Pakistani Flood ReliefWhen the Indus River flooded Pakistan in 2010, the effects were widespread and devastating. Among those that were hit hard were Pakistani children whose schools were severely affected by the flooding. It is estimated that the floods destroyed or damaged more than 10,000 schools. Fast forward 11 years later, however, USAID has announced a major milestone in the now eight-year-long Pakistani flood relief project called the USAID-Sindh Basic Education Programme. USAID reports the completion of 106 schools in Sindh, a province stricken by flood damages.

The 2010 Indus River Floods

The Indus River floods in July and August 2010 were a result of massive monsoon rains causing severe flash flooding in Pakistan. The floods were estimated to have damaged or destroyed more than one million homes and affected more than 20 million people in the region. The impact was felt in just about every area of life in Pakistan.

Industries like farming and healthcare were severely hurt by the floods. Farmers were estimated to have lost millions of acres of usable land and more than a million livestock. Additionally, more than 500 hospitals or clinics in the region were reportedly damaged or destroyed.

On top of this, data from UNICEF in 2010 indicated that more than 1.6 million children either saw their schools damaged by floodwaters or converted into shelters. The massive displacement of children even resulted in fears of a rise in militia kidnappings at the time.

In total, the economic impact of all of that damage done by the floods was estimated as a loss of $43 billion.

USAID’s Pakistani Flood Relief

USAID has given more than $159 million toward education relief following the flood, with $81 million of the funding put directly toward the construction of new schools in northern Sindh. The money helped facilitate the completion of 106 schools, with 14 additional schools targeted to be finished by 2023. The schools will help serve more than 50,000 students in Sindh whose schools were affected by the flood.

These new schools have been built with the inclusion of elements like laboratories and computers in order to turn them into templates for the kind of high-quality educational standard that can hopefully be provided to other areas in the country in the future.

The State of Pakistan’s Education System

Despite efforts, Pakistan’s education system still faces challenges. According to UNICEF, just 56% of Pakistani children between the ages of 5 and 16 are currently in school. This means the country has more than 22 million children in this age range out of school, making Pakistan the country with the second-most out-of-school children in the world.

Additionally, significantly fewer children are enrolled in secondary school compared to primary school and significant gaps exist in overall schooling services. Socioeconomic gaps, for example, are prevalent in areas like Sindh where only 48% of the most impoverished children in the region are in school.

In other regions like Balochistan, significant gender gaps have emerged. Only 22% of girls are in school in the region. This reflects an overarching gender problem which can be seen in the disproportionate number of boys compared to girls in the education system as a whole.

Nevertheless, USAID’s newly completed schools as part of the Pakistani flood relief efforts represent the start of positive progress being made in the country’s education system. With each and every effort, Pakistani children are given an opportunity to rise out of poverty.

Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disaster Aid in Paraguay
The landlocked Republic of Paraguay is prone to a wide range of natural disasters. Floods and droughts affect the most benighted areas of the country. Fortunately, both national and international agencies are taking action in aiding the local population, working through COVID-19 preventive measures that have delayed the arrival of natural disaster relief packages.

Natural Disasters in Paraguay

Paraguay experienced its worst floods in 2015 and 2019. Since then, the country has confronted subsequent natural disasters in the regions of Boquerón, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay, with more than 2,400 families and 80,000 individuals affected. Even though Paraguay is one of the most humid countries in the region with a fairly high precipitation rate, climate oscillations have been destabilizing already vulnerable communities. As a country relying primarily on crops and cattle raising, fluctuations in climate and natural disasters can prove fatal for the rural population, not only putting the local economy at risk but also increasing the chances of infections through water-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.

As the South American country that has experienced the steepest exponential economic growth in the last thirty years, Paraguay has taken long strides to increase income per capita and reduce inequality. However, most of its economy is commodity-based, which makes it extremely sensitive to fluctuations in climate. Floods tend to be an especially dire calamity since they directly affect the agriculture, animal husbandry and hydroelectric energy industries.

Increasing Climate Resiliency

According to the World Bank, Paraguay ranks 95 out of 181 countries in the 2019 Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative. This renders the country fairly vulnerable to climate catastrophe, primarily because of a lack of response and strategic planning. Climate indexes such as this one serve to acquire relevant diagnoses and eventually form sector-specific policies that can aid development outcomes.

It is necessary for the national government to take action to increase climate resiliency by adopting adaptation implementation efforts. Policymaking is crucial in this area, prioritizing investments for more efficient climate mitigation techniques in vulnerable rural areas.

A Four-Part Plan

The Paraguayan government has been taking action against these threats. The Ministry for National Emergencies (SEN) alongside the country’s National System of the Environment (SISAM) have devised a comprehensive plan to diminish natural disaster impact in Paraguay. The plan has been included in Paraguay’s Sustainable Development Goals for disaster risk reduction and consists of four parts:

  1. Understanding the extent of damage that natural disasters may cause. This includes encouraging research for preventive purposes and using ancestral indigenous techniques in farming to reduce the environmental impact that slash-and-burn techniques have on climate catastrophe.
  2. Increase governance in areas prone to natural disasters. The government is committed to creating laws related to aid in cases of floods and droughts, and beginning to build sound infrastructure to easily aid affected areas.
  3. Invest resources in building said infrastructures, such as roads and municipal buildings that can withstand harsh environmental conditions. This goal also expects to increase cooperation between national and regional authorities for quick aid relief.
  4. Ameliorate time of response by authorities and communities. This means not only investing in disaster-proof establishments but also empowering individuals and promoting universal access to reconstruction and rehabilitation.

International Assistance

In addition to the government, international aid organizations are also providing natural disaster relief to Paraguay. For example, USAID has been active in Paraguay since 2004, providing aid in the aftermath of 10 disasters. The World Bank has also been focused on helping Paraguay improve disaster preparedness. The organization has identified research gaps within Paraguay’s climate disaster response, including climate variability and water resources. Additionally, the World Bank has led economic-environmental feasibility studies, which are currently lacking. These efforts are all designed to ensure Paraguay has the resources necessary to overcome natural disasters.

Alongside conscientious data-gathering for the prevention of natural disasters and natural disaster relief, international assistance is crucial: it has not only proven helpful during calamitous environmental instances but also during a yellow fever outbreak, the subsequent seasonal dengue epidemic and COVID-19. Moving forward, USAID, the World Bank and other international organizations must continue to prioritize addressing natural disasters in Paraguay.

Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Addressing Water Scarcity in Mexico City
Mexico City is the largest city in the Western Hemisphere with about 22 million residents. Additionally, the city uses a lot of water. Mexico City draws on a vast sub-surface aquifer to supply water to millions of residents. Water scarcity in Mexico City continues to increase due to the aquifer shrinking every year.

The Problem

Water scarcity in Mexico City is surprising because the city should have plenty of water. In fact, the area receives more annual rainfall than London, leaving one to wonder where it all goes.

The answer to that question lies partly in Mexico City’s other water problem: flooding. The heavy rainfall that occurs every year during the wet season results in floods that stop traffic, damage buildings and cause sewage overflow. The city has created infrastructure to channel rainwater out of the area to prevent flooding. Furthermore, the existing infrastructure that pipes water is outdated and inefficient. Mexico loses about 40% of water due to leaky pipes. As the city expands and more concrete and asphalt cover the ground, less water will percolate through the soil into the aquifer. In short, as the city expands, the aquifer will get exponentially smaller.

Widespread shut-offs of city pipes are becoming more common due to the growing water scarcity. This disproportionately affects impoverished areas of the city. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this problem and has made the already unreliable water distribution trucks even harder to find for thousands of residents.

Isla Urbana

The nonprofit organization Isla Urbana teamed up with Mexico City’s government regarding the rollout of a rainwater catching system. This system promotes sustainable, reliable water access in areas outside of the city’s central hydraulic network. Additionally, this system goes on the roof and costs around $750. Furthermore, it catches and filters rainwater for use in bathing and household chores. Carbon filters can provide potable water. Additionally, Isla Urbana’s system is capable of supplying households with 40% of their annual water usage.

However, rain-catching systems have the obvious shortcoming of requiring rain to function. Mexico City does receive heavy rainfall. Yet, the city receives rainfall in only a few, select months. It also experiences a few large storms.

Ecoducto

The Mexico City planners decided to bury the area’s biggest river under concrete to make room for more buildings. Since then, the now underground river has become contaminated with waste from the city and is unusable without filtration. Thus, Ecoducto is one project that aims to use natural vegetation to filter the river’s water for public use by uncovering the river. Ecoducto is a 1.6 km long linear, living park above the Rio Piedad that also functions as a completely natural filtration system.

Furthermore, it takes water from the Rio Piedad and removes up to 99% of the bacterial content in the river. Ecoducto removes E. Coli from up to 30,000 cubic meters of water per day. Fortunately, Ecoducto costs much less to build and maintain than more expensive, fossil-fuel-reliant treatment plants. Furthermore, it currently operates at a fraction of the scale that the entire Rio Piedad could if it were daylight.

Both proposed solutions to combat water scarcity in Mexico City are in their early stages. In addition, the government’s promotion of both points to an initiative that improves water quality and access. As the weather becomes increasingly unreliable due to environmental challenges, solutions such as Isla Urbana’s rain-catching systems and the Ecoducto represent the future for sustainable and affordable resource use.

– Kieran Hadley
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in Malawi
In March 2019, Cyclone Idai submerged vast regions of Southern Malawi, displacing 86,980 people. Local fishermen in dugout canoes found families stranded in tree branches and brought them to the displacement camps that UNICEF built. Communities escaped the flooding in Malawi because UNICEF and the local population worked together tirelessly.

Paddling to Safety

Heavy rain and strong winds led to dangerous flooding in Malawi, resulting in the worst natural disaster in Southern Africa in 20 years. In just a few days, fishermen brought tens of thousands of people to safe, dry land. Once the floods came, one fisherman (a watchman at a port in Nsanje) paddled across a cyclone-induced lake and helped people who were stuck along the way. He found people stranded in trees or rooftops who were hungry and injured. Many of them lived in branches for days because the floods suddenly engulfed their farmland and village. He charged $1.37 per person but allowed people to ride for free if they could not afford the price.

When Maria’s village became inundated, she lived in a tree for several days with her child and five chickens. Finally, she saw a canoe on the horizon, and a fisherman came to offer his services. Maria could not save her belongings in the flood so she used all she had left, her chickens, to pay for the ride. Onshore, they traveled to a temporary shelter in Khungu Bwe Camp, one of 187 camps in Malawi where UNICEF helped those displaced by the cyclone.

UNICEF Displacement Camps

Children are at risk of diseases such as typhoid, cholera and diarrhea if they do not have sanitation and hygiene services. In the camps, UNICEF built temporary toilets, filtered the water supply and hired local actors to educate residents on hygiene, health and sanitation. One cast in Malawi performed a comedy skit about the dangers of open defecation for several hundred people. Through skits and community radios, UNICEF sent information about hygiene, especially cholera prevention, to 600,000 Malawians.

Updates

Fortunately, Malawians are returning home or resettling into safer areas. However, women and girls face additional challenges after the storm because their unpaid labor typically includes collecting clean water. Water points and sanitation facilities are farther away, which increases their commute and risk of gender-based violence. Additionally, women are extremely unlikely to legally own land, so they struggle to reclaim their farmland when they come home.

In Malawi, UNICEF holds “children’s corners” which foster children’s psychological support, play and recreation in the aftermath of traumatic events. By May 2019, 10,000 children participated each week.

The death toll in Malawi, 60 people, has decreased from the 2015 Cyclone Bansi death toll which almost hit 200. This reduction is due to lessons Malawians learned from the last cyclone and meticulous preparations for another disaster. UNICEF stockpiled supplies in flood-prone areas so it could relocate people faster than before. Most importantly, it involved the local community, creating a more efficient and knowledgeable response team. Cyclone Idai caused insufferable flooding in Malawi but it was no match for a team of local fishermen and humanitarian workers.

– Rebecca Pomerantz
Photo: Flickr

Flood-Tolerant Rice BenefitsRice farming and production impacts the lives of millions throughout the world. Rice is the staple food of three billion people globally and a source of income for many. The farming of rice also contributes significantly to the economic growth of many countries. Especially within developing countries, the success of rice production is crucial for feeding individuals and creating economic stability. Flood-tolerant rice benefits developing countries reliant upon rice for livelihoods, food security, and the economy’s stability.

Environmental Challenges Affect Rice Production in India

Recent changes in the climate have caused rice production volatility due to flooding and drought. As many as 4.8 million people in India are exposed to river flood risks each year. In India, environmental challenges have had an especially negative effect on rice crops as floods have overtaken many viable planting areas. This flooding has disproportionately affected low-income farmers. These farmers often work with less reliable plots of land that are more prone to flooding. Without the development of techniques to help combat extreme weather, both the livelihoods of low-income people within India and the general Indian economy will experience a significant socio-economic impact.

Swarna Sub-1 Rice

A strain of flood-tolerant rice called Swarna Sub-1 has been a major development that addresses crop damage due to flooding in India. As a mixture of two different rice varieties, this scientifically developed plant is able to withstand intense flooding. This type of rice has been on the market for use since around 2009; however, many farmers have not had access to the rice strain until recently. This is largely due to the lack of information about the existence of Swarna Sub-1 and a lack of accessibility to it.

Flood-Tolerant Rice Benefits

The introduction of flood-tolerant rice has allowed for an increase in rice production, as J-PAL studies have shown. J-PAL is an organization that researches innovative solutions to global poverty. The increased rice production throughout India has had an incredibly positive effect, both economically and socially, as there is a larger supply of rice boosting local economies. As impoverished farmers have seen more successful rice harvests, they have been keener to cultivate a greater amount of farmland and make riskier agricultural decisions. Farmers have also invested in fertilizers to further increase crop health as they are more sure of their ability to create a solid income through rice farming. Additionally, precautionary rice savings decreased, suggesting farmers have perceived lower risk of crop losses with the flood-tolerant rice.

Swarna Sub-1 seeds increased rice yields by about 10% over the course of two years, as seen in the study. Researchers stated that the productive behavior changes among farmers who planted Swarna Sub-1 accounted for 41% of the long-term increase in rice yields. The higher yields also increased the income of farmers by roughly $47 per hectare.

The Potential of Flood-Tolerant Rice

These flood-tolerant rice benefits have improved the livelihoods of impoverished farmers in India while also contributing to food security and local economies. Increased access to flood-tolerant rice varieties in developing countries has the potential to improve lives and lift people out of poverty.

– Olivia Bay 
Photo: Flickr

floods in southeast asiaTraditionally, the people of Southeast Asia benefitted from small floods that enriched the soil and prevented bigger floods. However, human interference with the rivers has disrupted their natural ecological processes and increased long-term damage. The disruption of crops, destruction of land and the displacement of people due to flooding increases poverty, especially during Southeast Asia’s current economic crisis. Mitigating steps are necessary to prevent the harmful effects of floods in Southeast Asia.

Destructive Floods in Vietnam

In October 2020, heavy rains in Vietnam caused massive flooding that destroyed homes, land and agriculture. A massive 178,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 700,000 livestock fell victim to the floodwaters.

Described by the president of the Vietnam Red Cross Society as “some of the worst we’ve seen in decades”, the floods in Vietnam have affected around five million Vietnamese people, which will push more people toward poverty.

Urban Flooding in Cambodia

In Cambodia, cities such as Phnom Penh suffer from the effects of urban flooding. Urban flooding is unpredictable and has wide-ranging consequences, from the disruption of everyday life to the spreading of waterborne diseases. As is commonly associated with climate change, the poor are hurt the most by urban flooding, for their ability to prepare and recover from damages is significantly weaker than other classes.

Roughly 250,000 people living in Phnom Penh are living in informal settlements and deal with inadequate waste management and infrastructure. Stagnant bacteria-ridden water from floods can linger for eight months after floods, spreading a host of waterborne diseases to those in proximity. Furthermore, as the economy is projected to decrease by 4% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, poor people are increasingly likely to be trapped in cyclical poverty.

COVID-19 Stalls Decades of Growth

Despite decades of deadly civil war, Cambodia has made consistent progress towards reducing poverty before COVID-19. Over the past two decades, life expectancy has increased 10 years, poverty has been reduced from 47% to 13%, and growth in the country averaged out to 8%.  Additionally, the country lowered infant mortality rates from 10% to 2%.

While Cambodia’s COVID-19 cases are very low, with zero deaths thus far, the contraction of the global economic market has led to financial struggles for its citizens. The poverty rate is expected to balloon back up to 20% as a result of the economic crisis. The sectors hit hardest include the tourism and garment industries, where demand from its Western consumer base has drastically fallen.

Measures Against Floods in Southeast Asia

Although the nature of monsoons is unpredictable, the extent of the damage and destruction of floods can be mitigated. One recommendation is for Southeast Asian nations to commit to curbing emissions in order to combat climate change, which can increase the volatility of weather. Climate change reduces the ability for scientists to estimate long-term trends and build dams to control flood levels.

Additionally, the concept of leaving room for the river has become popular. This concept essentially promotes soft engineering, or removing human technology from rivers and allowing their ecological processes to be carried out naturally. Furthermore, allowing and managing small floods can benefit the land and those cultivating it while preventing big floods.

Though natural disasters cannot be controlled, efforts from organizations and governments may help the country’s resilience in the aftermath of floods in Southeast Asia. Such efforts can provide instant relief to affected people and may also help to alleviate overall poverty in the countries.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in LibyaLibya has been a regular victim of severe flooding for many decades and the problem is only becoming more severe. Heavy rains have caused significant problems, with flooding and landslides in urban and rural areas making day-to-day life infeasible for thousands.

Flooding in Al-Bayda, Libya

On November 6 2020, Al-Bayda, Libya, experienced torrential rains and extreme flooding, resulting in the displacement of thousands. High water levels on public roads have made daily commutes impossible for many. Additionally, the floods have left thousands without electricity and have greatly damaged properties.

The flooding of 2020 is reminiscent of the flooding in the Ghat district in 2019, which affected 20,000 people and displaced 4,500. In June of 2019, flooding devastated areas in south Libya and damaged roads and farmland.  Central infrastructure suffered unrecoverable damages, setting the region back. Areas prone to disaster are significantly limited in their progression and development when devastation is so frequent.

Flooding and Poverty

The pattern of flooding in Libya has consistently contributed to problems of economic decline, poor infrastructure and poverty. As one of the most common natural disasters, flooding impacts impoverished areas more severely because their infrastructure is not built to withstand floods or landslides.

Poor countries take a long time to recover from the impact of flooding because they do not have the resources and money to repair property damage and help people to bounce back from the effects. War-affected countries are even more vulnerable and Libya is such a country affected by war and conflict.

Within the country, a two-day holiday was declared on November 9 and 10 of 2020 due to the extreme flooding and $7 million has been allocated to address damages in Al-Bayda municipality.  Since the flooding, there has been little recognition and support from the international community.

Humanitarian Aid

A humanitarian aid team from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation (ECHO) assembled to provide aid to support the city of Al-Bayda and other cities vulnerable to flooding in Libya. The team worked to gather information and identify what resources are most needed to help families get back on their feet and be better prepared for future severe flooding and weather. Cleanup efforts are ongoing and teams started using satellite imaging and other data-collecting resources to help assess and plan for resource distribution.

The Need for Foreign Aid in Libya

In response to Libya’s chronic vulnerability to severe flooding, in 2019, the U.S. Government provided nearly $31.3 million to address the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected populations throughout Libya. Since the floods are ongoing, ongoing assistance is needed. Proactive and preventative measures need to be implemented in response to the devastating pattern of flooding in Libya. These are expensive investments, however, and Libya cannot implement these preventative measures alone. Help from the international community is crucial in order to create a more resilient country.

– Allyson Reeder
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