Located in the warm waters of the Eastern Caribbean, Dominica is no stranger to tropical storms and hurricanes. Yet Hurricane Maria, which battered Dominica last September, was unlike anything the island nation had ever seen. Packing winds of over 160 miles per hour, the Category 5 hurricane claimed the lives of 30 people and caused total damages and losses exceeding US$1.3 billion.
In 2017-18 we visited the Meta department in Colombia on multiple occasions. Located right where Colombia’s Llanos Orientales (Eastern Plains) disappear south into the vastness of the Amazon rainforest, this area of the size of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg combined is a magical spot in the world’s second most biodiverse country.
Meta is not a poor region - it boasts some of the nation’s largest oil reserves. Highly fertile soil and multiple thermal floors have created a boom in agribusiness in recent years, while its geographic proximity to Colombia’s capital has more recently led to a thriving tourism industry.
Despite having made significant progress on many fronts, this region still faces critical challenges. On our last visit, we had the opportunity to chat for hours with several small-scale farmers from south-western Meta – a sub-region where economic development has been seriously damaged by the cultivation of coca leaf, the raw material used to produce cocaine.
View of a hurricane/ Photo: iStock
Co-authors: Michael Fedak, Guillermo Donoso, Curtis Barrett, Keren Charles and Kerri Whittington Cox
“June; too soon. July; standby. August; come it must. September; remember. October; all over”. This Caribbean nursery rhyme warns of the impending hurricane season and lets families know that it is time to start preparing for potential disasters.
But are hydrometeorological (“hydromet”) services adequately prepared?
Activities of the Temporary Income Support Program, or PATI / World Bank
With collaboration of Emma Monsalve.
The 2008-09 financial crisis significantly affected El Salvador. The economy, as measured by gross domestic product, contracted 3.1 percent in 2009. The crisis seriously affected employment: between 2008 and 2009, more than 100,000 Salvadorans, or 3 percent of the labor force, became unemployed or under-employed.
As May 31st comes around yet again, I’m reminded of this date 48 years ago. The peaceful South American country of Peru was going about another normal day… until the clock struck 3:23 pm. Life changed in the blink of an eye, as an 8.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Peruvian regions of Ancash and La Libertad. It was an unimaginable catastrophe.
The town of Yungay, in Ancash, was almost flattened in just 45 seconds — the earthquake smashed homes, schools, and public infrastructure. The shock of the quake destabilized glaciers on the mountain known as Huascaran, located 15 km east of Yungay, causing millions of cubic meters of rock, ice, and snow to come tearing down at high speeds towards Yungay. Within minutes, the city was buried, along with almost 25,000 of its residents, many of whom had run to church to pray after the earthquake.
This “Great Peruvian Earthquake” of 1970 is a landmark in the history of natural disasters. The overall toll was around 74,000 people dead; about 25,600 people declared missing; 43,000 injured; and many more were left homeless, including thousands of children. Only 350 people survived in Yungay — they had climbed to the town’s elevated cemetery, a curious case of the living seeking refuge among the dead. Elsewhere, a circus clown saved 300 children by taking them to a local stadium.
In the 1950s, the Italian-American economist Franco Modigliani introduced his "life cycle" hypothesis.Children and youth on one end, and older adults on the other, consume more than they earn. Sandwiched between both is a working-age group, which does have the capacity for savings (voluntarily or through taxation) to cover, in addition to the needs of their dependent children: their future consumption via pension systems with individual retirement accounts; or consumption by the elderly in the case of pay-as-you go pension systems.
“When the company let us down, we only imposed a fine. We must be firm with companies and with vendors, otherwise they fail to fulfill their end. This is how to move the project forward”. This testimony impressed me a lot when I heard it from an indigenous woman in Bolivia, who was proud to be part of the steering committee and defend the interests of the community in the project.
Bolivia has a terrific success story to tell about encouraging rural women to take the lead in their communities and organizations and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
Disaster risk management is a priority for many countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region.
Landing in Port-au-Prince awakens your senses. Exiting the airplane, you are re-energized by the explosion of colors, the welcoming smiles, and the warm weather – particularly when coming from a cold January in Washington, D.C. Loud honking, a high density of houses and buildings, and streets bustling with pedestrians and small informal businesses are all evidence of the rapid urbanization process in Haiti.
As soon as you land, the challenges of the city are evident; Port-au-Prince expands to the ocean on flat plains exposed to flooding and quickly rises on steep hills with challenging access and risks of landslides and flash floods. The reconstruction efforts after the earthquake in 2010 are still ongoing, and many of the houses seem to be hanging from the sky, perched on steep slopes. If you look at the houses from afar they appear as a single skyscraper, as distance makes the houses seem as if they are built on top of the one another. These false skyscrapers are highly exposed to landslides, flooding and earthquakes.