But can we go further, making disasters even ‘duller’ by also releasing finance before a disaster strikes?
UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, recently set out a compelling vision for how the humanitarian system can be improved. He argued that “disasters are predictable… we need to move from today’s approach where we watch disaster and tragedy build, gradually decide to respond, and then mobilise money and organisations to help, to an anticipatory approach, where we plan in advance for the next crises, putting the response plans and money for them before they arrive, and releasing the money and mobilising the response agencies as soon as they are needed…”
disaster risk management
While historically confined to medical and academic research, challenge funds – competitive financing for innovative solutions to entrenched problems – have gained traction in the international development field over the last decade.
Pioneered by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), challenge funds have championed transformational disruptive technologies, such as M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile money transfer service. The electronic payment system, which allows users to withdraw, deposit and transfer cash through their mobile phones, started as a pilot project funded by DFID’s Financial Deepening Challenge Fund. Today, more than two thirds of Kenyans use the channel, and the innovation has changed the scope of financial inclusion programs globally.
: refugees, rapid and unsustainable urbanization and climate change, failure to meet basic infrastructure needs, youth unemployment and disengagement, and stubbornly poor health and education outcomes, to name a few. Set against a backdrop of political and public pressure to do more with less – and see results faster than ever – even the most optimistic among us are likely to view the glass half empty.
In his “The People of the Abyss,” novelist Jack London describes in grim detail a devastating storm that rocked London in the early 20th century. Residents suffered terribly—some losing as much as £10,000, a ruinous sum in 1902—but none lost more than the city’s poorest.
Natural disasters are devastating to all affected; however, not everyone experiences them the same way. A dollar in losses does not mean to a rich person what it does a poor person, who may live at subsistence level or lack the means to rebound and rebuild after disaster strikes. Be it a drought or flood, the poor are always hit harder than their wealthier counterparts.
This disparity was closely examined in the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) report, Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters. Unbreakable recommended a range of policies to help countries reduce poverty and build resilience, providing cutting-edge analysis on how disaster risk management (DRM) and well-designed development can alleviate poverty and risk in 117 countries.
The link between poverty and disasters is becoming clearer – new research shows that extreme weather events alone are pushing up to 26 million people into poverty every year. With forces like climate change, urban expansion, and population growth driving this trend, annual losses have passed more than $500 billion annually, and show no signs of slowing.
With limited time and resources, however, adequate preparedness for these common events is often neglected in developing countries. The result is a pattern of deficient recovery that is imperiling sustainable development, and leaving millions of the most vulnerable behind.
How many school children can be endangered by the schools themselves? The answer was over 600,000 in metropolitan Lima alone.
In the region, fraught with frequent seismic activity, nearly two-thirds of schools were highly vulnerable to damage by earthquakes. Working with the Peruvian Ministry of Education (MINEDU), the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) conducted a risk assessment that ultimately helped make an estimated 2.5 million children safer and paved the way for a $3.1 billion national risk-reduction strategy.
Whether it is building safer schools or deploying early warning systems, disaster risk management is an integral part of caring for our most vulnerable, combating poverty, and protecting development gains.
Over the last 30 years, the world has lost an estimated $3.8 trillion to natural disasters. , and to undo decades of development progress overnight.
Social safety nets – predictable cash grants to poor households often in exchange for children going to school or going for regular health check-ups – have become one of the most effective poverty reduction strategies, helping the poor and vulnerable cope with crises and shocks. Each year, safety net programs in developing countries lift an estimated 69 million people living in absolute poverty and uplifting some 97 million people from the bottom 20 percent – a substantial contribution in the global fight against poverty.
Along the beach in Mondouku, Côte d'Ivoire, a group of fishermen have just returned with their catch. Many of them come from neighboring Ghana, and they tell us that they come to the Ivorian part of the coast because there are more fish here. Still, they explain that the fish are smaller in size and number compared to previous years. The beach they are sitting on is lined with small hotels and cabanas destroyed in a storm surges over the past few years. A bit further down the coast, near the Vridi Canal, we speak with Conde Abdoulaye, who runs the lobster restaurant that his father ran before him. Even at low tide, the water laps against the steps of the restaurant and a retaining wall which he has rebuilt numerous times. He says he knows it is inevitable that at some point the sea will swallow his restaurant, and he will have to leave. He blames the canal for most of the beach erosion, but also acknowledges that changing weather patterns and increasing storms have contributed to the damage.
Intense drought can devastate a country. . Dealing with both at the same time? That’s just another day for too many countries around the world that struggle to accurately predict weather- and climate-related disasters while simultaneously dealing with their effects.
Today, World Meteorological Day recognizes the benefits of accurate forecasting and improved delivery of hydromet services for the safety of lives and economies. Hydrological and meteorological (or “hydromet”) hazards – weather, water, and climate extremes – are responsible for 90 percent of total disaster losses worldwide. Getting accurate, timely predictions of these hazards into the hands of decision-makers and the public can save lives, while generating at least three dollars’ worth of socio-economic benefits for every one dollar invested in weather and climate services – a win-win. But less than 15 years ago, even the small amount of hydromet investment that existed was fragmented, with little hope of producing sustainable results.
Volcanic eruptions capture the imagination with their awe-inspiring power, but why don’t they capture the attention of decision makers and development professionals working to build resilient communities? People visit Pompeii in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, and see the once thriving community destroyed within minutes from a major past eruption, but it does not resonate with their day-to-day lives. We see spectacular footage of erupting volcanoes in the media, but we rarely think about what it means for communities who live within the reach of the multiple volcanic hazards that can occur during eruptions.
This wasn’t always the case. For 11 years from 1980, volcanic eruptions were at the forefront of the minds of those working in disaster risk management. At the opening of the decade, Mt. St. Helens violently erupted, claiming the lives of 57 and causing over USD1 billion in damage in the USA. Two years later, El Chichon erupted in Mexico killing at least 2,000. In 1985, a very minor eruption of Nevada del Ruiz volcano triggered a massive deadly mudflow (lahar) that killed 23,000 people in the town of Armero, Colombia. A year later, 1,700 people were killed in their sleep by volcanic gases from Lake Nyos volcano in Cameroon.