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

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

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
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Disaster Response in the PhilippinesAnnually, about 10 tropical storms develop in the Philippines, with averages of eight to nine reaching land. These numbers do not include other disasters the country faces such as typhoons, earthquakes, monsoons and so on. Despite being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, efficient communication with technology in the Philippines allows social media, Google Person Finder and satellites, to provide the best relief efforts. Keep reading to learn more about the top three ways technology helps disaster response in the Philippines.

3 Ways Technology Helps Disaster Response in the Philippines 

  1. Social Media: Social media is indeed a connecting source and finds its strength in aiding the response to disasters with quickly spreading information that is, in turn, easily accessed. Popular media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter updated by disaster area residents offer real-time updates about the current on-ground situation.

    Thanks to organizations such as the Standby Task Force, established in 2012 by Andrej Verity, these social media updates become pillars for relief and rescue. For example, in its use for supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. These updates transform traditional on-ground humanitarian efforts into digital humanitarian efforts with online volunteers.

    Through a streamlined process, volunteers tagged Haiyan-related social media posts. Then, sifting through them for relevancy, otherwise known as digital micro-tasking. Finally, submitting them to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to compile a crisis map. With the widespread information thanks to social media, digital humanitarians take a hands-on approach to affecting the on the ground situation. Given that the combined concentration of thousands of volunteers provide time efficiency, a necessity when it comes to saving lives quicker.

  2. Communication Technology: Other communication technology such as Google Person Finder assists in finding missing persons in the Philippines. For instance, in 2012, monsoon floods from Typhoon Saola caused increased landslides and flash floods; flooding at least 50 percent of the country and creating severe rescue conditions with strong currents. There were at least 900,000 affected families and 11 individuals missing.

    For those looking for the missing or stranded, Google’s free Person Finder tool comes in extremely handy as all one needs to do is input the individual’s name. At the same time, Google cross-references entries from other websites with information about missing persons to ping and locate leads.

  3. Satellite Technology: After Haiyan, most of the traditional methods of mobile communication infrastructure diminished, thus requiring the need for something more reliable, such as satellites. Learning from the Haiyan damage, the nation’s most high-risk disaster areas now have mobile satellite equipment for easy deployment. This new tech brought forth by Inmarsat and the United Kingdom Space Agency, provides a reliable and sustainable communication method for the worst disaster days expected.

    Another example is the Tacloban Health Cluster which utilizes satellites to canvas and coordinates public health response in the worst disaster-stricken areas, allowing better tracking of diseases and medical conditions throughout disaster times in hospitals and clinics. This data collection does not only help respond in real-time. Additionally, it is beneficial for understanding health trends after a storm to allow for a more proactive approach following the next impending storm the islands are known to face.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr