% of people and goods are transported by road. First aid and humanitarian resources, often concentrated in Port-au-Prince, need to transit through congested and sometimes inaccessible roads to reach affected areas. In that context, strengthening and building resilient infrastructure is key.
 
Since 2008, the World Bank has supported the reconstruction of 15 major bridges and stabilized 300 kilometers of roads to enhance the resilience of Haiti’s transport network. One of the most significant innovations that came out of this effort was the adoption of standardized emergency bridges that can be assembled within 2- 3 months from pre-designed and interchangeable components.

Celebrating World Environment Day and building resilience in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Robert Reid's picture
Samking Koihinah Braima, deputy minister of Agriculture and Forestry, plants a tree on behalf of President Julius Maada Bio. Photo: Asad Naveed/World Bank

To celebrate World Environment Day, hundreds of Freetonians came together to plant a tree in honor of the more than 1,000 people killed and missing after devastating landslides and floods tore through Freetown less than a year ago. The landslide and flood waters ripped through the capital city with tremendous energy, destroying everything in its path. It was reported that a huge wave of boulders, building debris and mud cascaded down the river channel immediately after the landslide. The disaster affected more than 6,000 people and caused significant destruction and damage to critical infrastructure.

Making the built environment more resilient: lessons learned from Japan

Keiko Sakoda's picture
Photo: Balint Földesi / Flickr CC


Globally, up to 1.4 million people are moving into urban areas per week, and estimates show that nearly 1 billion new dwelling units will be built by 2050 to support this growing population. The way we build our cities today directly impacts the safety of future generations.

So how do we ensure that we are building healthy, safe, and resilient cities?

Towards a culture of prevention: Disaster risk reduction begins at home!

Jorge Luis Alva-Luperdi's picture

As May 31st comes around yet again, I’m reminded of this date 48 years ago. The peaceful South American country of Peru was going about another normal day… until the clock struck 3:23 pm. Life changed in the blink of an eye, as an 8.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Peruvian regions of Ancash and La Libertad. It was an unimaginable catastrophe. 

The town of Yungay, in Ancash, was almost flattened in just 45 seconds — the earthquake smashed homes, schools, and public infrastructure. The shock of the quake destabilized glaciers on the mountain known as Huascaran, located 15 km east of Yungay, causing millions of cubic meters of rock, ice, and snow to come tearing down at high speeds towards Yungay. Within minutes, the city was buried, along with almost 25,000 of its residents, many of whom had run to church to pray after the earthquake.

This “Great Peruvian Earthquake” of 1970 is a landmark in the history of natural disasters. The overall toll was around 74,000 people dead; about 25,600 people declared missing; 43,000 injured; and many more were left homeless, including thousands of children. Only 350 people survived in Yungay — they had climbed to the town’s elevated cemetery, a curious case of the living seeking refuge among the dead. Elsewhere, a circus clown saved 300 children by taking them to a local stadium.


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