Information and news about Disaster Relief

Christian Organizations Making a DifferenceMany faith-based organizations are committed to enacting humanitarian work throughout the world. Following the example of Jesus Christ, Christians commit themselves to assisting the most vulnerable populations around the globe. Historically, Christians have helped people around the world who need humanitarian aid and are often forgotten by mainstream organizations. Here are three Christian organizations making a difference to know about.

Three Christian Organizations Making A Difference

  1. Compassion International: Established in 1952, Compassion International is a Christ-centered organization whose main objective is to assist vulnerable children in need. According to its website, this organization takes a “holistic approach to child development” by assisting impoverished children in a variety of areas, from spiritual to economic development. The organization does not view child development as an instantaneous solution but rather a long-term commitment that requires perseverance. Compassion International works with “local churches in 25 countries around the world” to complete its work. It also founded the Child Sponsor Program, allowing donors to sponsor a child for $38 a month. Even such a small donation makes a huge difference in a child’s life thanks to Compassion International. Children supported by the program “are up to 75% more likely to become leaders in their communities” and around 80% are “more likely to graduate college.” In 2019, the sponsorship program connected 2.1 million children with sponsors. This hands-on assistance gives children hope for a future beyond their current circumstances.
  2. Samaritan’s Purse: Inspired by Jesus’ parable about the good Samaritan, Samaritan’s Purse is committed to assisting the poor, sick and suffering around the world. The organization effects change through the broad range of ministry projects that it conducts. Specifically, through its International Crisis Response, Samaritan’s Purse assists people impacted by natural disasters. This program provides food kits and installs community filtration systems to people in need. Crucially, these filtration systems can impact up to 2,500 people, by purifying up to 10,000 gallons of water. The organization also equips these impacted communities with medical teams and transitional shelters. Individuals may work with Samaritan’s Purse through hands-on volunteering or by creating a fundraising campaign.
  3. Cure International: Founded in 1986 by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Harrison, Cure International bases its organization on Jesus’ teaching that the last will be the first. The organization dedicates its work to healing children with disabilities, whose home countries often treat them as the “last.” Cure International established its first hospital in Kenya in 1996, and since then it has established a presence in 14 more countries around the world. These “hospitals have performed more than 213,800 procedures” to treat disorders, such as clubfoot and spina bifida. Anyone can contribute to support Cure International and its work by donating just $39 a month.

These three Christian organizations exemplify the Bible quote, “Faith without works is dead.” As such, these Christian organizations making a difference demonstrate the significant impact that comes from putting one’s faith into action.

Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

explosion in beirutLebanon has long served as a bustling commercial hub for the Middle East. However, in recent years, its burgeoning economic crisis has shifted more and more of its population below the poverty line. This crisis results from a multitude of factors, including Lebanon’s pile-up of debt and the Syrian crisis. This already souring situation took a turn for the worst on Aug. 4, 2020 when an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, left 177 dead, 6,000 wounded and around 300,000 people homeless. Devastating by every stretch of the word, the explosion in Beirut impacted all types of people. Even so, its impact has been felt in different ways across the population. Efforts to recover and rebuild have often overlooked the poorest communities, exacerbating poverty in Lebanon.

Poverty in Lebanon

Much of Lebanon’s poor come from the refugee population. In all, 25% of Lebanon’s population is comprised of refugees, in large part due to the Syrian crisis. This crisis, socio-economic unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic have only kept refugees and other vulnerable families below the poverty line. Just under half of Lebanon’s population is accordingly food insecure. The explosion in Beirut, through which 70% of Lebanon’s commerce takes place, has further crippled an already floundering economy. It has left Lebanon ill-prepared to care for its native people on top of the refugee population it has taken in.

The Poor Take the Backseat in Times of Crisis

Already a vulnerable population in more certain times, the poor fall further when a crisis hits. Impoverished people may struggle to access healthcare and safe shelter during crises. Homeless and low-income populations may struggle to meet their daily needs more during a crisis, when those needs become more precarious and expensive. Furthermore, people with more resources are often better equipped to access available aid and resources. A good example of this phenomenon is the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Many people are concerned about low-income populations obtaining shelter and having access to clean water and medical care.

Similar worries crop up with the crisis in Beirut. Because a large number of people lost their homes, the explosion in Beirut thrust many into homelessness. This made it harder for many people to access shelter and medical aid. Though capacity issues already plague the homeless seeking shelter in Lebanon, the explosion in Beirut created a new wave of displaced people looking for a place to stay. With limited resources, homeless and low-income populations are at an automatic disadvantage for securing their needs.

Long-Term Impacts of the Explosion in Beirut

The explosion in Beirut has launched Lebanon into a series of severe shortages when resources were already tight. After predictions of a low harvest in the months to come with rising crop prices, experts were already concerned about food security for Lebanon’s vulnerable. However, the explosion in Beirut destroyed 15,000 metric tons of wheat stored in nearby silos. In response, various world leaders convened a summit to pledge funds toward the country. They aim to respond both to the disaster as well as to COVID-19’s strain on the nation’s economy and healthcare system.

Before the explosion, Beirut’s healthcare system was already under pressure from the country’s economic downturn. By destroying five major hospitals and 12 primary healthcare centers, the explosion in Beirut further strained this system. Lebanon’s major drug supply was also destroyed, leaving the country with a crippling shortage of essential medications while demand skyrocketed.

In addition, the blast damaged more than 8,000 buildings, leaving many displaced and homeless. Architects and engineers have started a grassroots effort to collect donations and rebuild people’s homes. However, the concern of money weighs heavily on the project, threatening to kneecap it before it has fulfilled its purpose. In all, the population fears that the world will forget Beirut and leave it to deal with the long-term effects of the explosion on its own.

Rebuilding Beirut will be a lengthy process. In the meantime, members of the displaced community are struggling to get their daily needs met. The people of Lebanon lack no determination to do so: all they need are the resources to rebuild and recover.

Catherine Lin 
Photo: Flickr

explosion in BeirutOrganizations all over the world have come together to provide aid after the explosion in Beirut, which killed over 200 citizens on Aug. 4. Medical emergencies, homelessness and food insecurity were all matters of immediate importance identified by these various organizations. Listed below are eight of those organizations as well as information on what they have done to help.

Organizations Helping Lebanon

  1. The British Red Cross created an emergency fund for medical assistance for those affected by the blast. Working with the Lebanese Red Cross, the organization provided immediate medical care to those in need. This critical medical care includes anything from the treatment of potentially lethal injuries to the mental health care needed to cope with the loss of a loved one.
  2. The United Nations’ World Food Programme has focused on providing food to people in Beirut. According to the U.N., the blast not only destroyed grain stores at the port but also threatens future food security, as most of Lebanon’s food comes through the Beirut port. This has only exacerbated an already existing food insecurity problem in the country. In response, the U.N. has sought to distribute 150,000 parcels of food to citizens.
  3. Humanity and Inclusion, an American NGO, sent 100 members to lead critical rehabilitation services. Though the explosion damaged the organization’s Beirut offices, none of its members were injured. The organization sent 100 members to lead critical rehabilitation services, going straight to work providing care for others.
  4. Islamic Relief USA, an organization that provides disaster relief and development aid, has been working in Lebanon since 2006. Accordingly, the organization was quick to react to the explosion. It sought to create supply chains for emergency aid that will have long-lasting effects.
  5. After the explosion in Beirut, UNICEF sent members on the ground to assist with distributing medical supplies and helping first responders. It also handed out items such as blankets and hygiene kits to those in need. UNICEF has estimated, however, that it will need $47 million to properly assist the citizens affected by the blast.
  6. Project HOPE has focused on communicating with health officials to distribute medical supplies. The organization has four emergency health kits that volunteers will disperse, with each kit capable of providing support for 10,000 people. Project HOPE aims to give out even more supplies to those affected by the explosion in the future.
  7. In the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut, Save the Children reported that approximately 80,000 children were displaced. The children’s hospital was also destroyed. Last year, the organization was able to help 85,000 children in Lebanon. In the wake of the explosion, it has teams ready to aid efforts for emergency medical relief.
  8. The International Rescue Committee has provided funds to local organizations in Beirut, focusing on the need for emergency psychological care. According to the organization, 150,000 women and girls were displaced by the blast. Accordingly, the International Rescue Committee has also assisted with cash aid to those affected, to prevent possible abuse and exploitation.

Emergency aid after the explosion in Beirut has become a primary focus of each of these organizations as well as many more. As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, it is even more critical that citizens of Lebanon get the help they need as quickly as possible.

– Aradia Webb
Photo: Flickr

Nonprofits in Lebanon
On August 4, 2020, life in the Lebanese city of Beirut a city with a larger population than Houston changed forever. Two explosions at a port containing ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical, sent shock waves that could be felt as far as 100 miles away. More than 150 people have died and thousands more hospitalized, in need of recovery from various injuries. In response to this recent disaster, nonprofits in Lebanon have launched initiatives to provide critical assistance.

Implications of the Beirut Explosions

Since the explosion — many have gone and remain missing, COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed and the Prime Minister has resigned. Life for Lebanon’s 2 million residents has seen a drastic, negative shift — due to these tragic and catastrophic events.

However, the global community has rushed to Lebanon’s aid. On August 9, 2020, a United Nations-backed virtual conference with participants from Britain, Qatar, the U.S., the E.U., China and the World Bank pledged nearly $300 million in assistance to Lebanon. Here are three nonprofits in Lebanon that are providing aid to those in great need.

3 Nonprofits in Lebanon Providing Assistance

  1. Embrace Lebanon: Embrace Lebanon is an NGO that raises awareness of mental health and challenges the negative stigma surrounding mental health advocacy in Lebanon. The organization established Lebanon’s first National Emotional Support and Suicide Prevention Helpline. This helpline organizes campaigns and collects donations to help improve life for the citizens of Lebanon. Last November, after a period of social and economic instability, the helpline number around the country, at a record rate. Embrace Lebanon received an average of 150 calls per day, as opposed to the previous average of seven calls per day. After such a horrific event colored by death, displacement and loss — mental health support will remain an important service in Lebanon.
  2. Beit El Baraka: Beit El Baraka aims to uplift the citizens of Lebanon by providing low-cost housing, a free supermarket and affordable medical attention to the retired community. The explosions that rocked the city of Beirut left homes uninhabitable — displacing more than 300,000 people and making housing an extreme necessity. In response to the crisis, Beit El Baraka is distributing boxed lunches to people in need and pledges on social media to immediately begin repairing houses. Since its establishment in 2018, Beit El Baraka has refurbished 55 homes, paid 349 bills and given medical attention to 356 patients.
  3. Impact Lebanon: Impact Lebanon is a disaster relief organization with a mission to pursue helpful initiatives in the most efficient way possible. After the explosions, the group launched a fundraiser to assist victims. Impressively, the organization reached its first fundraising goal within minutes. A statement regarding the explosion detailed Impact Lebanon’s commitment to transparency and anti-corruption, as well as outlining how the money would be allocated to different NGOs’ fights to provide relief to those most in need.

Grateful for Hope

After the disastrous explosion, hope has become a scarce commodity. Although seemingly unattainable, support from around the world and aid from nonprofits in Lebanon are making hope much more accessible, one initiative at a time.

Rebecca Blanke
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Flooding in CameroonFlooding in Cameroon is common during the rainy season, greatly impacting the northern regions. In recent years, flooding has worsened in the north and harmed access to livelihoods which has impacted those in poverty. While these natural disasters are not entirely preventable, organizations are working with Cameroon’s government to lessen their effects.

History of Flooding in Cameroon

In 2015, flooding in Cameroon displaced thousands of people. The country’s capital city, Yaoundé, as well as the large population city of Douala, are vulnerable to flooding. By August of 2015, the flooding disaster had impacted 40,000 people in those cities.

The capital itself has experienced 130 floods in the past, between the years of 1980 and 2014. All of those floods caused economic damage as well as the loss of life. Flooding in cities can also lead to disease outbreaks because bugs and bacteria can live in the still floodwater.

In 2019, flooding impacted Cameroon’s northern region. The floods greatly impacted livelihoods because about 70% of people in the area are farmers. When the Logone River overflowed, it impacted the agriculture that occurs on the floodplain next to it. ACAPS, an organization that helps disaster responders through research, reported that the flooding affected things like “fishing, rice production, and pasture.”

The region in the far north of Cameroon is also the poorest. About 75% of the population experiences greater risk during floods because poorer households often live in homes made from materials such as straw roofing. These materials are not durable long-term and are, therefore, negatively impacted by floodwater. This is not the first time the Logone river and the northern region have flooded. In 2012, a flood in the area damaged 30,000 households.

The Path to Recovery

Since 2014, The World Bank has been working on the Flood Emergency Project in Cameroon. This project came into being after flooding on the Logone and in northern Cameroon. About “100,000 are being protected from annual risks of floods,” and disaster risk management and livelihoods in the region have improved.

After the 2015 floods, the government worked to decrease the number of floods that affect cities, particularly the capital. The government built a “drainage canal network” which cost about $102 million USD, according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). The idea of the project is to include a waste treatment and disposal plant as well as four more drainage canals.

“The first phase of the project helped to scale down the number of floods from 15 to three annually. But much still remains to be done in order that peripheries which are still vulnerable to floods are completely freed from related risks,” said Serge Mbarga Enama, an engineer at Yaoundé City Council, to UNDRR.

The government also looked at high flood-risk areas and evicted people living in those places. The danger with evicting people from these areas is that they lack enough compensation for the loss of home and some end up returning to flood-risk areas. Others are at risk of becoming homeless in big cities like the capital.

Aside from looking more closely at those living in high-risk areas, the government adopted the “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.” It is a global agreement that would last 15 years. The goal of the framework is to raise awareness about disasters in order to reduce the effects of flooding in Cameroon.

What is Currently Happening

Since the 2019 floods, the Cameroon Red Cross Society responds to disasters. The organization was able to reach affected areas soon after the floods, only taking a few days. The organization provided first aid and support services, as well as kits filled with essential household items for those in need.

The Cameroon government is still involved with the 15-year Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and working to improve disaster awareness. The UNDRR reported that the program focuses on four key aspects:

  1. Understanding disaster risk

  2. Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk

  3. Investing in disaster reduction for resilience and enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response

  4. To “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Cameroon will continue working on the program until 2030.

Flooding in Cameroon has a major impact on the northern region, as well as big cities such as the capital. While floods impact the livelihoods of people in high-risk areas, as well as impact poorer populations more, different things right now address these disasters. The Cameroonian government along with other organizations are working to reduce the impacts of flooding on the people.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence and Disaster ResponseNatural disasters are a phenomenon that affects countries around the world. The World Health Organization reports that more than 160 million people are affected by natural disasters annually. Estimates from the World Bank also suggest that 26 million people are forced below the poverty line annually due to natural disasters. Technological advancements with artificial intelligence (AI) aiding natural disasters may help countries with their response to such catastrophic events and help reduce these detrimental effects.

Natural Disasters Contributing to Poverty

Across the globe, poorer communities are more negatively affected by natural disasters than wealthier communities. Natural disasters have the potential to cause a major loss of income due to damage to infrastructure, crops, or a decrease in demand and tourism. This loss of income is more significant for those in the low-income category as they have fewer resources to begin the rebuilding process, potentially causing long-term poverty.

History shows that major natural disasters widen income inequalities. After the 2011 floods in Australia, low-income individuals lost an average of $3,100 AUD ($2,141 USD) per year. This lower income was typically maintained for five years after the natural disaster. Contrastingly, middle and high-income individuals gained over $3,300 AUD ($2,280 USD) annually for those five years. This was because emergency aid was more oriented to businesses rather than households, and the wealthy are more likely to own businesses. This example illustrates how low-income individuals are more vulnerable to being pushed into poverty due to a natural disaster.

The U.N. reports that, globally, the largest loss of life due to natural disasters occurs in poor communities. This may be a result of the fact that low-income individuals tend to live in geographical areas that are more prone to natural disasters. Additionally, those who are low-income tend to live in poorly constructed, fragile housing. This was observed in 2010 when an earthquake hit Haiti, where the largest loss of life was in a fragile and over-crowded housing facility, located in a poor community.

Artificial Intelligence Improving Disaster Response

AI is skilled at analyzing and tracking weather patterns to help predict the course and severity of natural disasters. However, technology has previously struggled to accurately predict earthquakes. Geophysicist Paul Johnson has assembled a team to use machine learning to predict these natural disasters. Machine learning uses technology to track data and identify similarities and patterns that occur prior to an earthquake. AI technology will then be able to analyze these characteristics to preemptively detect earthquakes. Johnson’s team has successfully used AI to predict earthquakes in a controlled laboratory setting. This technology would allow the opportunity for civilians to evacuate prior to an earthquake, decreasing injury and loss of life.

The application of this technology will resultingly allow for improved personnel and resource management once the natural disaster is detected. AI technology can now use geospatial observations to identify locations where people may move to during the natural disaster. This will allow officials to accurately complete rescue missions and send supplies to people who have relocated.

This technology will also help model which areas will be most affected by a natural disaster. AI can predict which buildings and roads will sustain the most damage throughout the disaster. This knowledge allows officials to re-route resources and response personnel to more appropriate areas. AI modeling will result in faster response times and more strategic access to affected areas.

McKinsey and Co. is an organization that uses technology to aid disaster relief efforts as a part of its Change That Matters initiative. McKinsey and Company’s AI uses satellite data and an algorithm to assess the damages sustained to a certain area. This allows for the responsible distribution of resources to help rebuild vital community services such as schools and medical facilities.

AI and Poverty Relief

AI is a tool that can be applied to many areas of life. The use of technology and AI is crucial in predicting natural disasters and improving aid responses after the disaster. These abilities and their effects lead AI to have the potential to play a major role in decreasing the number of people who are forced into poverty due to natural disasters.

– Laura Embry
Photo: Pixabay 

Homelessness in Vanuatu
Cyclone Harold tore through Vanuatu in early April 2020 and brought torrential rain, flash flooding and destructive wind up to 145 miles per hour. The storm devastated Espiritu Santo and Pentecost Island, bringing about significant impacts to the rest of the country’s northern and central islands. The cyclone wiped out trees and crops, flooded cities and towns, knocked out power, disrupted communications and destroyed countless homes and businesses. World Vision Vanuatu stated that 160,000 people, which is more than half of the country’s population, became homeless. In some villages, including one on Pentecost Islands, the cyclone destroyed all the homes.

General Relief Efforts

Addressing homelessness in Vanuatu after Cyclone Harold has been challenging due to COVID-19. While the country is one of the few places in the world without any cases, a single outbreak could put the island’s population and healthcare system in jeopardy. Therefore, the country halted international travel, forbade foreign relief workers from on-the-ground efforts and required the decontamination of all aid equipment. As a result, many communities did not see immediate relief.

The Santo Sunset Environment Network and Edenhope Foundation established a coconut weaving program to help rebuild after Cyclone Harold. The program employs people from the island of Tanna in the southern part of Vanuatu. The Tanna weavers held workshops with residents of the affected communities and taught them how to build with coconut fronds, rope and bamboo. Although islanders typically use Natangura palms to construct homes, Harold destroyed most of them, so residents had to adapt. While builders constructed most of the new buildings for communal purposes, they are looking to build private homes and cyclone-resistant buildings as well.

Down Under Rally, an Australian boating tour agency, started Project Nakamal, another local effort to address homelessness in Vanuatu. Down Under Rally also operates in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Its priority is to rebuild the Nakamal structure, a building that locals use for ceremonial and community purposes. These buildings are at the heart of each community and serve as an important facet of Vanuatu society. The boating tour agency teamed up with Port of Call Yacht Services to provide materials for rebuilding. The organization has now exceeded its original fundraising goal of  $10,000 Australian dollars, about $6,948 in USD.

Larger organizations like World Vision Vanuatu set a goal to reach 3,000 households in Sanma Province, which includes the islands of Espiritu Santo and Malo. These organizations collaborated with World Vision’s Asia Pacific regional office and Vanuatu Women’s Centre to raise money for shelter, water purification and hygiene kits to support people with disabilities.

Through the help of U.N. Women, the Vanuatu Women’s Centre was able to make mobile counseling visits to various areas that the storm affected and help homeless women as well as their families. The organization reports that many women were concerned about their children and avoiding domestic violence. While various women called in need of food, water and shelter, others reached out to alleviate violence and sexual abuse.

Future of Relief

Despite the fact that Vanuatu’s carbon footprint is small, it is at the forefront of dealing with challenging weather. According to a study from Griffith University, the University of Queensland and the University of the Sunshine Coast, stronger and more frequent tropical cyclones threaten the island chain due. Rising sea levels also threaten the country, which would only exacerbate homelessness in Vanuatu. The study found that community-centered initiatives were most successful in addressing these issues. These local programs were scientific but complemented traditional beliefs.

It is important to expand and further implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The document received signatures at the U.N. General Assembly in 2015 and set specific goals for disaster mitigation through 2030. The agreement seeks to reduce global disaster mortality, the number of people who disasters affect, economic losses and infrastructure damage. It seeks to increase warning system availability, international cooperation to developing countries and the number of countries that have both national and local mitigation strategies.

Bryan Boggiano
Photo: Flickr

natural disastersWithin the past few years, natural disasters have been occurring more frequently with increasing intensity. Examples of natural disasters include hurricanes, floods, droughts, landslides and earthquakes. The greater the impact, the higher the mortality rate. This results in a higher level of destruction and trauma for those in the region. It is estimated that natural disasters cost the government around “a third of a trillion dollars” to rebuild communities and provide resources for the public.

Natural Disasters in Developing Countries

Natural disasters affect developing countries the most because many lack the resources and funding to protect their communities adequately. Families in developing countries do not live in homes prepared to withstand such disasters. As a result, many face displacement under these tragic circumstances.

Although natural disasters damage communities and put many people through challenging situations, several organizations prioritize bringing relief to these communities. UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity and International Relief Teams are some that focus on bringing resources to developing countries.

3 Organizations Bringing Aid to Developing Countries

  1. Habitat for Humanity: With more than 40 years of experience, Habitat for Humanity focuses on building safe and affordable housing for those affected by natural disasters. Its disaster preparation plan focuses on disaster risk reduction training, disaster-resistant construction and community preparation. In Puerto Rico, 99% of homes do not have flood insurance. In 2017, hurricanes destroyed 90% of the homes there. The organization created 2,000 solar panels, 2,000 solar lanterns and 2,000 shelter repair kits to provide residents with essential repairs. In a partnership with World Vision, Habitat for Humanity also repaired and built homes for 2oo families in the Dominican Republic.
  2. UNICEF: When natural disasters occur, UNICEF is one of the first responders. It provideswater purification tablets, vaccines and nutritional supplements for children and nursing mothers.” It also supplies school kits, temporary shelter and trauma counseling. The organization helps displaced children who may have lost their way looking for shelter reunite with their parents. After Mozambique’s country was swept over by a cyclone in March 2019, UNICEF assisted many families with urgent needs, focusing on malnutrition prevention and locating children who may have been left orphaned. It also helped get children back into school. Within a month, UNICEF gave cholera vaccinations to 900,000 people and restored Beira’s water supply for 500,00 people. It also helped fight malaria by providing 500,000 mosquito nets.
  3. International Relief Teams: In September 2019, category 5 hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas before heading towards the United States. In the Bahamas, 43 people died. During this time, the International Relief Teams provided the Bahamas with 5,000 tarps for temporary shelter, 21,024 ready-to-eat meals. It also set up 158 generators and 2,000 solar lights. The hurricane also destroyed around 45% of homes in Grand Bahama and Abaco. With the help of donations, however, the organization hired local laborers to help rebuild more than 100 homes.

During trying situations and natural disasters, humanity has a miraculous gift of coming together and taking care of one another. Whether providing critical resources or rebuilding homes, many organizations go out of their way to help others.

Paola Quezada
Photo: Flickr

Disaster Risk Reduction in Pakistan
Locust swarms struck Pakistan in early 2020, causing challenges to Pakistan’s agriculture. Agriculture factors into a large portion of Pakistan’s economy, similar to other developing countries around the world. Agriculture alone is 24.4 percent of Pakistan’s GDP and employs 42.3 percent of the total labor force. Pakistan’s exports rely on agro-based industries, such as cotton processing and textile industries. As the fourth-leading cotton producer in the world, cotton related products in Pakistan provided $11.7 billion out of $24.7 billion total export value in 2019. Therefore, a pivotal part of disaster risk reduction in Pakistan is for it to increase its preparedness in dealing with emergencies like locust swarms and other natural disasters.

Disaster Risk Reduction in Less Developed Countries

Less developed countries (LDCs) are particularly vulnerable to disasters. A study suggested that the “effort to reduce poverty and disaster risks are complementary.” The loss from natural disasters makes the life of 26 million people return below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day. Hence, poor people or countries are more often in close proximity to natural disasters and gain less protection than the non-poor.

Another report from the U.N. Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) summarized the measures of disaster risk reduction in LDCs should aim at “reducing vulnerabilities and strengthening resilience in LDCs.” It entails three aspects: recovering from disasters, preventing future disasters and withstanding possible future disasters. Laying down the institutional arrangement is the initial step that most LDCs take.

Disaster Risk Reduction in Pakistan

Before the recent locust swarms, natural disasters, including floods, earthquakes, landslides, droughts and monsoons, were already an outstanding problem in Pakistan’s development. Monsoon season in 2018 caused 134 deaths and damage to 1,663 houses alone. Meanwhile, earthquakes in 2005 caused over 80,000 deaths in Pakistan. The country’s low capability to provide rescue after the earthquakes might have been one major reason for such a high death toll. Therefore, Pakistan established a national disaster emergency system in 2007 called the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). It works to identify natural disaster risks and action plans to provide warnings about them.

Five years after NDMA emerged, its investment in disaster assessment reached $1.4 billion. The ambitious amount of funds is creating room for higher performance of disaster risk reduction in Pakistan. It is also allowing for the building of a monitoring and forecast system across the nation to collect and consolidate hazard data for the assessment of disasters.

International Participation in Disaster Risk Reduction

Several international institutions are developing projects aimed at disaster risk reduction in Pakistan based on the Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction. The framework sets four priorities to embrace more countries and institutions in disaster response including a better understanding of disaster risks, more professional governance in risk management, improved ability in ex-post disaster recovery and more investment in resilience development.

Based on the principles and priorities, the projects for disaster risk reduction in Pakistan cover varied issues. The World Bank offered $4 million of funding to the ERRA DRM program to ensure that Pakistan will be able to establish an early forecast system in order to efficiently respond to disasters. DFID from the U.K. offered $1.5 million U.K. pounds to fund projects to promote the local culture of safety and resilience through education and innovation. The U.N. provided $46 million to ensure that disaster preparedness and other DRR measures are the priority in all-level policy implementation. So far, disaster risk reduction in Pakistan covered most of the disasters. Despite the locust strike being a shock to numbers of farmers, Pakistan NDMA has responded by building up a system to plan against locusts and other natural disasters.

– Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Disaster Risk Insurance and its Benefits
The number of natural catastrophes surpassed the 1,000 mark in 2015 for the first time, according to the United Nations Development Plan (UNDP). The UNDP estimates the total cost from those disasters to be over $90 billion. Only 30 percent of this amount had insurance. Disaster risk insurance benefits places that experience natural disasters because it helps combat them.

Many expect that the frequency of these disasters will grow as populations continue to increase and weather patterns remain unpredictable. Moreover, disaster and development strongly link together which takes away key investment. The poor are more susceptible to disasters due to their inability to uproot their lives and the overcrowded conditions in which they often live.

Between 1991 and 2010, the Overseas Development Institute found that approximately 81 percent of the deaths that disasters caused were people in a lower-middle or low-income status. Ninety-three percent of these deaths came from developing countries.

The Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance (DRFI) Program

Established by the World Bank in 2010, the DRFI program seeks to provide funding and skills to help developing countries establish financial protection strategies. This program seeks to assist national and local governments, as well as businesses, homeowners, agricultural producers and the low-income population altogether. This program implements protection strategies with the goal in mind for the affected country to continue its development strategies while recovering from natural disasters.

How it Works

In 2018, the World Bank issued disaster risk insurance to Mexico, Peru, Columbia and Chile. These four countries are located along the western end of the Pacific Rim, a ring of seismic activity that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. Due to location, these countries are susceptible to damaging earthquakes.

The disaster risk insurance came in the form of a catastrophe bond of $1.36 billion split between the four countries for coverage against earthquakes. The World Bank stepped in to oversee the creation of the bonds and help the countries find investors. Once the World Bank secured investors, many of which were large insurance companies or hedge funds, investors receive a premium for the coverage as payment. Should a big enough earthquake hit one or more of the member countries within the designated time frame of three years, an investor would pay a predetermined portion of the principal of the bond to the affected country.

The African Risk Capacity Insurance Limited

An example of disaster risk insurance outside the operations of the World Bank is the African Risk Capacity. The African Risk Capacity includes countries across Africa and development partners support it. Each member pays into a pool of funding which then goes to countries that do not receive a predetermined quota of rainfall. Within two to four weeks of the rainfall season coming to an end, money goes to the affected countries to help their citizens.

In September 2019, the organization issued a payout of $738,835 to the government of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire after it suffered through a severe drought. The drought affected an estimated 400,000, but the payout will reportedly help up to 32,496 individuals across 6,500 households through a cash transfer program. The CEO of African Risk Capacity, Dolika Banda, stated that the payout is to target women and female-headed households directly because of the disproportionate effect disasters have on women.

Since 2014, the African Risk Capacity Agency has received $73 million in premiums for a total coverage of $553 million toward the protection of 55 million people across the member states.

Disaster Risk Insurance Benefits

While not suitable for preventing damage, disaster risk insurance benefits exist. Insurance can provide greater economic stability and help prevent deaths in the aftermath of disasters. In these times, communities often suffer from a resource shortage that easily accessible capital can assist.

Governments have limited debt because the investments their countries use to rebuild comes from the outside. Disaster risk insurance also provides incentives for risk reduction efforts by offering lower premiums.

While these financing efforts are not a catch-all solution to the damaging effects of natural disasters, they can be a critical tool to help prevent developing countries from regressing.

 – Scott Boyce
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