Across Afghanistan’s vast diversity of natural terrain, communities share a similar complaint: intense and recurring natural hazards too often cause the loss of lives, livelihoods, and properties.
Since 1980, disasters caused by natural hazards have affected nine million people, causing over 20,000 fatalities.
Extreme weather events and climate change are only worsening fragility.
But those in charge of protecting lives and assets are struggling to access and use the information they need to manage risks, improve Afghans’ resilience to disasters, and build stronger infrastructure.
To that end, and with support from the Government of Japan and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the World Bank and its partners have trained more than 80 Afghan engineers and policymakers in analyzing the root causes of disasters and making communities more resilient.
Afghan government ministries and agencies, including land, urban, energy, rural development, and disaster management have participated in the training.
For example, at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), government officials and Community Development Councils (CDCs) learned to identify infrastructure with potential disaster and climate risks using the Afghanistan Disaster Risk Info GeoNode, an online geospatial platform that stores and maps out risk data as well as the Afghanistan Risk Profile, which visualizes significant risk areas.
With that new knowledge, ministry staff can now screen and design new infrastructure projects that incorporate principles of disaster risk management. In turn, MRRD officials have trained more than 4,500 communities.
The training showed that a better understanding of disaster risk could help improve vulnerable infrastructure. Of the 25 trainees we interviewed, 17 reported using disaster risk management in their jobs following the training—with more than half directly applying that new knowledge in daily activities.
Trainees from the Meteorology Department and the Ministry of Energy and Water mentioned that their ministry had made plans to incorporate the use of GeoNode in their operational procedures.
To further these efforts, the World Bank is exploring opportunities to establish dedicated resource centers to provide ongoing in-house technical expertise in each agency or ministry.
Throughout the training exercise, we learned several lessons.
First, disaster risk management is largely absent from investment programs at the agencies or ministries.
Second, there are no guidelines or protocols in place to incorporate disaster risk principles or performance measurements into project design and planning.
And finally, there is little coordination between government agencies and ministries.
Accessing and managing risk information is a first step towards a more resilient Afghanistan. Ongoing support is planned to scale-up these initial efforts, in close coordination with the Afghan government, to anchor resilience in their policies and work with communities to better protect their residents against disasters.