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.
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.
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.
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.
Governments have a responsibility to protect their people, including from disasters and the effects of climate change. Sometimes that means relocating them to safer areas. Given that the effects of climate change, exacerbated by settlement patterns and pre-existing vulnerabilities, it seems likely that more people will have to be moved from their original habitats in the future. Millions have been uprooted in the past month from massive floods in places as divergent as South Asia and South Texas.
Hydromet is the union of hydrology and meteorology, combining water, weather, and climate studies as a formidable force in a government’s ability to accurately understand, forecast, and communicate storms and hazards. This means that something as simple as an accurate weather forecast, or the monitoring of river levels could make the difference between a farmer losing his/her entire crop or a fisherman knowing when best to head out to sea.
Disasters can strike anywhere and anytime. As climate change intensifies, extreme weather events, for example, are on the rise around the world, and countries are increasingly seeking to improve both their physical and financial resilience to all kind of disasters. An important dimension of sustainability in urban and rural areas is resilience–resilience for the natural disasters of today and those of tomorrow.
Cat DDO stands for “Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option.” It is an innovative contingent line of credit that can provide immediate liquidity to countries in the aftermath of a disaster resulting from an adverse natural event. The World Bank has made it available to countries since 2008, to make it possible for them to have quick access to financial resources upon the declaration of state of emergency in the aftermath of a disaster, following an adverse natural event and in accordance with local legislation. The funds that provide liquidity to the countries are preapproved based on a sound disaster risk management program and an adequate macroeconomic framework.
It serves as an early financing tool while funds from other sources such as government reallocations, bilateral aid, or reconstruction loans/credits become available.
It allows the countries to address the emergency without distracting resources from their social and development programs.
It enhances the countries’ financial capacity to prepare for disasters.
It also generates or consolidates a dialogue on disaster risk management between the countries and the World Bank to learn from experience and apply good practices.
What are some of the examples of “Cat DDOs in action”? How will this innovative tool evolve to better manage increasing disaster risks? Watch a video with World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist Armando Guzman to learn more.
The bi-annual report, notes key economic developments over the preceding months, placing them in a longer term and global perspective; in the Special Focus section, it explores topics of particular policy significance to Sri Lanka.
Ralph started with the idea that Sri Lanka faces a window of opportunity during which key reforms could transform the country and its economy. He noted that Sri Lanka’s position in the global economy improved its global growth prospects, as well as that of its key export partners. Low commodity prices and the restoration of the GSP+ preferential trade arrangement with the EU had also combined to improve the outlook for the Sri Lankan economy.
For Idah, the country’s mood and the government’s commitment to change were critical to success:
#SriLanka has demonstrated potential for significant reforms. Crucial for the move to a higher middle income status #SLDU2017
The panel delved into how natural disasters and extreme weather events posed a threat to Sri Lanka’s growing economy. In the short-term the damage was clear and serious, with losses amounting to several billions a year, as Idah noted in her blog. During the chat, she emphasised how Sri Lanka needed to be prepared for future disasters or it would cost the country enormously.
Kanchana pointed out that in the long-term, disasters could set back poverty alleviation efforts, especially in agricultural and rural areas, adding:
With the chat underway, questions poured in from an online audience who were interested in diverse issues – from managing Sri Lanka’s ongoing drought and its impact on the Northern Province to what insights the SLDU had to offer other countries in the region such as India.
Building healthy and well-functioning cities and communities that continue to thrive for generations is the goal of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities (GPSC), a collaboration that unites cities across continents in their endeavors towards achieving sustainable, resilient development.
What would these cities and communities look like to you? The GPSC, its partner cities, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) invite you to articulate sustainability through the medium of photography.
Whether it be elements of your city that represent sustainability, or a moment in time that captures the spirit of inclusive, resilient, and sustainable urban development, we invite you to share your vision with us, through your photographs.
The winners of the photo competition will each win exciting prizes: a $500 voucher for purchasing photography equipment, as well as a chance to be recognized at an award ceremony and have their photographs featured in the World Bank / GPSC’s online and print materials.
Here’s how the Sustainable Cities Photo Contest will work:
I was reflecting on the saying that “ignorance is bliss” as our plane was landing in Tuvalu, a small island nation in the South Pacific. We had been advised that portions of the recent runway resealing was failing in a number of locations, but it was the video below—showing the runway ‘floating’ under the weight of someone walking on it—that was particularly disconcerting. Runways are supposed to be solid!
Tuvalu has regularly been called the ‘canary in the coal mine’ when it comes to climate change. The country is comprised of three reef islands and six coral atolls. With the maximum elevation of 3-4 m, and sea level rise of some 5 mm/year, it is already at a risk of a range of climate change challenges. Now we have a new one: runway failure from beneath caused by what appears to be a combination of very high (‘king’) tides and increased rainfall.
We are in the eye of the storm -- that misleading lull before mother nature unleashes her fury once again.
In Sri Lanka alone, costs from natural disasters, losses from damage to housing, infrastructure, agriculture, and from relief are estimated at LKR 50 billion (approx. USD 327 million). The highest annual expected losses are from floods (LKR 32 billion), cyclones or high winds (LKR 11 billion), droughts (LKR 5.2 billion) and landslides (LKR 1.8 billion). This is equivalent to 0.4 percent of GDP or 2.1 percent of government expenditure. (#SLDU2017). Floods and landslides in May 2016 caused damages amounting to US$572 million.
These numbers do not paint the full picture of impact for those most affected, who lost loved ones, irreplaceable belongings, or livestock and more so for those who are back to square one on the socio-economic ladder.
Even more alarming, these numbers are likely to rise as droughts and floods triggered by climate change will become more frequent and severe. And the brief respite in between will only get shorter, leaving less time to prepare for the hard days to come.
Therefore, better planning is even more necessary. Sri Lanka, like many other countries has started to invest in data that highlights areas at risk, and early warning systems to ensure that people move to safer locations with speed and effect.
Experience demonstrates that the eye of the storm is the time to look to the future, ready up citizens and institutions in case of extreme weather.
Now is the time to double down on preparing national plans to respond to disasters and build resilience.
It’s the time to test our systems and get all citizens familiar with emergency drills. But, more importantly, we need to build back better and stronger. In drought-affected areas, we can’t wait for the rains and revert to the same old farming practices. It’s time to innovate and stock up on critical supplies and be prepared when a disaster hits.
It’s the time to plan for better shelters that are safe and where people can store their hard-earned possessions.
Mobilizing and empowering communities is essential. But to do this, we must know who is vulnerable – and whether they should stay or move. Saving lives is first priority, no doubt. Second, we should also have the necessary systems and equipment to respond with speed and effect in times of disasters. Third, a plan must be in place to help affected families without much delay.
Fortunately, many ongoing initiatives aim to do just that.