Between 2005 and 2014, due to natural disasters, the region had a nominal cumulative loss of around US$5.8 billion, and witnessed more than 3,410 deaths and hundreds of thousands of displaced people. More recently, in October 2011, Tropical Depression 12-E hit the coasts of El Salvador and Guatemala with damages amounting to nearly US$1 billion.
In two recent studies, we evaluated the causal impacts of hurricane windstorms on poverty and income as well as economic activity measured using night lights at the regional and country level. In both cases, we applied a fully probabilistic windstorm model developed in-house, and calibrated and adjusted it for Central America. The first study (on poverty) used yearly information at the household level (for income and poverty measures) as well as the national level (GDP per capita). Due to the limited comparable household data between the countries, we decided to follow up with the second study (on economic activity) using granular data at the highest spatial resolution available (i.e., 1 km2) to understand more deeply the (monthly) impact over time.
Our results are striking:
In 2006, I was working in Aceh, Indonesia (with the Red Cross), a region devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Amongst other post-disaster recovery activities, we were working with 20 coastal communities, helping them with community-managed small grants and encouraging them to invest in disaster resilience within their communities.
To my delight, all 20 communities, independently, chose to invest in the restoration of their mangroves that had been completely or partially destroyed by the tsunami. To them, losing their mangroves was like losing their ancestors: Mangroves defended them, provided them with food and a livelihood, and made their coastline beautiful. The mangroves were their pride, and reclaiming the mangroves was of the highest priority for them as a community.
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The scene is as familiar as it is tragic: A devastating hurricane or earthquake strikes a populated area in a poor country, inflicting a high number of casualties, overwhelming the resources and capacity of rescue teams and hospital emergency rooms. First responders must resort to “triage” – the medical strategy of maximizing the efficient use of existing resources to save lives, while minimizing the number of deaths.
But if governments could apply triage to substandard housing, medical triage would be a much less frequent occurrence – because
From the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to the 2017 Urban Resilience Summit, practitioners and policymakers have increasingly focused their discussions on how we can boost the resilience of urban areas.
But this is a problem with a well-known solution:
upgrading the existing housing stock, where most the poor live, while making sure that new construction is built safe, particularly for natural disasters. After all, if floods or earthquakes do not distinguish between old and new homes, why should policymakers?
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In a world divided over how to deal with such serious problems as terrorism, immigration, free trade, and climate change, governments agree on the urgency of solving what is arguably the biggest problem of all: supplying safe, well-located, and affordable housing for the billions of people who need it.
There is even agreement on the basic steps to that goal: improving land management and adopting more tenure-neutral policies.
There is also consensus on the fact that government alone cannot afford to pay the bill. According to McKinsey & Co., the annual price tag for filling the “global housing gap” ($1.6 trillion) is twice the cost of the global investments needed in public infrastructure to keep pace with GDP growth.
As we approach the 70th anniversary in 2018 of the declaration of housing as a “universal human right,” it’s time for governments to turn to an obvious solution for closing the housing gap that they continue to ignore only at their peril: long-term market finance. , and so will the odds of social discontent.
Unlike many other places, though, cities in Afghanistan face an added, complex layer of challenge—conflict.
Instability in large areas of the country is forcing refugees and internally displaced people into cities—particularly the capital city of Kabul. The thing is: Kabul doesn’t yet have adequate infrastructure and capacity to effectively host these “newcomers.”
What can be done?
To help Afghan cities better address the “3-way challenge” of urbanization, conflict, and forced displacement, the World Bank is working on a series of projects that aim to:
- Provide basic services to selected—mostly informal—neighborhoods in Kabul, such as roads, sanitation, water, and lighting;
- Support Kabul to improve its municipal finance management systems;
- Support the institutional and policy framework for urban development in Afghanistan;
- Strengthen city planning, management and service delivery in five provincial capital cities.
In this video, you will learn more from World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Practice Manager Catalina Marulanda on to better host refugees and other displaced populations.
Tunisia’s transformation in the wake of the Arab Spring has been remarkable, and can be seen through a shift in the role and performance of its cities.
[Download report: Tunisia Urbanization Review - Reclaiming the Glory of Carthage]
Prior to the Jasmine Revolution of 2011, the government of Tunisia was extremely centralized, and citizens had limited ways to hold it to account. The revolution created a force to change the concentration of power and the ability of Tunisians to hold the government to account. Specifically, the government created a decentralization program supported by the World Bank’s Urban Development and Local Governance Program for Results (UDLGP), along with support programs from other partners including the European Union, Swiss Cooperation.
One dramatic shift the program has introduced is the development and execution of an annual local government performance assessment. Every year, Tunisian cities’ local governments each get assessed by a semi-autonomous agency on a range of areas, which are critical for their ability to effectively govern as well as to deliver services and infrastructure. In the inaugural assessment (2016), the local government of Krib, a town in one of the most lagging interior governorates called Siliana, outperformed all others and achieved the highest assessment score.
To learn more about the program, watch a video with World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG). Check out Tunisia’s first-ever local government website to track the performance of Tunisia’s local governments over time (the results of the 2017 assessment which will be posted soon).
What are Chongqing's plans? How will they affect the lives of the city's residents? Watch a video as World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) and Deputy Director Zhou Tao from the Chongqing Municipal Development and Reform Commission discuss urban regeneration.
- Feature story: In Search for New Drivers of Growth, China Goes from Expanding to Revitalizing Urban Areas
- Report: Regenerating Urban Land: A Practitioner's Guide to Leveraging Private Investment
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Help needs to come immediately to save lives; recovery and reconstruction have to start swiftly to lessen the impact.
However, while money is critical to this response, it’s not just about funding. Indeed, funds need to match the event scale, target the right areas and sectors, and smoothly flow to communities in need. But in order for that to happen, sound public policy on risk and frameworks have to be in place.
To address both urgent financial needs while pursing strategic disaster risk management policy goals, countries have been using the World Bank’s development policy loan with a catastrophe deferred drawdown option or, more widely known as the Cat DDO.