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disaster risk management

How stories can help communicate volcanic risk to communities

Alanna Simpson's picture

Violent volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, Hawaii, and Guatemala have made the world’s headlines in the past few weeks. The eruption of Guatemala’s Fuego volcano has claimed the lives of 110 people and triggered the evacuations of thousands from their homes.

Despite popular belief and public expectation, volcanic eruptions are extraordinarily difficult to predict. Oftentimes, they happen with limited warning, which leaves little if any time for authorities to react, much less communicate the risk to those affected. At other times, a volcano may seem to show all the signs of an imminent eruption, but it doesn’t happen.

When communicating disaster risk and coordinating a response, there’s also more to it than merely predicting whether an eruption will occur. Scientists need to use data and information to determine the potential size, duration and characteristics of the eruption. Will it be explosive, triggering deadly pyroclastic flows and widespread ash, or something else?


The scientific uncertainties surrounding volcanic eruption forecasting are among the many challenges associated with communicating the potential for volcanic eruption to surrounding populations. This is especially true for communities living near volcanoes that have not erupted in recent memory. Science can help, but far too often, it’s not enough to get people and communities to take action.

Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth, makes the case that risk communicators also need to leverage the power of stories and narratives to help communities understand the situation. “When you go look at examples where disaster preparedness has failed, it’s because there’s been no enduring, compelling narrative beneath it,” Stewart pointed out.

In this video interview from the 2018 Understanding Risk Forum, hosted by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the World Bank, Stewart discusses the role of stories and narratives in volcanic risk communication with Alanna Simpson, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist at the World Bank. 

From Japan to Bhutan: Improving the resilience of cultural heritage sites

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture
 Barbara Minguez Garcia 2018
When it comes to their heritage buildings, both Bhutan and Japan have one common enemy: Fire. A view of Wangduephodrang Dzong in Bhutan which was destroyed by fire in 2012. Credit: Barbara Minguez Garcia 2018

About 2,749 miles, three countries, and a sea separate Kyoto, Japan, and Thimphu, Bhutan. The countries’ languages are different, and so are their histories.

But when it comes to their heritage buildings, both nations have one common enemy: Fire.

And to help prevent fire hazards, there’s a lot Bhutan can learn from Japan’s experience.

To that end, a Bhutanese delegation visited Tokyo and Kyoto last year to attend the Resilient Cultural Heritage and Tourism Technical Deep Dive to learn best practices on risk preparedness and mitigation, and apply them to Bhutan’s context.

Such knowledge is critical as Bhutan’s communities live in and around great heritage sites.

After disasters hit, how countries and communities can build back better

Sameh Wahba's picture
 


Disaster losses disproportionately affect poor people, according to the 2017 “Unbreakable” report. The Caribbean Hurricane season of 2017 was a tragic illustration of this.

Not one, but two Category 5 hurricanes wreaked destruction on numerous small islands, causing severe damages on islands like Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Martin. The human cost of these disasters was immense, and the impact of this devastation was felt most strongly by poorer communities in the path of the storms.
 
And yet, amidst the destruction, it is essential to look forward and to build back better.
 
A new report, “Building Back Better: Achieving Resilience through Strong, Faster, and More Inclusive Post-Disaster Reconstruction,” explores how countries can strengthen their resilience to natural shocks through a better reconstruction process. It shows that reconstruction needs to be: 

Leaving no one behind in development: a roadmap for disability inclusion

Maninder Gill's picture
 

More than one billion people globally – about 15% of the world’s population – are estimated to have a disability. Most of them live in developing countries. This number is expected to increase as aging, war and conflict, natural disasters, forced displacement, and other factors continue to affect the prevalence of disability.

Persons with disabilities face higher rates of poverty compared with persons without disabilities. They encounter attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Persons with disabilities’ lower rates of economic and labor market participation also impose a higher welfare burden on governments.

The global development and poverty reduction agenda will not be effective unless it addresses the socioeconomic inequality of persons with disabilities and ensures their participation in all stages of development programs. With a focus on social inclusion, disability-inclusive development is directly responsive to the World Bank’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

Disability Inclusion and Accountability Framework

Over the last several years, the World Bank has accelerated its support for disability-inclusive development with significant strides in operations and analytical work.

This has culminated in World Bank’s first Disability Inclusion and Accountability Framework, which offers a roadmap for:
  1. Including disability in the World Bank’s policies, operations, and analytical work; and
  2. Building internal capacity for supporting clients in implementing disability-inclusive development programs.
The Framework is also relevant to policymakers, government officials, other development organizations, and persons with disabilities.

The Framework has been launched today on the occasion of the 11th Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations, the premier international gathering of governments, development practitioners, and civil society working on disability inclusion.

How will the Framework support development work?

The Framework provides four main principles for guiding the World Bank’s engagement with persons with disabilities:
  • Nondiscrimination and equality
  • Accessibility
  • Inclusion and participation
  • Partnership and collaboration

The appendices to this Framework highlight key areas of engagement for a significant impact on the inclusion, empowerment, and full participation of persons with disabilities.

These areas include transport, urban development, disaster risk management, education, social protection, jobs and employment, information and communication technology, water sector operations, and health care.

The Framework is a living document that will be reviewed periodically and strengthened with new focus areas and evidence to reflect ongoing developments.

We invite you to download the Disability Inclusion and Accountability Framework. We hope you find it useful for your work to build inclusive, resilient, and sustainable cities and communities for all.

Thank goodness, we had an extra bridge in stock!

Malaika Becoulet's picture
Credit: Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory
On October 4, 2016, category 4 Hurricane Matthew struck the southern part of Haiti. Strong winds and rain triggered heavy flooding and landslides that resulted in 500 fatalities, along with widespread infrastructure damage and economic loss. The hurricane caused the collapse of the Ladigue Bridge, a vital asset connecting the southern peninsula of Haiti to the capital city and the rest of the country. The collapse left 1.4 million people completely isolated, making it extremely hard to deliver the aid and humanitarian assistance they needed. Overall damage and losses were equivalent to 32% of GDP, with transport accounting for almost a fifth of the total.
 
Haiti is among the countries that are most vulnerable to natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes—the result of a combination of factors that include high exposure to natural hazards, vulnerable infrastructure, environmental degradation, institutional fragility, and a lack of adequate investment in resilience. In Haiti, 80% of people and goods are transported by road. First aid and humanitarian resources, often concentrated in Port-au-Prince, need to transit through congested and sometimes inaccessible roads to reach affected areas. In that context, strengthening and building resilient infrastructure is key.
 
Since 2008, the World Bank has supported the reconstruction of 15 major bridges and stabilized 300 kilometers of roads to enhance the resilience of Haiti’s transport network. One of the most significant innovations that came out of this effort was the adoption of standardized emergency bridges that can be assembled within 2- 3 months from pre-designed and interchangeable components.

Celebrating World Environment Day and building resilience in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Robert Reid's picture
Samking Koihinah Braima, deputy minister of Agriculture and Forestry, plants a tree on behalf of President Julius Maada Bio. Photo: Asad Naveed/World Bank

To celebrate World Environment Day, hundreds of Freetonians came together to plant a tree in honor of the more than 1,000 people killed and missing after devastating landslides and floods tore through Freetown less than a year ago. The landslide and flood waters ripped through the capital city with tremendous energy, destroying everything in its path. It was reported that a huge wave of boulders, building debris and mud cascaded down the river channel immediately after the landslide. The disaster affected more than 6,000 people and caused significant destruction and damage to critical infrastructure.

Making the built environment more resilient: lessons learned from Japan

Keiko Sakoda's picture
Photo: Balint Földesi / Flickr CC


Globally, up to 1.4 million people are moving into urban areas per week, and estimates show that nearly 1 billion new dwelling units will be built by 2050 to support this growing population. The way we build our cities today directly impacts the safety of future generations.

So how do we ensure that we are building healthy, safe, and resilient cities?

What Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines told us about building back better

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
 

The Philippines is increasingly exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards.
 
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which struck the country in 2013, was considered one of the strongest tropical storms ever to make landfall (at 380 kilometer / hour wind gusts). It caused over 6,300 fatalities and affected 1,472,251 families in 171 cities and municipalities across the 14 provinces in 6 regions. Total damage and loss was estimated at $12.9 billion (Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda 2013).
 
The World Bank assessed the post-Yolanda rehabilitation and recovery efforts, and this has resulted in the following recommendations:

 

Understanding Risk Forum 2018: How data and technology can save (hundreds of) billions of dollars from natural disasters

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
 

Natural disasters made 2017 a very expensive year.
 
At $330 billion, last year’s global losses from disasters set a record. These economic losses were primarily a result of meteorological events, such as floods and hurricanes, which are increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change. An increasing number of people are also exposed to tectonic risks, such as earthquakes and landslides, due to rapid urbanization.
 
But growing disaster losses aren’t inevitable. Policy changes, education, and good disaster risk management practices have been proven to reduce losses – and the foundation of all of them is accurate, reliable information about disaster risks.
 
Risk data informs resilience investments. It drives decision-making. And it’s the focus of the open, global community of disaster risk management experts and practitioners called Understanding Risk (UR), which is supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).
 
This year, the community will convene at the Understanding Risk Forum 2018 May 14–18 in Mexico City. The Forum will highlight best practices, facilitate nontraditional partnerships, and showcase the latest technical knowledge in disaster risk identification.



It’s a critical time for a discussion of disaster risk information. A new GFDRR report, Aftershocks: Remodeling the Past for a Resilient Future, concludes that if past disasters were to repeat in the same places today, the losses would be far greater. Aftershocks, which will be discussed at UR2018, explores what we can learn from historic disasters to anticipate similar future events and build resilience ahead of time.
 
The good news is that the past few years have seen a surge of new ways to get more accurate, more detailed information more quickly, more easily, and in more difficult contexts. We can now use social media to gather increasingly valuable information in the immediate aftermath of an event. Drones are increasingly capturing high-quality images, and machine learning for image recognition is already helping us produce more and better risk data all the time.
 
These emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, will be one of the major themes of this year’s UR Forum. To find out more about the UR Forum, and how you can get involved, watch the video blog and visit understandrisk.org.
 
And don’t forget to keep up with all the great ideas coming out of #UR2018 by following along on Twitter: @UnderstandRisk, @GFDRR, and @WBG_Cities.

Tackling a known unknown: How post-disaster aid can provide what people really need

Markus Kostner's picture
Photo: Patrick Barron (World Bank)

Within a few weeks of the disaster, the tents, half a dozen of them, were lined up along a creek where houses with bamboo walls and nipa roofs had once stood. They were brand new… and empty. They had been provided to survivors of Nargis, the cyclone that killed an estimated 140,000 people in the Ayeyarwady Delta of Myanmar in one night in 2008.
 
However, despite these provisions, the cyclone survivors preferred to stay in makeshift huts they had built on the other side of the village path with any materials they could find. The tents were too flimsy, they said, and could fly away if another storm kicked up.

Sometime thereafter, they packed the tents neatly and stored them with other items they had also received and never used: sleeping bags much too warm for the monsoon climate, and gasoline stoves where no gasoline was sold.


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