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Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Program

New project uses satellites for rapid assessment of flood response costs

Antoine Bavandi's picture

High-risk areas for natural disasters are home to 5 billion out of the 7 billion total people on our planet.

Overall global losses from natural disasters such as floods, landslides or earthquakes amount to about $300 billion annually. A rapid and early response is key to immediately address the loss of human life, property, infrastructure and business activity.

Severe flooding occurred during the 2011 monsoon season in Thailand, resulting in more than 800 deaths. About 14 million people were affected, mostly in the northern region and in the Bangkok metropolitan area.

After such natural disasters, it is important that governments rapidly address recovery efforts and manage the financial aspects of the disaster’s impacts. Natural disasters can cause fiscal volatility for national governments because of sudden, unexpected expenditures required during and after an event.

This is especially critical in emerging-market economies, such as those in Southeast Asia, which have chronic exposure to natural disasters. To conserve and sustain development gains and analyze societal and financial risks at a national or regional scale, it is also critical to understand the impacts of these disasters and their implications at the socioeconomic, institutional and environmental level.
 
New project to monitor and evaluate flood severity

Financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, this World Bank Group’s Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Program (DRFIP) and Columbia University’s Earth Institute joint project aims to define an operational framework for the rapid assessment of flood response costs on a national scale.  Bangladesh and Thailand serve as the initial demonstration cases, which will be expanded to other Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The secret life of a World Bank actuary

Barry Maher's picture


As actuaries working in development, my colleagues and I in the Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Program (DRFIP) are constantly looking for innovative ways to apply actuarial science in the fight against poverty. Because the DRFIP is a fairly new initiative — it was established in 2010 to improve the financial resilience of governments, businesses and households against natural disasters — a lot of questions are still to be asked, and lessons to be learned, about helping client countries better calculate financial risk and improve programs that change lives.

That said, exciting advancements are under way, as we learn through exchanging knowledge with experts across the World Bank and partners from other sectors. For example: Once, while on mission in Nairobi, I passed a local Social Protection colleague in the corridor and struck up a conversation that quickly turned to a challenge she was facing. The government of Kenya was aiming to develop a mechanism that would enable its Hunger Safety Net Program, a cash transfer program, to scale up financial assistance to poor families in the case of drought. However, in order to do this, they needed a better understanding of the financial costs of such a mechanism. As droughts are, by their very nature, unpredictable, trying to estimate this cost in advance was a challenge. 
 

How can actuaries best contribute to the development agenda?


My colleagues and I thrive on looking for answers to this type of question every day. While there are other actuaries, both in the Bank and across the sector, the role we are developing from a risk-financing perspective is to help client countries quantify the financial value of unknown risks and develop financial strategies to manage them.

Should governments support the development of agricultural insurance markets?

Daniel Clarke's picture



How governments can ensure that low-income farmers are financially protected against natural disasters, such as droughts, was at the heart of a panel discussion at the “Global Index Insurance Conference,” which concluded earlier this week in Paris.
 

Can index insurance protect poor farmers against climate change risks?

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture
Insuring crops against unforeseen weather events is a standard practice among farmers in rich countries.
 
Traditional insurance is either unavailable or is very expensive in many developing countries, leaving small farmers particularly vulnerable.
 
A severe drought, a devastating earthquake or another weather disaster can wipe out small farmers. Such uncertainties also make them more risk averse and less likely to invest in their farms.
 

Disaster risk and climate threats: Taking action to create better financial solutions

Olivier Mahul's picture

As the people of Vanuatu begin the painstaking task of assessing the damage to their homes, businesses, and their communities in the wake of Cyclone Pam, another assessment is underway behind the scenes.

Given the intensity of the category 5 storm and the reports of severe damage, the World Bank Group is now exploring the possibility of a rapid insurance payout to the Government of Vanuatu under the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative (PCRAFI). 

The Pacific catastrophe risk insurance pilot stands as an example of what’s available to protect countries against disaster risks. The innovative risk-pooling pilot determines payouts based on a rapid estimate of loss sustained through the use of a risk model. 

The World Bank Group acts as an intermediary between Pacific Island countries and a group of reinsurance companies – Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, Sompo Japan Insurance, Tokio Marine and Nichido Fire Insurance and Swiss Re. Under the program, Pacific Island countries – such as Vanuatu, the Cook Island, Marshall Islands, Samoa and Tonga – were able to gain access to aggregate risk insurance coverage of $43 million for the third (2014-2015) season of the pilot. 

Japan, the World Bank Group, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) partnered with the Pacific Island nations to launch the pilot in 2013. Tonga was the first country to benefit from the payout in January 2014, receiving an immediate payment of US $1.27 million towards recovery from Cyclone Ian. The category 5 cyclone hit the island of Ha’apai, one of the most populated of Tonga’s 150 islands, causing $50 million in damages and losses (11 percent of the country’s GDP) and affected nearly 6,000 people.

Globally, direct financial losses from natural disasters are steadily increasing, having reached an average of $165 billion per year over the last 10 years, outstripping the amount of official development assistance almost every year. Increasing exposure from economic growth, and urbanization—as well as a changing climate—are driving costs even further upward. In such situations, governments often find themselves faced with pressure to draw funding away from basic public services, or to divert funds from development programs.


Investing in Innovative Financial Solutions

The World Bank Group and other partners have been working together successfully on innovative efforts to scale up disaster risk finance. One important priority is harnessing the knowledge, expertise and capital of the private sector. Such partnerships in disaster risk assessment and financing can encourage the use of catastrophe models for the public good, stimulating investment in risk reduction and new risk-sharing arrangements in developing countries.

The Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) is another good example of the benefits of pooled insurance schemes, and served as the model for the Pacific pilot. Launched in 2007, this first-ever multi-country risk pool today operates with sixteen participating countries, providing members with aggregate insurance coverage of over $600 million with 8 payments made over the last 8 years totaling of US$32 million. As a parametric sovereign risk transfer facility, it provides member countries with immediate liquidity following disasters.

We also know that better solutions for disaster risk management are powered by the innovation that results when engineers, sector specialists, and financial experts come together to work as a team. The close collaboration of experts in the World Bank Group has led to the rapid growth of the disaster risk finance field, which complements prevention and risk reduction. 
 

How Can We Effectively Insure Pacific Island Nations Against Natural Disasters?

Olivier Mahul's picture

Extreme natural events have affected more than 9.2 million people in the Pacific since 1950 and caused associated damage of about US$3.2 billion. From 2012 to 2014, the region experienced several disasters: two severe floods in Fiji, Tropical Cyclone Evan in Samoa, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Solomon Islands, Tropical Cyclone Lusi in Vanuatu, Tropical Cyclone Ian in Tonga, and a storm surge in the Marshall Islands (see figure 1). Pacific Island Countries (PICs) face critical challenges to attain financial resilience against such disasters. Many PIC Governments have a narrow revenue base, are net importers, and rely on aid as an income stream. This can limit their post-disaster financing options and place constraints on the national budget. Alternatives—such as risk transfers—could be used to reduce the drain on limited public funds.

Innovation and Insurance: Protection Against the Costs of Natural Disaster

Olivier Mahul's picture



Natural disasters – such as tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones and floods – are costly to society, in terms of both human destruction and financial losses. Governments ultimately bear the full cost of the havoc wreaked by natural disasters, which can create an enormous strain on limited government budgets, especially in developing countries. This is even before we begin to contemplate the development impact and how the poorest of the poor are disproportionately affected.

Just last week, the world saw the widespread damage that the St. Jude storm inflicted across Europe, and we witnessed its effect on hundreds of thousands of people. Most advanced economies, however, have sufficient capacity to be able to absorb the financial losses inlicted by natural disasters. Higher-income countries enjoy (relatively) efficient public revenue systems and developed domestic insurance markets.



By contrast, developing countries do not have the same degree of access to financial and insurance markets. They face limited revenue streams, limited fiscal flexibility, and limited access to quick liquidity in the wake of an event. This is particularly so for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as the Pacific island nations.