Investing in climate and disaster resilience to help Moldova’s at-risk communities weather the next shock

|

This page in:

A river in Moldova reshaped by recent flooding. While the country suffers from high disaster risk and climate vulnerability, the government has been investing in preparedness measures. Image credit: Gheorghe Popa via Shutterstock

Although disasters come in many forms - such as floods, earthquakes, or droughts - it is clear that the impacts of the ensuing socioeconomic shocks disproportionately affect the poor. 

COVID-19 has been no different. Without the resources to safely ride out the worst effects of the pandemic, vulnerable populations have been forced to make impossible choices between their own health and economic hardship or worse.  Governments around the globe were seemingly caught off guard by the outbreak - which could happen again when they are faced with the next disaster or climate shock. But what if investments in building resilience for one type of shock can help alleviate another?

INSTITUTIONALIZING RESILIENCE

In Moldova, where there are persistent seismic and flood risks alongside some of the highest poverty rates in Europe, the threat of devastating socioeconomic shocks has loomed large for many years.  Over the past decade alone, floods and droughts have caused more than US$1.2 billion in damages, with climate change threatening to worsen these losses further.

Due to its proximity to Vrancea, one of the most active seismic areas of Europe, Moldova has suffered 16 major earthquakes of magnitude 7-8 over the past 200 years. Moldova’s capital Chisinau, which generates 50 percent of the country’s GDP and is home to more than 30 percent of the population, is exposed to an especially significant earthquake risk. These seismic and flood risks continue to increase because of declining cities, an aging population, the structural vulnerability of Soviet-era buildings, and the generally low popular awareness of the potential threats.

A timeline of major climate and disaster events in Moldova from 1930 – 2014.

With this in mind, the Government of Moldova has been strengthening its institutions to better prepare for and respond to disasters and climate-related shocks. It has improved the country’s ability to forecast severe weather, including at the local level, through enhanced hydrometeorological services and has reduced the agricultural sector’s vulnerability to climate change by improving irrigation and promoting climate-smart agriculture practices. Moreover, and of particular importance in light of the country’s small size, it has strengthened regional collaboration.

To maintain this momentum, the Moldovan Government rapidly needs to bring its resilience capacity to the next level. With support from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), the World Bank recently completed a strategic review of Moldova’s disaster risk management (DRM) and climate resilience challenges, highlighting opportunities for the country to shift from a reactive, ex post DRM system to a more proactive, ex ante approach. The review’s recommendations include the following:

Adopt a national DRM and resilience strategy built on an overarching management framework that clarifies roles and responsibilities for strategic oversight, planning, and coordination, as well as for the implementation of risk identification, reduction, and response measures.

Enhance risk identification through the development of multi-hazard risk information systems, including exposure and vulnerability data, and the mainstreaming of DRM risk assessments into sectoral development strategies.

Accelerate risk reduction through both non-structural and structural measures, including by more vigorously implementing the country’s flood protection investment plan, improving building codes, and retrofitting key buildings. In addition, risk mitigation should be integrated into existing national investment programs.

Strengthen emergency response and preparedness through improving communication on seismic risks, modernizing local response centers, and better aligning DRM management, logistics, and communication at the local, regional, and national levels.

Boost financial protection for both agriculture-related hazards and other types of disasters.

Enable a resilient recovery by formalizing systems that provide effective assessments of post-disaster needs and embedding a “build back better” approach into recovery policies and programs.

As with any disaster, the effectiveness of the emergency response hinges on the overall institutional architecture, not only at the national level but also the local level , where authorities are on the front line in supporting their communities’ recovery efforts, especially among the most disadvantaged populations. Optimizing Moldova’s DRM institutional setup will enable the country to better respond not only to disasters but also to other shocks and stresses, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and to better support the poor.

TOWARD A MORE SYSTEMIC APPROACH TO MANAGING SHOCKS AND STRESSES

When we begin to think about the common elements of different socioeconomic shocks rather than their diverse causes, we can build stronger institutions that are more up to the task of managing and recovering from these events  - whatever they might be.

From containing microscopic viruses to managing large transboundary floods, Moldova - and many other countries like it - must work to embed resilience more deeply into policies and daily habits, particularly to protect the most vulnerable, who often bear the brunt of a disaster’s aftereffects. In this way, at-risk countries can reduce their disaster risk while improving their capacity to respond to the ongoing pandemic, and can also better prepare for any unknown crises in the future.

Authors

Axel Baeumler

Senior Infrastructure Economist

Yann Kerblat

Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Analyst for Europe and Central Asia

Alexei Ionascu

World Bank Consultant for Social Protection and Social Development

Join the Conversation