Massive flooding from storm surges is a major threat to lives and property in low-lying coastal areas during cyclones. Recent examples of devastating cyclone-induced storm surges include Haiyan 2013 (5.2m or 17 feet), Aila 2009 (4m/13ft), Ike 2008 (4.5m-6m/15-20 feet), Nargis 2008 (more than 3m/10ft), Sidr 2007 (4m /13ft), Katrina 2005 (7.6m-8.5m/25-28 feet). The impacts are particularly disastrous when storm surges strike densely populated coastal areas.
A few years ago, West Africa was gripped by the Ebola outbreak. The onset of the virus devastated communities and weakened the economies of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Ebola moved quickly and an immediate response by development partners was badly needed. The governments of the three affected countries requested assistance from UN agencies and the World Bank to lead a coordinated effort to curb the epidemic. The Bank responded by restructuring ongoing health projects to free up resources for the governments to quickly contract UN agencies.
Family whose home floods every year. Colombia
Photo: © Scott Wallace / World Bank
It is an alarming trend: extreme weather events and disasters recorded around the globe are increasing in frequency, and in the magnitude of overall economic losses they cause. The recent devastation left by Taiphoon Haiyan in the Philippines is a tragic reminder that many countries around the world continue to be highly vulnerable to natural hazards. While low- and high-income countries alike experience extreme natural events, it is particularly in lower income countries where such events result in economic and humanitarian disasters.
However, the statistics on casualties and economic losses reported in the media fail to give us the full picture of a much more complex, extensive, and prolonged tragedy — which is mainly experienced bythe poorest.
“How can risk be measured and managed better globally? “
This was the question posed to the panelists of the “Risk and Opportunity” event on Oct 9, 2013. It was ironic that a World Development Report (WDR) on risk, which I supported through online publicity, was launching at the same time that a serious storm was threatening Odisha, my home state in India. As the Annual Meetings of top ministers, policy experts and civil society organizations progressed, so did cyclone Phailin, and the importance of the theme of the WDR 2014 couldn’t have been more pronounced.
The following post is a part of a series that discusses 'managing risk for development,' the theme of the World Bank’s upcoming World Development Report 2014.
There are three fundamental challenges in mainstream risk management for development organisations: a culture of blame, lack of adaptive capacity on the part of development organisations and the lack of a shared concept of risk management.
Quite often the manifestation of risks is associated with failure, which subsequently leads to blame. This in turn hinders proactive risk-taking behavior among development organisations and limits their performance. Often we forget that only by failing can we learn to succeed. At the same time, there are also failures that are unnecessary and avoidable if risks are systematically taken into account. Failing to prevent recurrent crises, for example, is unjustified. Recurring drought and hunger are not typical of the Horn of Africa as a geographical region. They are signs of continuing failure on the part of local governments and the international community to address the risks of drought and hunger, which then results in recurrent crises.