Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Building African nations and communities’ financial resilience to climate and disaster risks

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West African Sahel and Dry Savannas @ FlickR / CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems

Sub-Saharan Africa is making significant economic and development strides. Yet, natural disasters, combined with the effects of climate change, rapid urbanization, and conflict situations are threatening these gains, keeping vulnerable and poor communities in a chronic cycle of poverty:
  • 425 million people who live in Africa’s drylands are highly exposed to climate shocks, and this number is set to grow by at least 50% by 2030. We cannot fully quantify the human cost, but Kenya alone suffered losses of $12 billion in the 2008 to 2011 drought. Official development assistance (ODA) in humanitarian aid to the Horn of Africa after the 2011 drought was $4 billion, 10% of all aid to Africa.
  • Africa’s coastal cities are engines of growth, but are highly vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise. In the last three years, major floods have hit cities such as Maputo, Dakar, Lagos and Douala. Like droughts, floods won’t go away. Along with periods of extreme heat, strong winds and coastal storms, they are likely to become more frequent.
  • Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, from March 2014, was the most widespread, and reached epidemic proportions. The poor bore the brunt, lost their jobs and incomes, had difficulty accessing medical services and suffered psycho-social trauma. On a macro-level, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are estimated to lose over $1.6 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015.
  • Conflicts and disasters often reinforce each other to worsen negative development impacts and increase human suffering. From 2005 to2009, more than 50% of people affected by disasters lived in fragile and conflict-affected states (globally). Fourteen out of the 20 most conflict-affected states are in Africa.
These are major threats for sustainable development and ending extreme poverty. Currently, disaster response, climate change, food security, epidemics and conflict are often handled in different government departments and different teams within international organizations.

There is a need to rethink how to manage these interlinked issues and work towards a more effective and comprehensive risk management system based on experiences and lessons learned from managing natural hazards. A new approach is urgently required on how we assess, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and finance risks.

In this context, the upcoming Understanding Risk & Finance Conference (UR&F), with a focus on achieving financial resilience for African nations, is long overdue. The first conference of its kind, UR&F will bring together high-level policy makers, disaster risk management (DRM) practitioners, academics, multilateral, bilateral, NGO, and private-sector representatives in Addis Ababa, November 17-19, 2015.

This forum offers an opportunity for African policymakers to discuss effective strategies and approaches at local, national and regional levels to improve the financial response capacity and lessen the socio-economic, fiscal and physical impacts of disasters. Participants will be able to share international and regional best practices in risk assessment and risk financing, and use dialogue to strengthen partnerships needed to advance a comprehensive risk management and financing agenda in Africa.

The World Bank Group, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the European Union and the Africa Union Commission (AUC) are jointly organizing this conference in close cooperation with the African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa Risk Capacity (ARC), Government of Ethiopia, United Nations and many other partners.

UR&F will also launch the Africa Disaster Risk Financing (ADRF) initiative, under the ‘Building Disaster Resilience in Africa’ program, an initiative of the ACP Group of States, financed by the European Union, and implemented by the AUC, UNISDR, AfDB and the World Bank Group / GFDRR.

To learn more about the UR+F conference and to register, please go to:


Christoph Pusch

Practice Manager, Europe and Central Asia, Urban, DRM, Resilience, and Land

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