While traveling from the Ndjili Airport to the city center of Kinshasa, you will be introduced to a unique urban experience. The ambient chaos, high traffic congestion and crowded streets may remind you of other African cities, but in Kinshasa—Kin as locals fondly refer to her—everything is larger, faster and louder than life.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital is a festival of the senses; a dynamic amalgam of people and places that mix the rich and poor, blending the activities of people with opportunities and people fighting for survival, where fancy multi-story buildings are erected just miles away from massive slums. Although poverty is apparent, the lust for life, the vibrancy of local cultures, and the vivid manifestation of cultural expressions thrive among the Kinois.
Poorly managed waste is contaminating the world’s oceans, clogging drains and causing flooding, transmitting diseases, increasing respiratory problems from burning, harming animals that consume waste unknowingly, and affecting economic development such as through tourism.
Without urgent action, these issues will only get worse. Here’s what everyone should know.
On August 14, 2017, after three days of intense rain, a massive side slope of the Sugar Loaf – the highest mountain in the north of Sierra Leone’s Western Area Peninsula – collapsed and slipped into the Babadorie River Valley.
The mudslide affected about 6,000 people. Up to 1,141 of them were declared dead or missing. The deadly disaster also caused major destruction of infrastructure near the capital city of Freetown.
What caused the slope to collapse? A complex set of factors, such as record-breaking rainfall and nature of the slope, may have contributed to the incident. However, many expert assessments suggest it was mainly "a man-made disaster" due to the rapid urbanization and expansion of Freetown – coupled with poor urban planning.
Risk financing, social protection, seismic risk, and open data – these are just some of the key themes that have drawn hundreds of urban resilience and disaster risk management experts and practitioners to Belgrade, Serbia this week for Understanding Risk (UR) Balkans.
When Dara Dotz, an industrial designer, travelled to Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010, she saw firsthand the supply chain challenges people were facing that had life threatening consequences – most vividly, a nurse having to use her medical gloves to tie off the umbilical cords of newborn babies, because she didn’t have access to an umbilical clamp. Deploying a 3D printer, Dara was able to design a locally manufactured, inexpensive plastic clamp that could be used in the local hospitals for newborns.
From there, Dara co-founded Field Ready, an NGO that is part of the “maker movement,” which pilots new technologies to rapidly manufacture components of essential supplies in the field. Using 3D printing and a range of software, Field Ready works with volunteers to make lifesaving medical components like IV bag hooks, oxygen splitters, and umbilical cord clamps, an approach that has often proven to be both quicker and cheaper than waiting for shipments to arrive.
Over the past few decades, there has been an exponential increase in the amount of information and data that is open and available – whether from satellites and drones collecting data from above, or from crowdsourced information and social media from citizens on the ground. When analyzed holistically, this data can provide valuable insight for understanding the risks and establishing a common operating picture.
New York City faced a challenge in the 1990s: the city needed a new water filtration system to serve its nearly 8 million people. But the prospect of spending $6 to 10 billion on a new water treatment plant, and another $100 million on annual operating costs, was daunting. So, city officials took a closer look at the source of their water—the Catskill Mountains.
Water from the Catskills flows through 120 miles of forests, farmlands and towns to reach New York City. When that landscape is healthy, it acts as a natural purifying system, but certain development and agricultural practices can result in impaired water quality. For city officials, reaching out to local farmers and landowners and compensating them to restore and conserve their lands in the watershed, combined with some land acquisition, proved to be significantly cheaper than building and operating a new treatment plant.
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We all have an intuitive sense that pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to road traffic crashes. After all, there is only so much the human body can take. At 30 km per hour, a pedestrian has a 90% chance to survive an impact. But if a vehicle hits you at 50 km/h while you’re walking down the street, that collision will have the same impact a falling from the fourth floor of a building.
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that road crashes do indeed take a serious toll on pedestrians. In 2013, more than 270,000 pedestrians lost their lives globally, representing almost 1/5 of the total number of deaths.
In the United States, numbers from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveal a 46% increase in the number of pedestrians dying on the road, largely due to the expansion of rapid arterial roads in urban and suburban areas.
In Peru, where we’re based traffic crashes data pertaining to pedestrians are just as startling. According to the Ministry of Health, almost half of pedestrians involved in a collision sustain multiple injuries, and 22% of them suffer from trauma to the head. The chances of a fatal outcome or other serious consequences are very high.
At 5am, when the sun has still not gone up, the streets of Port-au-Prince are already busy. But they are not busy with cars, since income levels in Haiti are still too low – Haiti ranks 200 among 216 countries on 2015 Gross National Income rankings published by the World Bank – and the colorful tap-taps remain unaffordable to most of the population. At this time of the day, streets are filled with people walking to work or school, starting their long journeys early so they can arrive on time. In fact, only 26% of Haitians use any motorized vehicle on a regular basis. The remaining 74% either walk everywhere or do not travel at all.