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Disasters

Are we listening to our ancestors’ warnings?

Ko Takeuchi's picture
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The “miracle pine,” a 250-year-old tree that survived the 2011 tsunami in Japan, has been preserved as a memorial to the 19,000 victims of the disaster. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

In disaster risk management, we often pay close attention to the latest technological boosts to better understand risks and help communities prepare for the next disaster. While such efforts are commendable, I noticed that insightful messages from our ancestors can also help us better anticipate tomorrow’s disaster risks.

Such messages teach us how to keep hazards away from people (reducing existing risks) as well as how to keep people away from hazards (avoid creating new risks). On my latest trip to Japan, we hosted government officials from Armenia, Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan as part of an experts’ visit focusing on disaster risk management, acting on Japan’s rich culture of passing on such decisive messages to future generations.

Building on Six Decades of Partnership toward a Promising Future

Annette Dixon's picture
VP
Annette Dixon, World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region and Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives in conversation with an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) living in a temporary welfare camp. Photographer: Mokshana Wijeyeratne

Sri Lanka amazes me in many ways, with its smiling faces among a rich tapestry of cultures, diversity, and natural wonders. On this fourth visit and first time in the Northern Province, I once again found a resilient and industrious people eager to build their lives and advance the country together.

As Sri Lanka recovers from an almost three-decade long conflict, much progress has been made. I am proud that the World Bank Group has been a close and trusted partner with the country to help restore lives, livelihoods, and unlocking the potential of all of its people, inclusive of men and women, diverse geographic locations, as well as different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Promoting partnership for a water-secure world

Jennifer J. Sara's picture

Also available in 中文

The global water community is gathering in Stockholm for World Water Week 2016. This year’s theme, “Water for Sustainable Growth,” comes at a critical time, as we are mobilizing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in which water plays an essential part
 
Water touches nearly every aspect of development.  It drives economic growth, supports healthy ecosystems, and is fundamental for life.  However, water can threaten health and prosperity as well as promote it.  Water-related hazards, including floods, storms, and droughts, are already responsible for 9 out of 10 natural disasters, and climate change is expected to increase these risks.  As water resources become increasingly strained, the risk of conflict and instability may also grow.
 
Over the next two decades and beyond, ‘thirsty agriculture’ and ‘thirsty energy’ competing with the needs of ‘thirsty cities’ will place new and increasing demands on the water sector. Over 4 billion people currently live in areas where water consumption is greater than renewable resources for part of the year – a number that will continue to increase.

Indonesia: Turning to unity for rebuilding communities after natural disasters

George Soraya's picture



Following the massive earthquake in Jogjakarta, Indonesia, in 2006, the city and surrounding areas were faced with having to build or rehabilitate about 300-thousand homes.

The government had the option of hiring 1,000 contractors to build 300 houses each.  Or we could have 300 thousand people working to build one house each - their own homes. 

With the Government of Indonesia in the lead, we took the latter approach in supporting Indonesia’s efforts to rebuild communities. This is the REKOMPAK way.

Retrofitting: A housing policy that saves lives

Luis Triveno's picture
Building earthquake-resistant housing in Peru. Photo: USAID/OFDA, Auriana Koutnik/Flickr
When a hurricane, earthquake or other natural disaster strikes a poor country, families too often suffer a double tragedy: the loss of loved ones and their most valuable (and sometimes only) asset, their home. In the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti in 2010, which killed more than 260,000 people, 70% of asset losses were related to housing. Ecuador faces billions of dollars in reconstruction costs from last April’s 7.8 earthquake, which killed 900 and injured almost 28,000. If Peru were hit by an 8.0-degree earthquake, an estimated 80% of potential economic losses would involve housing.
 
And while nature’s fury does not distinguish between urban and rural areas, a large majority of disaster losses are concentrated in cities, where they disproportionately affect the poor. This creates a great challenge for low and middle-income countries.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, 200 million people—1/3 of the population—live in informal settlements, where most dwellings don’t comply with construction codes and home insurance is non-existent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, LAC’s informal districts also account for the majority of disaster-related deaths in the region.
 
Yet housing policies aimed at the poor tend to focus on supporting the construction of new units instead of retrofitting existing homes to make them safer—ignoring the fact that it is mostly buildings, not earthquakes, that kill people. As a result, the deficit in housing quality is still disturbingly high: millions of families remain exposed not just to disaster risk but also to high crime rates, eviction, poor housing conditions, as well as lack of access to basic services, healthcare, schools, and job opportunities.
 
To address these issues, countries will need to tackle the housing challenge from two different but complementary angles: they have to find ways of upgrading the existing housing stock, where the majority of the poor live, while making sure that new constructions comply with building regulations. After all, if floods or earthquakes do not distinguish between old or new homes, why should policy-makers? It is time for resilience to become part of the definition of “decent, affordable housing.”

Investing in pre-crisis financial risk management eases post-disaster recovery needs

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture
Young girl in an evacuation center, 2009. Philippines. Photo: Jerome Ascano / World Bank

Since natural disasters can strike anywhere and anytime, making far-sighted preparations is much more effective than scrambling to respond to a crisis. I recognized this after Hurricane Mitch ravaged Honduras and my grandmother had to be evacuated because the local river swelled to the second floor of her home.
 
As climate change intensifies extreme weather events across much of the planet, countries are seeking the World Bank Group’s support to improve both their physical and financial resilience to disasters.
 
We are increasingly working with governments to devise sound financial planning and risk management before a disaster strikes, not just to assemble financing to help countries recover in its wake.

Market-based instruments – such as insurance -- can act as shock absorbers in case of natural disaster, helping countries avoid the worst of a crisis’ financial impact.

Safer buildings are the key to a disaster resilient future

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
A few months ago, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador claimed hundreds of lives, left almost 28,000 people injured, and caused $1 to 3 billion worth of damage. Most human and economic losses were directly linked to the collapse of buildings: the tremor caused the destruction of an estimated 10,000 structures, many of which were located in unsafe areas or did not meet minimum safety standards.
 
The tragedy in Ecuador serves as a stark reminder that, in many cases, it is not earthquakes or other disasters that kill people, but failing building structures. Therefore, improving building safety will be key in protecting communities against rising disaster and climate risk.
 
With over a billion dwelling units expected to be built between now and 2050, focusing on new construction will be particularly important, and will help mitigate the impact of natural disasters for generations to come.
 
The good news is that we have the knowledge and technology to build safe, resilient structures. But, more often than not, this knowledge is not put into practice due to insufficient or poorly-enforced regulation, as well as a lack of incentives.
 
In this video, Ede Ijjasz and Thomas Moullier explain why building safety will play a critical role in enhancing disaster resilience, and discuss concrete recommendations on how to get there.
 
If you want to learn more about this topic, we invite you to discover our latest Sustainable Communities podcast.
 
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Modernizing weather forecasts and disaster planning to save lives

Lisa Finneran's picture

© Angela Gentile/World Bank

Is it hot outside? Should I bring an umbrella?
 
Most of us don’t think much beyond these questions when we check the weather report on a typical day. But weather information plays a much more critical role than providing intel on whether to take an umbrella or use sunscreen. It can help manage the effects of climate change, prevent economic losses and save lives when extreme weather hits. 


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