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Preparing for disasters saves lives and money

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية
Tropical Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 storm, ripped through the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13 and 14. © UNICEF
Tropical Cyclone Pam hit the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13-14. © UNICEF


SENDAI, Japan Without better preparation for disasters – whether they be earthquakes and tidal waves, extreme weather events, or future pandemics – we put lives and economies at risk. We also have no chance to be the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty.
 
Just a few days ago, the world was again reminded of our vulnerability to disasters, after Tropical Cyclone Pam, one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall, devastated the islands of Vanuatu. Some reports found that as much as 90 percent of the housing in Port Vila was badly damaged.  When the cyclone hit, I was in Sendai for the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which took place only a few days after the fourth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. That quake and subsequent tsunami tragically resulted in more than 15,000 deaths and caused an estimated $300 billion in damage.

Translating words into action: We must build resilience into development

Rachel Kyte's picture
Translating Words into Action


World Bank Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte speaks from the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction underway in Sendai, Japan, about the need for greater investment in resilience. As the conference was taking place, a Category 5 cyclone swept across Vanuatu, leaving destruction in its wake.

Snowmelt, climate change and urban pollution—new perspectives

Tracy Hart's picture
Image by U.S. National Climate Assessment via Washington PostIt's been a snowy winter—not only here in Washington D.C., but also in places I travel, namely Jerusalem and Amman. The past week, the snowmelt runoff into Rock Creek in D.C. has been a sight to watch. It's also been a teachable moment for my daughter: we've talked about how snowmelt contributes to surface water flows.

Actually I talk, and she goes "okay, okay" looking out the window.

She and I have learned a few new facts to share: one is the linkage of irregular precipitation associated with global climate change.

Chris Mooney, the environment and climate change writer for the Washington Post, recently wrote a great article explaining why more snow is another result of climate change. D.C. is on the south border of the NE of the United States, where, as you can see from the map, (provided by the US National Climate Assessment), extreme rain/snow events have increased dramatically. Similarly, in Jerusalem three weeks ago, the snow came with sleet, blueberry-size hailstones (see below) and lightning.

The disaster reality that must change

Rachel Kyte's picture
Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu on March 15, 2015. Satellite image via NASA
Cyclone Pam, March 13, 2015. Satellite image via NASA


It’s one of the harsh realities of today. 

Just as representatives from around the globe began to gather in Sendai, Japan, for an international disaster risk conference, authorities in Vanuatu were issuing evacuation alerts with Cyclone Pam intent on a destructive path towards the Pacific island nation.

On the eve of the official opening of the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, three cyclones – including the ferocious Cyclone Pam – were casting a menacing shadow over the Asia Pacific region.

It underscores a simple point. The threats posed by natural disasters are on the rise.

How would your country recover from disaster?

Raja Rehan Arshad's picture
 AusAID


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.

Challenging innovators to find new ways to make disaster risk information accessible to all

Alanna Simpson's picture
Mapping damage after Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines. GFDRR


Sometimes the impacts of disasters seem difficult to predict, such as when the heavy snow that set off deadly avalanches in Afghanistan this winter also damaged transmission lines, disrupting the flow of electricity imported from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and resulting in power outages in Kabul. Other times the consequences seem almost inevitable, for example the likelihood of a devastating earthquake in the Ganges Basin of India, Nepal and Bangladesh within our lifetime.

There are, however, tools and models that allow us to determine the potential impacts of a disaster before they happen, and provide decision-makers with information they can use to reduce the potential impact.

WorldPop's high-resolution mapping: the first ingredient for success in development projects

Tatiana Peralta Quiros's picture
Follow the author on Twitter: @tatipq
 

 
Modeled 2012 population in Guatemala at a spatial resolution of 100 m2
People are at the center of all development work: whether we act to prevent and address disasters, protect vulnerable communities, finance projects in infrastructure, education or health, our ultimate goal is always to serve people. Being able to identify, understand and locate beneficiaries as accurately as possible is an essential first step in that process, and the only way to make sure we provide services to those who need it most with maximum impact.

Inside the World Bank, the number of people passionate about using spatial data for development speaks to the relevance of spatial datasets in supporting critical decision making. In an effort to use spatial data more strategically, we recently conducted an informal poll among several Bank units and some partner institutions to find out what types of spatial data are most relevant to development professionals.

This survey found that the spatial distribution of the population was a key data layer needed by Bank staff. The results of the survey showed that that while national level data are useful, subnational detail on administrative boundaries, trade & transport infrastructure, population distribution and socio-economic data down to the city level are just as critical to the majority of respondents.

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.

Is it Innovation if it Has Been Done Before?

Aleem Walji's picture
When I joined the World Bank five years ago, I remember someone telling me that we love innovation as long as it’s been done before. Having been hired to manage an innovation practice, I was puzzled. Wasn’t innovation about risk and venturing into the unknown? But as counter-intuitive as it sounds, I’ve come to understand the spirit of the idea and recognize that any innovation ecosystem needs early adopters and scalers.

Partnering with the mining industry in good times and bad

Anita Marangoly George's picture
Heading to my first African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa recently, I was wondering how receptive mining companies would be to the idea of greater partnership given that commodity prices were at historic lows. While there was some hesitation from isolated voices, the overwhelming consensus was, YES, partnerships that promote shared benefits are critical to the sector in both the good times and the bad.
The key in this commodities downturn is to develop win-win partnerships. A central theme at Indaba was the importance of hiring and training local people, and increasing the focus on local procurement which, in turn, helps diversify local economies through linkages to mines’ supply chains. Best practices in training for small and medium-sized enterprises in health, safety, environmental and quality standards were highlighted as well as initiatives to ensure women share in the benefits flowing from mining evenly.
 


Collaboration is also key to ensuring that the power generated for mining in Africa benefits communities. Power-mining integration is essential when you consider that Sub-Saharan Africa today only generates 80 gigawatts of power each year for 48 countries and a population of 1.1 billion people. Two-thirds of people in the region live entirely without electricity and those with a power connection suffer constant disruptions in supply. Without new investment and with current rates of population growth, there will be more Africans without power by 2030 than there are now.

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