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disaster risk management

Disaster risk and school infrastructure: What we do and do not know

Sameh Wahba's picture
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Credit: Tracy Ben/ Shutterstock

“At 14:28:04 on May 12, 2008, an 8.0 earthquake struck suddenly, shaking the earth, with mountains and rivers shifted, devastated, and parted forever….” This was how China’s official report read, when describing the catastrophic consequences of the Sichuan earthquake, which left 5,335 students dead or missing.
 
Just two years ago, in Nepal, on April 25, 2015, due to a Mw 7.8 earthquake, 6,700 school buildings collapsed or were affected beyond repair. Fortunately, it occurred on Saturday—a holiday in Nepal—otherwise the human toll could have been as high as that of the Sichuan disaster, or even worse. Similarly, in other parts of the world—Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Haiti, Ecuador, and most recently Mexico—schools suffered from the impact of natural hazards. 
 
Why have schools collapsed?

Securing land rights for all is key to building disaster-resilient communities

Sameh Wahba's picture
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October 13 is the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

From East Asia, South Asia, and Africa to Latin America, disaster events such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes are on the rise, destroying homes and claiming lives.

Climate change is making it worse. Extreme weather is hitting us harder and more frequently as the planet warms, causing greater losses.

Engineering our way out of disasters – the promise of resilient infrastructure

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Hurricane Irma moves through the Caribbean in this satellite image from September 5th, 2017.
Image credit: NOAA
The last few weeks have been a stark reminder of how natural disasters can undermine precious development progress in an instant. Images of incredible devastation in the Caribbean wrought by a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, collapsing buildings in Mexico during a violent series of earthquakes, and massive monsoon flooding in South Asia that claimed hundreds of lives have resulted in an outpouring of support from the international community.
 
Unfortunately, scenes like these are becoming more routine. The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly visible, and rapid urbanization is concentrating risk in vulnerable regions of the world.
 
Just consider the following statistics:

8 things we learned from running a challenge fund

Amal Ali's picture
Challenge funds can help harness technology for development – here, a team from the international Water Management Institute (IWMI) shows off an open source mobile weather station developed for the GFDRR/DFID Challenge Fund. © IWMI
Challenge funds can help harness technology for development – here, a team from the international Water Management Institute (IWMI) shows off an open source mobile weather station developed for the GFDRR/DFID Challenge Fund. © IWMI 

While historically confined to medical and academic research, challenge funds – competitive financing for innovative solutions to entrenched problems – have gained traction in the international development field over the last decade.
 
Pioneered by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), challenge funds have championed transformational disruptive technologies, such as M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile money transfer service. The electronic payment system, which allows users to withdraw, deposit and transfer cash through their mobile phones, started as a pilot project funded by DFID’s Financial Deepening Challenge Fund. Today, more than two thirds of Kenyans use the channel, and the innovation has changed the scope of financial inclusion programs globally.

Beyond bright lights and skyscrapers, how can East Asia and Pacific cities expand opportunities for all?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
East Asia and Pacific Cities: Expanding Opportunities for the Poor

Cities in East Asia and the Pacific can be vibrant, exciting, and filled with opportunities. Yet we are always struck by their dichotomies: there are the bright lights, modern skyscrapers, air-conditioned malls, and the hustle and bustle of people coming and going to offices and shops.

And there are also neighborhoods with no safe drinking water, sanitation, or waste collection; where houses flood every time it rains; and where families spend long hours trying to earn enough to feed themselves and keep their children in school.  

With an estimated 250 million people living in slums across the East Asia and Pacific region, and much more urbanization to come, prioritizing the delivery of basic services and ensuring opportunities for the urban poor presents an urgent call for action.

Taking a proactive approach to climate extremes in Serbia

Darko Milutin's picture

A severe and prolonged heat wave stifled much of Central Europe this summer, buckling train tracks in Serbia and forcing at least 10 countries to issue red alerts for health concerns and water conservation. Once a rare nuisance, extreme weather events like this are becoming more commonplace throughout the region – and more dangerous.

These challenges have prompted the government of Serbia to take a proactive approach to building resilience to climate and disaster risks over the last few years.

Ideas Box: the library that promotes literacy and builds disaster resilience—a Q&A

Barbara Minguez Garcia's picture


Over the last two weeks, we’ve witnessed three hurricanes in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico as well as a magnitude 8.1 earthquake in Mexico, killing people and destroying homes. They serve as a reminder that natural hazards pose a greater threat to our lives and livelihoods than we may think.

Dealing with rising disaster risks requires greater efforts with smarter approaches—ones that can help vulnerable people and communities better prepare for, and recover from, disasters. Libraries Without Borders (BSF), an international organization that expands access to information, education, and cultural resources to vulnerable people around the world, knows that very well.

In 2010, BSF was building libraries in Haiti when the well-known earthquake struck. At the time, local partners asked BSF to help them create information and cultural access points in refugee camps. This experience led to the development of the “Ideas Box," an innovative tool that provides vulnerable communities in disaster-prone areas with access to information, education, and cultural resources.

Last week, on the International Literacy Day, I talked to BSF’s Director of Communications and Advocacy, Katherine Trujillo, about the Ideas Box, as well as how their innovative ideas and actions have helped promote literacy and build resilience in disaster-hit communities.

Leaving no one behind – achieving disability-inclusive disaster risk management

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo's picture
Southern, Thailand - January 9, 2017: a volunteer helps a man with a disability get through the flood in his wheelchair. Photo: issara anujun / Shutterstock.com
Natural hazard events can occur in any country, at any time.  At present, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal are dealing with the aftermath of some of the worst monsoon flooding in years, which has left more than 1,200 people dead and millions homeless.  At the same time, North America and the Caribbean region are responding to some of the strongest hurricanes on record.

At such times of peril, individual and community resilience is at a premium, and we cannot afford to miss opportunities to bolster that resilience wherever possible. This is especially true with respect to certain groups – such as persons with disabilities – who have historically been disproportionately affected by natural hazards.

While some strides have been made in addressing the needs of persons with different disabilities in response and recovery efforts, fewer efforts are aimed at incorporating lessons into long-term disaster and climate risk management at a systemic and/or policy level.  

More needs to be done to create disability inclusion for all – a topic that was discussed during a Facebook Live chat on September 19.

Innovation: A meaningless “catchword” or something more useful?

Alanna Simpson's picture
Can innovation be more than just a gimmick? © DFID
Can innovation be more than just a gimmick? © DFID

Challenges in development are growing at unprecedented rates, driven by complex human crises: refugees, rapid and unsustainable urbanization and climate change, failure to meet basic infrastructure needs, youth unemployment and disengagement, and stubbornly poor health and education outcomes, to name a few. Set against a backdrop of political and public pressure to do more with less – and see results faster than ever – even the most optimistic among us are likely to view the glass half empty. 


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