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Ideas Box: the library that promotes literacy and builds disaster resilience—a Q&A

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture


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.

Dealing with rising disaster risks requires greater efforts with smarter approaches—ones that can help vulnerable people and communities better prepare for, and recover from, disasters. 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.

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.

Cat DDOs: More than emergency lending for disaster relief

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Disasters can strike anywhere and anytime. As climate change intensifies, extreme weather events, for example, are on the rise around the world, and countries are increasingly seeking to improve both their physical and financial resilience to all kind of disasters. An important dimension of sustainability in urban and rural areas is resilience–resilience for the natural disasters of today and those of tomorrow.   

One way to better prepare for disasters is securing access to financial resources before a disaster strikes through financial instruments such as the Cat DDO. 

Cat DDO stands for “Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option.” It is an innovative contingent line of credit that can provide immediate liquidity to countries in the aftermath of a disaster resulting from an adverse natural event. The World Bank has made it available to countries since 2008, to make it possible for them to have quick access to financial resources upon the declaration of state of emergency in the aftermath of a disaster, following an adverse natural event and in accordance with local legislation. The funds that provide liquidity to the countries are preapproved based on a sound disaster risk management program and an adequate macroeconomic framework. 

[Read: Disasters, funds, and policy: Creatively meeting urgent needs and long-term policy goals]

Why are Cat DDOs an important disaster risk financing instrument for countries?
  • It serves as an early financing tool while funds from other sources such as government reallocations, bilateral aid, or reconstruction loans/credits become available.
  • It allows the countries to address the emergency without distracting resources from their social and development programs.
  • It enhances the countries’ financial capacity to prepare for disasters.
  • It also generates or consolidates a dialogue on disaster risk management between the countries and the World Bank to learn from experience and apply good practices.

What are some of the examples of “Cat DDOs in action”? How will this innovative tool evolve to better manage increasing disaster risks? Watch a video with World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist Armando Guzman to learn more. 


 

Weathering storms in Central America: The impact of hurricanes on poverty and the economy

Oscar A. Ishizawa's picture
Countries are facing increasingly frequent negative impacts from adverse natural events. Central America, a region prone and vulnerable to disasters, is a clear example. Just from 1992 to 2011, Central America was hit by nearly 70 hurricanes with an average of 8 events per year, hindering sustainable economic growth.

Between 2005 and 2014, due to natural disasters, the region had a nominal cumulative loss of around US$5.8 billion, and witnessed more than 3,410 deaths and hundreds of thousands of displaced people. More recently, in October 2011, Tropical Depression 12-E hit the coasts of El Salvador and Guatemala with damages amounting to nearly US$1 billion.

In two recent studies, we evaluated the causal impacts of hurricane windstorms on poverty and income as well as economic activity measured using night lights at the regional and country level. In both cases, we applied a fully probabilistic windstorm model developed in-house, and calibrated and adjusted it for Central America. The first study (on poverty) used yearly information at the household level (for income and poverty measures) as well as the national level (GDP per capita). Due to the limited comparable household data between the countries, we decided to follow up with the second study (on economic activity) using granular data at the highest spatial resolution available (i.e., 1 km2) to understand more deeply the (monthly) impact over time.

Our results are striking:

Let’s build the infrastructure that no hurricane can erase

Luis Triveno's picture
Hati after Hurrican Matthew
Hurricane Matthew destroyed an estimated 90% of homes in Haiti's Grande Anse department. Stronger public knowledge infrastructure can help better facilitate post-disaster recovery.
(Photo: EU Delegation to the Republic of Haiti)
The news from Haiti about the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew is a familiar story: more chaos, rubble, and loss of life from another natural disaster. Though recent improvements to Haiti’s infrastructure at the local level kept the death toll at 534—3,000 died in the 2004 hurricane; more than 200,000 in the 2010 earthquake—the number is still way too high.
 
Worldwide, natural disasters claimed 1.3 million lives between 1992 and 2012, with earthquakes accounting for 60%of disaster deaths in low- and middle-income countries, where the preponderance of sub-standard housing increases the risks. Today, 1.2 billion people live in substandard housing. By 2030, this figure will almost triple.
 
The good news is that most of those deaths and property losses can be prevented. In 2003, for example, within three days of each other, earthquakes of similar magnitude struck Paso Robles, California and Bam, Iran. The death toll in Bam was 40,000—nearly half the city’s population. Two people died in Paso Robles.
 
Even when destruction does take place, proper planning and measures can ensure a speedy recovery.

​Air transportation – the critical infrastructure when disaster strikes

Charles E. Schlumberger's picture
Relief supplies being unloaded from a New Zealand C-130 at the airport in
Tuvalu after Cyclone Pam struck some outer islands. Photo: Nora Weisskopf

When disaster strikes, air transport is often the only feasible mode of transportation for first responders and urgently needed relief supplies. Following an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane, most roads, rail tracks and even ports become unusable, as they are blocked for days by debris. Airports, on the other hand, are remarkably sustainable and, within hours, usually become operational again.  

Kathmandu Airport: Already crowded
before the earthquake. 
​Photo: Charles Schlumberger
The main reason of this sustainability is that runways are on open space where debris of a disaster can be removed quickly. Furthermore, a runway usually suffers remarkable little damage even by a strong earthquake, such as experienced last week in Nepal or in Haiti in 2010. And even if there are cracks and holes in the runway, modern relief aircraft like C-130s can operate safely for some time.
 
However, the challenges of operating relief flights can quickly become overwhelming, especially for airports in developing countries that usually experience only moderate traffic. In Haiti, for example, more than 74 aircraft landed on a single day following the earthquake to unload supplies. Such traffic poses risks in the air; air traffic control, often hampered by inadequate or damaged surveillance installations, can’t cope managing all arriving aircraft. On the ground, where tarmac and taxiways are small, congestion quickly reigns which prevents the arrival of more flights.

Disaster Risk: Using Capital Markets to Protect Against the Cost of Catastrophes

Michael Bennett's picture
Hurricane Sandy / NOAA
Hurricane Sandy / NOAA


In addition to their often devastating human toll, natural disasters can have an extremely adverse economic impact on countries. Disasters can be particularly calamitous for developing countries because of the low level of insurance penetration in those countries. Only about 1% of natural disaster-related losses between 1980 and 2004 in developing countries were insured, compared to approximately 30% in developed countries. This means the financial burden of natural disasters in developing countries falls primarily on governments, which are often forced to reallocate budget resources to finance disaster response and recovery. At the same time, their revenues are typically falling because of decreased economic activity following a disaster. The result is less money for government priorities like education or health, thereby magnifying the negative developmental impact of a disaster.

To address this problem, the World Bank Treasury has been helping our clients protect their public finances in the event of a natural disaster. The most recent innovation is our new Capital-at-Risk Notes program, which allows our clients to access the capital markets through the World Bank to hedge their natural disaster risk. Under the program, the World Bank issues a bond supported by the strength of our own balance sheet, and hedges it through a swap or similar contract with our client. The program allows us to transfer risks from our clients to the capital markets, where interest in catastrophe bonds is growing.

General Aviation and Disaster Relief

Charles E. Schlumberger's picture

When a disaster strikes, such as a hurricane or a major earthquake, relief efforts are often hampered by destroyed or damaged ground infrastructure, mostly roads, bridges, and railway networks. In the days following such a disaster, relief efforts hinge on air transport capacity, which only depends on a clear runway or landing sites for helicopters. First responders, who focus on saving lives, are primarily aviation units of the armed forces or law enforcement.

Local Media Hype

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Imagine there is a hurricane sweeping through a region. Imagine that the weather forecasts say that it will be a sizable storm affecting a large part of the country, and that there will be considerable risk to life and property of citizens. Reasonably, the media, especially local television, plan to report on nothing else for a few days in advance and at least a week to come. What should the media do if the hurricane is weaker than expected? In particular, what should the local media do, whose job it is to keep their audience informed of locally relevant developments?

October 8 is International Day for Disaster Reduction

Zoe Elena Trohanis's picture

Growing up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, every year in elementary, junior high and high school, we would participate in hurricane drills. An alarm would sound, and all the kids would file into the interior hallways, sit cross-legged on the floor, and cover our heads with our hands. Some of us, if there wasn't a hallway handy, would crawl under our desks until we were told it was safe to resurface. Thinking back on those drills, I knew they were important but never quite made the link as to why we had to do these exercises, since strong hurricanes never seemed to make their way that far inland while I was growing up. Of course then in 2004, Hurricane Ivan blew through my hometown and caused massive damage, and knocked out my parents' power and water supply for more than a week. I'm sure the local schools put their hurricane drills to good use during that storm.