For many countries, however, the impact of disasters can be much more devastating. An effective strategy to managing climate and disaster shocks calls for resilience, risk financing instruments and institutional capacity that empowers early response and gives teeth to recovery and reconstruction plans.
His words ring true today, as we face global crises – natural disasters, pandemics, violent conflicts, financial crises, and more – that hit rich and poor countries alike, and have lasting consequences especially for the world’s most vulnerable people. They can take the lives of millions of people and cost the world trillions of dollars in damages and lost potential.
Forced displacement is a multifaceted phenomenon caused by persecution, conflict, repression, natural and human-made disasters, ecological degradation and other situations that directly endanger lives, freedom and livelihoods. Displacement may be triggered by such diverse actions as development projects, land and assets expropriation and human trafficking, among others. Since women and men traditionally have different socio-cultural-economic roles and positions they are also affected in different manners by forced displacement. Gender play an important role in the decision to flee, throughout the displacement process as well as in the decisions and experience related to finding solutions. The different dimensions of displacement have gender differentiated impacts, requiring a better understanding of how different parts of displaced and host communities are affected at each phase of the displacement cycle.
In 2011, Thailand suffered the worst floods in half a century. The flood crisis impacted more than 13 million people. About 97,000 houses were damaged and entire villages and cities were under water for months.
House in Ayutthaya affected by the 2011 floods
Three years later, Thailand has been able to deal with the worst of the impacts but some of the poorest households are still struggling to recover. We visited 10 affected communities in Ayutthaya and Nakhon Sawan as part of the supervision of the Community-based Livelihood Support for Urban Poor Project (SUP). We could still see the water marks on their walls, damaged ceilings, and wobbly structures. The unrepaired houses stuck out but just as striking was the strong sense of community in the area. We were reminded that villagers came together to overcome the worst natural disaster most of them ever witnessed in their lives.
The flooding led to better disaster risk management in the neighborhoods that are most at risk. Local governments have taken the lead. But the disaster has also, just as importantly, mobilized ordinary citizens in some of the most deprived communities. Here are some of their stories:
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.
Like the massive earthquake in Japan earlier this year, the floods in Thailand are again exposing the vulnerabilities of fragmented global supply chains.
Last month, a team of economists from PREM's International Trade Department encountered some flooding side-effects during a visit to the Indonesian production site for ECCO, a Danish company that manufactures footwear. The news from Thailand: the ECCO production site there was under three meters of water, a problem for shoe-making. In order to transfer production to the factory in Indonesia, the workers needed the specific shoe molds used in the Thai factory. These specialized molds would have taken several weeks to manufacture, which would have further delayed production. So ECCO hired scuba divers to enter the Thai factory and recover the molds. They then shipped them via air to other factories around the region, including ECCO Indonesia.
A World Bank report released on July 30 finds that poverty in Pakistan fell by an impressive 17.3 percentage points between 2001 and 2008 (from 34.5 percent in 2001-02 to 17.2 percent in 2007-08). Three out of Pakistan’s four major provinces – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP), Punjab, and Sindh – saw significant declines in poverty during this period. The largest fall in poverty was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). According to the Bank report “high level of remittances, both foreign and domestic, seem to have facilitated” the decline in poverty in KP.
|UN Photo/WFP/Amjad Jamal|
|For 24 hours last Saturday, Typhoon Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain on Luzon, causing massive floods and destroying lives and property in Metro Manila. (Photo courtesy of IRRI Images under a Creative Commons license)|
Muelmar Magallanes, an 18 year-old construction worker, had already saved 30 people from the raging floodwaters last Saturday. Shivering and exhausted, he dived back into the murky waters to save a mother and a baby girl who were bobbing up and down among the floating debris and brought them to safety. Then he was gone, swept away by the torrents. His body was found the following day.
Magallanes is one of the more than 240 casualties caused by Tropical Storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana). For 24 hours last Saturday, Typhoon Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain (double the volume brought to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina) on Luzon, causing massive floods in Metro Manila and the adjoining regions, destroying lives and property, and creating anguish and devastation in the metropolis.
|Photo © iStockphoto.com|
Floods, earthquakes and hurricanes cause significant loss of life and destruction of property in many countries. The incidence of such disasters has increased in recent years. There is a growing consensus, however, that being better prepared against natural disasters can be equally or more effective than immediate aid and relief.
Several studies have shown that migrants send additional remittances after severe shocks. However, there is little evidence of whether and how they help households prepare for natural disasters. In a recent paper for a forthcoming World Bank-UN assessment of the economics of disaster risk reduction, we analyze cross-country macroeconomic data as well as a number of household surveys to examine the "ex-post" response of remittances to natural disasters and their contribution to "ex-ante" preparedness.