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Poverty

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:

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

Luis Triveno's picture

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.

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. 
 
 


 

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.

World Refugee Day: What you need to know about the displaced and their host communities

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Today is World Refugee Day, a day for us all to remember how many people are moved or displaced from their homes—either within their own country or across borders.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) just announced that there were 22.5 million refugees and 40 million displaced internally due to conflicts last year, as well as many more forced to move due to natural disasters.  
Forced displacement is a crisis centered in developing countries, which host 89% of refugees and 99% of internally displaced persons. Watch a video below and learn how the crisis affects the displaced and their host communities alike around the world.
 

 


Poland's regions: from lagging to catching up

Anna Wellenstein's picture
 
Rzeszow, Poland. Photo by Terra Libera via Flickr Creative Commons
Rzeszow, Poland. (Photo by Terra Libera via Flickr Creative Commons)


On May 31 we had the pleasure of presenting the first phase of the Poland Catching-up Regions Program, an initiative of the European Commission and the World Bank. In just over one year, this initiative has successfully addressed a number of key development challenges faced by two "lagging regions" in Poland – Podkarpackie and Świetokrzyskie.

The initiative's successes range from faster business registration in Rzeszow and Kielce (the capitals of the two regions, respectively) to the setting-up of a vocational education training system in Świteokrzyskie and design of a Technology Transfer Center in Rzeszow. Partnered with outstanding teams from the European Commission and Poland, the World Bank was able to support this progress by bringing together global expertise and hands-on collaboration in both design and implementation of policies. This is important for Poland and for the lessons it provides for other developing countries. 

Urban Indigenous Peoples: the new frontier

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Photo by Victoria Ojea / World Bank
Photo: Victoria Ojea / World Bank

Invited to think of Buenos Aires, most would probably think of elegant cafés, beautiful architecture, passionate football fans, and buzzing streets. Invited to think harder, you might also think of its villas (slums), street children, and other less gleeful views. But no matter how hard you try, very few would associate Buenos Aires with Indigenous Peoples. Yet, Buenos Aires has the largest concentration of indigenous populations in Argentina, which is itself rarely associated with Indigenous Peoples, but has the seventh largest indigenous population in Latin America (close to one million). In effect, over 40 indigenous communities are officially registered in urban areas of the Buenos Aires Province, and as much as one quarter of all Indigenous Peoples in Argentina make a living in or around the Capital of Tango, whether in communities or not.

What do they do? What conditions they are living in? What is happening to their unique cultures and languages? Are they losing connection with their ancestral lands? Is the special legislation protecting their collective rights relevant in the cityscape? In sum, how is the city changing them and, inversely, how are they shaping the urban landscape? These and other questions were at the heart of the dialogue I had with graduate students from across the Latin America region in FLACSO – University of Buenos Aires, last week, on the occasion of the presentation of the report Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century, in Buenos Aires.

Prepare better today for tomorrow’s natural disasters – It’s possible

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Natural disasters cost $520 billion in losses each year and force some 26 million people into poverty each year. A volatile mix of drivers including a changing climate, conflict, and recurring natural disasters like drought – playing out in Africa and the Middle East right now where 20 million people teeter on the brink of famine – may further exacerbate this trend.
 
In fact, by 2030, without significant investment into making cities more resilient, climate change may also push up to 77 million more urban residents into poverty, according to the Investing in Urban Resilience report.

To prevent such losses, the international communities and countries – especially those highly vulnerable to climate change and nations in fragile and conflict situations – must prepare in advance for better disaster and crisis recovery. 

 

There are good examples to follow. In India, when the 2014 cyclone Phailin struck, the country invested $255 million in preparedness and worked with local communities to build shelters. This helped significantly reduce the impact of the disaster – about 1 million people were evacuated, and 99.9% of losses in life were prevented compared to the previous cyclone.
 
Positive changes like this are possible, but amid increasing disaster risks, countries need to up their game on disaster preparedness and resilient recovery, given the high stakes in terms of saving lives, livelihoods, and reducing economic impact. 
 
This week, at the third edition of the World Reconstruction Conference (WRC3) in Brussels, more than 500 experts and practitioners from the public and private sectors, NGOs, and academia are coming together to share best practices and lessons on resilient recovery, with a special focus on fragile and conflict states.
 
Watch a video to learn more about the WRC3 conference from World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Director Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba), and learn how the World Bank is working to help countries prepare for and recover from disasters as a key partner, convener, and investor of choice.
 

 


Co-organized by the European Union, the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, the event will be held in conjunction with the European Development Days 2017.
 

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