Syndicate content

Sustainable Communities

Building better before the next disaster: How retrofitting homes can save lives and strengthen economies

Sameh Wahba's picture
This page in: Français |  Español

Save Lives, Secure Economies

For a family, having a place to call home is everything. Housing tends to be a family’s most important asset – often, in fact, their only asset, especially for the poor. But more than a home, housing is also the workplace, collateral for loans and an important vehicle for job creation. In the U.S., housing contributes more than 15% of the GDP.

The dream of housing, however, can quickly turn into a nightmare – for both families and for governments. Disasters can erase decades of progress in reform and poverty reduction in a matter of seconds, hurting the poor and vulnerable the most. A review of the World Bank’s Post-Disaster Needs Assessments (PDNAs) since 2000 shows that housing comprises 40%-90% of damages to private property.

Worse still, unsafe housing can be life-threatening when disasters strike. More than 1.3 million people worldwide have died in disasters caused by natural hazards in the last 25 years.

From drought to resilience: Africa’s livelihoods in transition

Raúl Alfaro-Pelico's picture



When it does not rain, people starve.

This is the reality for many farmers in the Sahel—and across the globe—and the situation is only becoming more dire due to climate change. Yet, during a recent visit to Garin Madougou, a village in Dokoro, a district in Niger, we saw that lack of rainfall does not have to lead to food insecurity.

Tackling the drivers of East Africa’s surprising earthquake risk

Ana Campos Garcia's picture
A view of East Africa’s Rift Valley, home to the world’s largest seismic rift system. Photo : J. Waturi/World Bank


With all the other hazards facing Africa, it’s easy to forget that East Africa is home to the 6000-km long Rift Valley System—the largest continental seismic rift system on earth. The sub-region covers 5.5 million km2 and is inhabited by about 120 million people.

The Rift Valley is not subject to the high-magnitude earthquakes that we see along subduction zones, such as those in the Ring of Fire—the area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean known for its many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions—which can produce catastrophic consequences, as we’ve just seen in Indonesia. In the Rift Valley, residents have not experienced a high-magnitude earthquake in their lifetime, leading many people to deduce that the seismic risk is low or non-existent.

Building up Bhutan’s resilience to disasters and climate change

Dechen Tshering's picture
Building Bhutans Resilience
Despite progress, Bhutan still has ways to go to understand and adapt to the impacts of climate change. And with the effects of climate change intensifying, the frequency of significant hydro-meteorological hazards are expected to increase. Photo Credit: Zachary Collier


The 2016 monsoon was much heavier than usual affecting almost all of Bhutan, especially in the south.
 
Landslides damaged most of the country’s major highways and smaller roads. Bridges were washed away, isolating communities.
 
The Phuentsholing -Thimphu highway which carries food and fuel from India to half of Bhutan was hit in several locations, and the Kamji bridge partially collapsed, setting residents of the capital city and nearby districts into panic for fear of food and fuel shortages.
 
Overall the floods drove down Bhutan’s gross domestic product by 0.36 percent.

While not as destructive as the 2016 monsoon, flash floods, and landslides are becoming a yearly occurrence along Bhutan’s roads.

A week at the UN General Assembly: Working better and smarter together to prevent crisis

Franck Bousquet's picture
© UN Photo/ JC McIlwaine

This week, I attended the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). This annual gathering provides an opportunity for the international community to discuss some of the most pressing global challenges, innovative solutions to address them and progress since last year.

I had the chance to participate in several key events on Fragility, Conflict, and Violence (FCV). Since 2010, the number of major violent conflicts has tripled, and the fragility landscape is becoming even more complex. Violent extremism, climate change, pandemics and food insecurity are on the rise. Conflicts drive 80 percent of all humanitarian needs.

In Zambia, This Is What Climate Resilience Looks Like

Iretomiwa Olatunji's picture
Sandbags filled with impermeable stone will protect this school from flooding in Zambia’s Mongu District. Photo: Darius Silupya

In communities throughout the world, children are back to school. But what if, in this era of climate change, the school is under water?

In Zambia’s Western Province, flooding has forced many students to commute to distant schools or stay at home for much of the first half of the school year. This is a common issue in African countries, where the seasonal shift between drought and flood is increasingly rapid and extreme.

Severe weather patterns, including floods, droughts, extreme temperatures and thunderstorms, repeatedly damage poorly constructed buildings, like schools, in the flood-prone communities of the Western Province and other parts of Zambia.

Logistics: Building skills to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow

Yin Yin Lam's picture


As one of the key foundations for manufacturing, trade and growth, logistics is a strategic component of every economy. The sector can also contribute significantly to job creation. For example, in the UK, logistics is a $120billion industry that employs about 8% of the workforce. In India, it is a $160billion industry accounting for 22 million jobs, with employment growing 8% annually.

In 2016 and 2018, the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index found that many developing countries face a significant skills gap in the logistics sector, especially at the managerial level. Similarly, several studies conducted in emerging economies such as China, India, and South Africa report shortages of supply chain talent.

In that context, emerging economies must tackle two critical challenges in order to develop a competitive logistics sector:
  • How can governments plug the skills gap in logistics?

  • How can the sector cope with the rapid changes brought about by technology, such as warehouse automation “freight uberization” or online platforms matching demand and supply, and their impact on the labor market?
Let’s look at three countries that consistently rank high in various global logistics rankings—Germany, the Netherlands, and Singapore—to see how they manage these challenges.

How can Sri Lanka better protect its people against disasters?

Thomas Walker's picture
A recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050
A recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050

Sri Lanka has a long history of coping with weather impacts.  

About two thousand years ago, the country built one of the world’s first irrigation system to control its water supply.

This feat of engineering, which boasted hundreds of kilometers of channels, tanks, and innovative valve pits, helped the great kingdoms of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa flourish into sophisticated societies and protect their people against hunger.

Not unlike these early civilizations, modern social protection programs have sheltered those affected by disaster through financial assistance and other forms of support.

Today, building resilience to natural disasters and other shocks is more critical than ever.

Since 1980, the frequency of natural disasters worldwide has increased by 250 percent, and the number of affected people has more than doubled.

Sri Lanka is no exception. The country ranked fourth most vulnerable to climate change in 2016.

Further to that, a recent World Bank report indicates that nine out of 10 of Sri Lankans may live in climate hotspots—or areas highly prone to floods or droughts—by 2050.

The losses caused by significant shocks like natural disasters have long-lasting consequences.

Children, especially, can suffer permanent damages if they are not educated or fed correctly in their critical early years.  

And the loss of assets, livestock, and crops can severely hurt small business owners and farmers and further discourage them from investing.

Sadly, natural disasters hit the poor the hardest as they tend to live in disaster-prone areas, work in agriculture, and usually don’t have savings or access to credit.

When a shock hits, wellbeing declines as people cut back on food and other essentials due to their loss of income or the high cost of rebuilding their homes.

And while some people gradually restore their standards of living, some never fully recover and get stuck in poverty.

But the poor aren’t the only ones who need to worry about shocks.

Today, a third of Sri Lankans are just a shock away from falling into poverty.

Our analysis of the 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey reveals that a 20 percent sudden decrease in household welfare—or consumption shock—would more than double the poverty rate: almost 1 in 10 Sri Lankans would be poor.

If the shock triggered a 50 percent decrease in consumption, one in three Sri Lankan families would fall into poverty.

What it’s like being a female student in Afghanistan today

Nathalie Lahire's picture
Nathalie Lahire attends a class along with students in Abul-Qasim Ferdowsi Girls High School in Kabul
Nathalie Lahire attends a class along with students in Abul-Qasim Ferdowsi Girls High School in Kabul. Photo Credit: World Bank

Afghanistan offers diverse opportunities and challenges for girls depending on where they live and the attitudes toward girls’ education in their community.
 
Further to that, rural or urban infrastructure, the commitment levels of teachers, and the nature or extent of corruption in the community can affect how a female student will perform in school.
 
In general, the past many years of conflict and political unrest in Afghanistan have damaged the country’s education system; eroding the quality of staffing and curriculum.
 
The education sector has been at the forefront of political conflicts and caught in between competing interest groups.
 
As a result, the unfavorable political economy has blocked policy reforms and their implementation, taking a toll on the quality of education services.
 
This has led to weakened governance.
 
Still, enrollment in school districts in Afghanistan is at surprising levels.

Advocating for change: When will transport have its "plastic straw moment?"

Shokraneh Minovi's picture
Photo: Phil Wong/Flickr
In case you haven’t heard, plastic straws are bad news for the planet. This much was made clear over the summer as a surge of anti-straw sentiment spread across many countries. News channels all over the world highlighted how this small and light piece of hollow plastic has been contaminating the oceans and posing a risk to the environment. Outcry was swift and decisive. Practically overnight, countless individuals vowed never to use them again. Even beverage industry giant Starbucks decided to eliminate plastic straws by 2020!  
 
Interestingly, straws make up a fairly small share of the overall plastic pollution in our oceans, especially compared to other sources of plastic waste such as fishing nets and gear. Still, every small piece of plastic that does not end up contaminating the environment is a win. But what’s truly remarkable here is how the global community rallied behind a simple and impactful change, and then followed through with it.
 
The whole campaign about plastic straws and the quick reaction that ensued got me thinking about what a “plastic straw moment” could look like for the transport sector. What small change can we all take to get the world to rally behind transport?

Pages