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disaster recovery

What El Niño teaches us about climate resilience

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
It was recorded by the Spanish conquistadors, and triggered famines that have been linked to China’s 1901 Boxer Rebellion and even the French revolution.

Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.

The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.

And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.

But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.

Exploring the nexus between trade policy and disaster response

Selina Jackson's picture
 Nugroho Nurdikiawan Sunjoyo/World Bank

Strong trade connectivity can help disaster response and recovery by ensuring that humanitarian relief goods and services get to where they are needed when disaster strikes.  Trade policy measures, however, can sometimes have adverse effects.  Research led by the World Bank highlights that a common complaint of the humanitarian community is that customs procedures can delay disaster response, leaving life-saving goods stuck at borders.  Other measures such as standards conformity procedures, certification processes for medicines, and work permits for humanitarian professionals can slow the delivery of needed relief items.  Border closures can exacerbate situations already marked by human tragedy and unlock   full-scale economic crises. 
This nexus between trade policy and humanitarian response was discussed at an event organized jointly by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the World Bank Group and World Trade Organization at the 5th Global Review of Aid for Trade on June 30 in Geneva.  Among the steps suggested to address concerns were rigorous disaster planning; better coordination between humanitarian actors, implementation of the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement and better recognition of the role of services.  

Harnessing ICT tools for community disaster preparedness and recovery

Keiko Saito's picture
Viewing Yuriage before the tsunami using augmented reality glasses. Code for Resilience

On a visit this week to the Japanese coastal area of Yuriage, Teerayut Horanont peered through glasses at the quiet landscape that gives way to the Pacific Ocean. He didn’t just see the landscape – he saw the town that once thrived there.
An augmented reality tool installed in the glasses provided a visual overlay of what the area looked like before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami that devastated Yuriage and many other coastal communities in Japan.

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 would your country recover from disaster?

Raja Rehan Arshad's picture

Three days after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake jolted Northern Pakistan, I boarded a helicopter to assist the local government in surveying the incredible destruction of homes and lives. Entire villages had been wiped out, and the area’s mountainous terrain made rescue operations all but impossible in many places. I wondered to myself how my country – or any country – could truly recover from a disaster as earth-shattering as this.  

That concern turned to anxiety as I looked up to see black storm clouds form ahead.  Helicopters that had been in front of us were now turning around. Surely we would turn back, too, but the pilot insisted his skills and experience would carry us through the storm. They did, and that 2005 reconstruction effort in Pakistan became a defining moment in my understanding of recovery.

Over the course of the next decade of disaster and response, I and many others working in this space, came to understand that damage and needs assessments alone are not enough to address recovery and reconstruction. Without an overall recovery strategy and the right institutions to carry it forward, a country’s post-disaster efforts are all too often ad hoc and improvised.
We realized that recovery was something to plan for before disasters strike.

Steps to reducing disaster risk in your country 50% by 2030

Niels Holm-Nielsen's picture

“What would it take to reduce disaster risk in your country by 50 percent by 2030?” This question was posed to a gathering of small island developing states leaders and representatives during the Understanding Risk forum in London in 2014.

At the time, it probably seemed like an overwhelming question. Around US$650 million in international financing is currently available annually to build resilience in small states. However, for many countries, reducing their disaster risk by 50 percent is an attainable goal.

Ideathon: Code for Resilience mixes tech and disaster risk experts to spark innovation

Keiko Saito's picture

The first people to arrive at the scene of any natural disaster are almost always members of the affected community. Yet in most cases, disaster response and recovery mechanisms are built from the top down, with tools and processes built by and for government and other institutional actors.

Code for Resilience — a global initiative managed by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) — focuses on strengthening community resilience to natural disasters and is helping bridge this divide by connecting disaster risk management experts with local technology communities.

To share their experiences, a number of Code for Resilience participants from across Asia will gather at the Asia Resilience Forum 2015, organized as part of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction and Recovery’s Public Forum March 14-15, 2015, in Sendai, Japan. They will discuss how they are engaging with disaster risk management authorities and developing community-led technology solutions to address local challenges in countries including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, and Vietnam.

Advances in technology — including rising communications access, falling hardware costs, and a growing movement toward open data, open source, and open innovation — have created a new opportunity to engage local communities in creating a feedback loop that informs data about disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

Recent Floods in Malawi Hit the Poorest Areas: What This Implies

Stéphane Hallegatte's picture
Malawi flood map 2015

By Stéphane Hallegatte, Mook Bangalore, and Francis Samson Nkoka

Malawi is no stranger to significant flooding. In January 2012, floods affected more than 10,000 people and caused US$3 million worth of damage to households and infrastructure. But this year’s floods are much larger in magnitude, even unprecedented.

Beginning in early January, heavy rains triggered significant flooding in the southern and eastern districts of the country. The districts which experienced the largest impacts include Nsanje and Chikwawa in the south and Phalombe and Zomba in the east. So far, the flooding has affected more than 600,000 people, displaced over 170,000, and damaged agricultural crops covering more than 60,000 hectares.

While aggregate numbers and economic cost indicate the seriousness of the event, it is critical to look at exactly who is affected in the country. We have found that the poorest are on the front line.

We can't delay investing in resilience – the risk is too high

Rachel Kyte's picture
As the UN climate conference was starting in Lima, Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) was about to make landfall in the Philippines. Over 1 million people headed for shelters, with memories of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) one year earlier clear in their minds. This short movie tells the story of the 2013 storm and the importance of resilience.

The Paris negotiations where the world will be writing a new international climate agreement are just a year away, and here in Lima, delegates from around the world are discussing their national commitments and contributions that will largely determine the level of ambition in that 2015 deal.

As we trace the path to a resilient and decarbonized economy, we must keep in mind that the Paris agreement will set a framework for the period post-2020. What happens until then?

The science tells us that, even with very ambitious mitigation action, we have already locked-in warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Climate change impacts such as heat-waves, droughts, storms, and other weather extremes may be unavoidable.

When, what, and how to survey after a disaster strikes – an experience from Tonga

Liana Razafindrazay's picture
Winny, an elementary teacher enumerating for the household survey (Uiha Island, Tonga, April 10, 2014). With the support from the Ministry of Education, 35 teachers from Ha'apai participated during the survey.

Back in March 2014, I had the opportunity to be part of a World Bank team supporting the Tongan government to develop a reconstruction policy after Tropical Cyclone Ian hit earlier this year. To implement the policy, the Ministry of Infrastructure led a series of surveys to inform housing reconstruction. This post, which does not intend to be scientific or exhaustive, is to share some of the key lessons I learned from this experience.

Damage assessments are routine in the aftermath of disasters, but they differ depending on their objectives (Hallegatte, 2012 - pdf). A rapid survey in the wake of a disaster event could help to estimate grossly the direct human and economic losses and damages. This type of survey is best to capture the amplitude and the severity of the disaster. However, such survey could present some flaws, often because the survey will be conducted in a very short time frame with minimal design. On the other hand, a survey conducted a few months after the event is best to understand better the context of the disaster. It also allows a better design and better preparation. But, equally, such survey could include biases. For instance, the time lag between the event and the survey itself could create some level of challenges. Most likely, people would have started to fix their houses or have moved away from the affected area, and that will add a layer of complexity to the survey.