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Weathering storms in Central America: The impact of hurricanes on poverty and the economy

Oscar A. Ishizawa's picture
Countries are facing increasingly frequent negative impacts from adverse natural events. Central America, a region prone and vulnerable to disasters, is a clear example. Just from 1992 to 2011, Central America was hit by nearly 70 hurricanes with an average of 8 events per year, hindering sustainable economic growth.

Between 2005 and 2014, due to natural disasters, the region had a nominal cumulative loss of around US$5.8 billion, and witnessed more than 3,410 deaths and hundreds of thousands of displaced people. More recently, in October 2011, Tropical Depression 12-E hit the coasts of El Salvador and Guatemala with damages amounting to nearly US$1 billion.

In two recent studies, we evaluated the causal impacts of hurricane windstorms on poverty and income as well as economic activity measured using night lights at the regional and country level. In both cases, we applied a fully probabilistic windstorm model developed in-house, and calibrated and adjusted it for Central America. The first study (on poverty) used yearly information at the household level (for income and poverty measures) as well as the national level (GDP per capita). Due to the limited comparable household data between the countries, we decided to follow up with the second study (on economic activity) using granular data at the highest spatial resolution available (i.e., 1 km2) to understand more deeply the (monthly) impact over time.

Our results are striking:

Why mangroves matter for the resilience of coastal communities

Saurabh Dani's picture

In 2006, I was working in Aceh, Indonesia (with the Red Cross), a region devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Amongst other post-disaster recovery activities, we were working with 20 coastal communities, helping them with community-managed small grants and encouraging them to invest in disaster resilience within their communities.
 
To my delight, all 20 communities, independently, chose to invest in the restoration of their mangroves that had been completely or partially destroyed by the tsunami. To them, losing their mangroves was like losing their ancestors: Mangroves defended them, provided them with food and a livelihood, and made their coastline beautiful. The mangroves were their pride, and reclaiming the mangroves was of the highest priority for them as a community.

Why should we care about mangroves? Here are a few important reasons:

To build resilient cities, we must treat substandard housing as a life-or-death emergency

Luis Triveno's picture
Also available in: Español | 中文

Resilient housing policies. © World Bank
Why resilient cities need resilient housing.  Download the full version of the slideshow here

The scene is as familiar as it is tragic: A devastating hurricane or earthquake strikes a populated area in a poor country, inflicting a high number of casualties, overwhelming the resources and capacity of rescue teams and hospital emergency rooms. First responders must resort to “triage” – the medical strategy of maximizing the efficient use of existing resources to save lives, while minimizing the number of deaths. 

But if governments could apply triage to substandard housing, medical triage would be a much less frequent occurrence – because in the developing world, it is mainly housing that kills people, not disasters.
 
From the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to the 2017 Urban Resilience Summit, practitioners and policymakers have increasingly focused their discussions on how we can boost the resilience of urban areas.

But this is a problem with a well-known solution: Resilient cities require resilient housing.

To make housing more resilient, cities need to focus on two different but complementary angles: upgrading the existing housing stock, where most the poor live, while making sure that new construction is built safe, particularly for natural disasters. After all, if floods or earthquakes do not distinguish between old and new homes, why should policymakers? It is time for resilience to become part of the definition of “decent, affordable, and safe housing.”

 

To achieve #Housing4All, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater

Luis Triveno's picture
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Mexico City. Photo by VV Ninci via Flickr CC

In a world divided over how to deal with such serious problems as terrorism, immigration, free trade, and climate change, governments agree on the urgency of solving what is arguably the biggest problem of all: supplying safe, well-located, and affordable housing for the billions of people who need it.

There is even agreement on the basic steps to that goal:  improving land management and adopting more tenure-neutral policies.

There is also consensus on the fact that government alone cannot afford to pay the bill.  According to McKinsey & Co., the annual price tag for filling the “global housing gap” ($1.6 trillion) is twice the cost of the global investments needed in public infrastructure to keep pace with GDP growth.
 
As we approach the 70th anniversary in 2018 of the declaration of housing as a “universal human right,” it’s time for governments to turn to an obvious solution for closing the housing gap that they continue to ignore only at their peril: long-term market finance. Without a substantial increase in private capital, the housing gap will continue to increase, and so will the odds of social discontent.

How can conflict-affected cities become better hosts to refugees? The case of Afghanistan

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Like many other developing countries, Afghanistan is urbanizing rapidly. Today, a quarter of the country’s over 30 million people live in urban areas, with many more moving to cities to find jobs and lead better lives.

Unlike many other places, though, cities in Afghanistan face an added, complex layer of challenge—conflict.

In Afghanistan, conflict is a major driver of migration into cities. Instability in large areas of the country is forcing refugees and internally displaced people into cities—particularly the capital city of Kabul. The thing is: Kabul doesn’t yet have adequate infrastructure and capacity to effectively host these “newcomers.”

What can be done?

To help Afghan cities better address the “3-way challenge” of urbanization, conflict, and forced displacement, the World Bank is working on a series of projects that aim to:
  • Provide basic services to selected—mostly informal—neighborhoods in Kabul, such as roads, sanitation, water, and lighting;
  • Support Kabul to improve its municipal finance management systems;
  • Support the institutional and policy framework for urban development in Afghanistan;
  • Strengthen city planning, management and service delivery in five provincial capital cities.

In this video, you will learn more from World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Practice Manager Catalina Marulanda on how cities and communities in Afghanistan are building up their capacity and resilience to better host refugees and other displaced populations.

Tunisia: Improving local governments’ performance through annual performance reviews

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The story of Krib, the top-performing local government in Tunisia
 
Tunisia’s transformation in the wake of the Arab Spring has been remarkable, and can be seen through a shift in the role and performance of its cities.
 
[Download report: Tunisia Urbanization Review - Reclaiming the Glory of Carthage]
 
Prior to the Jasmine Revolution of 2011, the government of Tunisia was extremely centralized, and citizens had limited ways to hold it to account.  The revolution created a force to change the concentration of power and the ability of Tunisians to hold the government to account. Specifically, the government created a decentralization program supported by the World Bank’s Urban Development and Local Governance Program for Results (UDLGP), along with support programs from other partners including the European Union, Swiss Cooperation.

One dramatic shift the program has introduced is the development and execution of an annual local government performance assessment. Every year, Tunisian cities’ local governments each get assessed by a semi-autonomous agency on a range of areas, which are critical for their ability to effectively govern as well as to deliver services and infrastructure. In the inaugural assessment (2016), the local government of Krib, a town in one of the most lagging interior governorates called Siliana, outperformed all others and achieved the highest assessment score.

To learn more about the program, watch a video with World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG). Check out Tunisia’s first-ever local government website to track the performance of Tunisia’s local governments over time (the results of the 2017 assessment which will be posted soon).
 
 

Drought-stricken Somalia is at risk of famine (again). How can we help?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Somalia is on the brink of famine resulting primarily from severe drought. Half of the country’s population – an estimated 6.7 million people – are acutely food insecure and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. This comes only six years after a famine led to the death of more than a quarter of a million people – half of them were children.
 
The negative impacts of the drought don’t stop at the risk of famine: More than 680,000 people have been displaced from rural areas in the past six months. Approximately 1.4 million children will need treatment for acute malnutrition. The scarcity of safe drinking water has led to an outbreak of acute watery diarrhea (AWD) and cholera in 13 out of 18 regions, resulting in 618 fatalities since January 2017, according to UNOCHA.

[Read report: Forcibly Displaced: Toward a Development Approach Supporting Refugees, the Internally Displaced, and Their Hosts]

So what is being done to help the people in Somalia cope with this crisis? Today, World Bank projects in the poorest countries contain a mechanism to redirect funds for immediate response and recovery. IDA’s “Crisis Response Window” provides additional resources to help countries respond to severe economic stress, major natural disasters, public health emergencies, and epidemics.

In May 2017, the Bank approved a US$50 million emergency project – Somalia Emergency Drought Response and Recovery Project (SEDRP) –  to scale up the drought response and recovery effort in Somalia. Supported by funding and technical assistance from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the project aims to address, in the immediate term, the drought and food crisis, and also to finance activities that would promote resilient and sustainable drought recovery.

In the video, World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and SEDRP’s project leader Ayaz Parvez discuss in detail how the World Bank and its partners are working to help communities in Somalia build up their resilience in the face of the food and drought crisis. 
 
 


 

Chongqing, China: Revitalizing urban growth, sustainably

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
China is shifting its focus away from urban expansion toward regional revitalization and urban regeneration. Chongqing, a megacity in southwestern China, is exploring ways to regenerate urban growth and build resilient, livable, and sustainable communities.  

What are Chongqing's plans? How will they affect the lives of the city's residents? Watch a video as World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Deputy Director Zhou Tao from the Chongqing Municipal Development and Reform Commission discuss urban regeneration
 
 

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Disasters, funds, and policy: Creatively meeting urgent needs and long-term policy goals

Zuzana Stanton-Geddes's picture

Photo: tro-kilinochchi / Flickr

When it comes to responding to disasters, time is of the essence. Help needs to come immediately to save lives; recovery and reconstruction have to start swiftly to lessen the impact.

However, while money is critical to this response, it’s not just about funding. Indeed, funds need to match the event scale, target the right areas and sectors, and smoothly flow to communities in need. But in order for that to happen, sound public policy on risk and frameworks have to be in place.  

To address both urgent financial needs while pursing strategic disaster risk management policy goals, countries have been using the World Bank’s development policy loan with a catastrophe deferred drawdown option or, more widely known as the Cat DDO.  

Three countries show why culture matters for post-conflict and post-disaster reconstruction and recovery

Sameh Wahba's picture
In Mali, residents of Timbuktu take part in the maintenance of the Djingareyber Mosque, a World Heritage Site, applying traditional repair techniques. (Tiecoura Ndaou / UN Photo)
In Mali, residents of Timbuktu take part in the maintenance of the Djingareyber Mosque, a World Heritage Site, applying traditional repair techniques. (Tiecoura Ndaou / UN Photo)

Imagine a city destroyed by a natural disaster, killing people and wiping away infrastructure. For instance, an earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2010, killing over 200,000 people and displacing around 895,000.

Even worse, imagine a city demolished by a manmade disaster: conflict. Recent examples include Aleppo, Syria and Kabul, Afghanistan. Here conflict goes far beyond violence to include erasing a place’s culture, heritage, landmarks, and its traditions.

Now, imagine the enormous undertaking required to rebuild these places and the many stakeholders that need to be brought together. It would take an integrated, holistic approach to restore torn heritage, infrastructure, and service delivery systems after they have been wiped out by a natural or manmade disaster. Culture needs to underpin such a rebuilding approach.

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