Information and stories on Natural Disasters

2010 Haiti Earthquake
The catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti a decade ago has birthed a very different humanitarian crisis. On January 12, 2010, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed over 250,000 people with 300,000 more injured. The 2010 Haiti earthquake was the most destructive natural disaster the region had suffered, displacing over 5 million people and destroying nearly 4,000 schools. The earthquake’s epicenter was at the heart of the metropolitan area in the capital city Port-au-Prince. Ten years later, 4 million people are experiencing severe hunger with 6 million living below the poverty line.

The Root Problem

These consequences led to many social and political setbacks. Before the 2010 earthquake, 70 percent of people lived below the poverty line. Now, a nationwide study indicates that one in three Haitians needs food aid and 55,000 children will face malnutrition in 2020. Despite others allocating $16 billion in aid to the island, the nation has lapsed in food security due to a lack of international investments and funding.

Humanitarian Response

Recurring climate events such as prolonged droughts and Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti on October 4, 2016, have resulted in the destruction of agricultural sectors and infrastructure. The hurricane took the lives of an estimated 1,000 people. The island also suffered a cholera epidemic in 2010 that resulted in over 8,000 deaths. Since then, thousands reside in makeshift internal camps—once regarded as temporary housing—without electricity or running water.

World Vision’s relief fund aims to provide essential care to residents through agricultural support, emergency food supplies and medicinal materials. Donations and sponsorship of children alleviate many of the poverty-stricken burdens. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the organization’s unified efforts brought food to over 2 million people. Other international humanitarian organizations have received critical reception over discrepancies in rebuilding efforts and the disbursement of funds.

Political Unrest

Various ambassadors and nations followed with many humanitarian responses and appeals for public donations such as the European Council providing millions of dollars in rehabilitation and reconstruction aid. Frequent political turmoil has curbed humanitarian progress in Haiti. In September 2019, thousands demanded the resignation of President Jovenel Moise over his mismanagement of the economy, which impacted poorer populations the most. For more than 50 years, the World Food Program has attempted to build resilience in the political and economic framework of Haiti through school meals and nutrition, and disaster preparedness. By preparing food before the hurricane season, the program can meet over 300,000 people’s needs. It delivers daily meals to 365,000 children in approximately 1,400 schools across the nation. Other organizations that provide sustainable development projects and emergency relief include CARE, Food for the Poor, Midwest Food Bank and Action Against Hunger, among others.

The humanitarian crisis a decade after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti requires a level of urgency. Millions in Haiti are facing unprecedented levels of severe hunger due to a lack of funding and economic and political stability. International organizations are vital to providing aid and care to these populations, and the world’s growing awareness of this issue is just as important.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in The Bahamas
The Bahamas is still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which greatly injured two of the countries’ islands in late 2019. However, the residents are facing a bigger challenge involving access to clean water and toilets, which is putting them at great risk of a major public health emergency. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in The Bahamas.

10 Facts About Sanitation in The Bahamas

  1. The Lack of Access to Clean Water: A lack of access to clean water often becomes a public health issue very quickly. A lot of the water in The Bahamas became contaminated with salt water right after the hurricane. Water Mission, a nonprofit organization based in North Carolina, designs, builds and implements safe water and sanitation solutions. After the Dorian hurricane, the organization tried to help sanitation in The Bahamas by implementing a process called fine-filtration, which removes salt from water through reverse osmosis.
  2. Diseases: Each day, around 6,000 children die from waterborne diseases around the world. The Grand Bahama Island experienced flooding after Hurricane Dorian, potentially increasing the transmission of waterborne diseases like diarrhea and cholera. UNICEF has provided aid by providing WASH services. Additionally, Heart to Heart International has been on the ground in the aftermath of Hurrican Dorian, administering tetanus vaccines to prevent infections from unclean water.
  3. Sewage: The Bahamas has always struggled to bring clean water to its community. The Water and Sewerage Corporation emerged in 1976 to help bring clean water to all islands and received $32 million from the World Bank. By 2014, the corporation had saved over one billion gallons of water through the reduction of water losses in New Providence.
  4. Hospitals and Housing: The Bahamas has 28 health centers, 33 main clinics and 35 satellite clinics plus two private hospitals located in the main inhabited islands. After the Hurricane hit the Islands, the International Medical Corps provided help to The Bahamas by bringing in doctors and nurses, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene specialists and 140 water kits comprising of family filters and hygiene kits.
  5. Economy: With 14 other islands in good shape in the aftermath of Hurrican Dorian, the government encouraged tourists to not cancel their vacation trips. The Minister of Tourism in The Bahamas said in an interview with The New York Times that the only means of aiding those in the north of The Bahamas was to continue tourism in the other 14 islands. This would allow the country to rebuild Abaco and Grand Bahama and help fix sewage and provide clean water. Around 4 million tourists visited The Bahamas in the six months before the hurricane, and only 20 percent of those travelers visited Abaco and Grand Bahama Island. This represented more than half of its gross domestic product.
  6. Health Care: Health Care has been one of the main priorities in The Bahamian governments’ agenda. In fact, it directed 12 percent of its budget to health. Around 47.2 percent of the general population had health insurance, and females were more likely to get insurance (47 percent) than males (45 percent). The primary care package in The Bahamas is medical services, medications and imaging and laboratory services. After the hurricane, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) sent professionals to assist in on-site assessments of health infrastructures and water sanitation and hygiene facilities (WASH) that had operation rooms flooded with contaminated water.
  7. Urban vs. Rural: Urban areas often bring development, better health care and living conditions. However, despite the fact that The Bahamas has a high percentage of urban areas at 83 percent in comparison to the 16.98 percent of rural areas, it still has limited water development. In fact, the country is not in the top 20 for the Caribbean.
  8. Current Poverty Rate: Sanitation in The Bahamas is always in danger because of the constant threats of new storms passing by the islands. In 2017, before hurricane Dorian, 14.8 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. That percentage grew rather than decreased leading up to 2017.
  9. Population Growth: The Bahamas had a population of 392,225 as of 2020, but has been suffering a decrease since 2007. In that year, the growth percentage was at 1.7 percent, whereas it was at 0.97 percent in 2020. With the increase in population, the National Health System Strategic Plan is aiming to educate communities to ensure optimal health and good quality of life. However, even with numbers, The Bahamas is still a country with limited basic sanitation services.
  10. Menstrual Hygiene Management: After hurricane Dorian, many women and adolescents did not have shelter or access to toilets. This presented a lack of privacy and compromised their ability to manage menstruation hygienically and with dignity. The Women’s Haven, a company distributing organic feminine hygiene products, wants to help Bahamians by switching to a better approach that will help improve their menstrual hygiene.

While Dorian impacted sanitation in The Bahamas in late 2019, the challenges for clean, accessible water continues to affect Bahamians today. With continued investment in tourism and the involvement of relief organizations, The Bahamas should hopefully recover soon.

– Merlina San Nicolás
Photo: Pixabay

Facts about Homelessness in NepalNestled almost entirely in the Himalayas, the country of Nepal is home to more than 28 million people. Unfortunately, homelessness burdens more than 250,000 people and an additional 2.8 million are bound to life in the slums, many being children. Political instability, natural disasters and a weak economy are all factors that contribute to the state of homelessness in the country. However, campaigns and organizations like Children & Youth First are improving the quality of life for some of Nepal’s poorest citizens. Here are five facts about homelessness in Nepal.

5 Facts about Homelessness in Nepal

  1. Around 25 percent of Nepali people are living off less than $1.90 a day. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. More than a quarter of its population lives below the poverty line. This means that thousands of families are living off a little more than a dollar a day, which makes owning a home nearly impossible. This statistic directly affects the rate of homelessness in Nepal, which is extremely high and will only continue to rise if nothing is done.
  2. Natural disasters are destroying homes. Due to its location along the slopes of the Himalayan mountains, Nepal is prone to natural disasters. The country is at a high risk for earthquakes, floods and landslides. All of these are disasters capable of destroying hundreds of homes in an instant. In 2015, an earthquake demolished more than 600,000 homes, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless and costing about $10 billion worth of damage. A reported 22,000 people were injured. The humanitarian response was large, however, and Nepal received worldwide help with disaster relief from various countries including Bangladesh, China and India.
  3. Homeless children in Nepal are vulnerable to a number of threats including drug addiction and child labor, which are both crippling to a child’s potential. Because they do not have access to constant shelter or a safe environment, these children’s education and futures are often compromised. Fortunately, organizations like Children & Youth First are working to rescuing these children from the streets and give them a space to learn, grow and thrive in a safe and supportive environment. In addition to rescuing homeless children from living on the streets, this organization also helped to rebuild the rural government schools that were destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.
  4. The Children & Youth First also started the  Life Vision Academy program is changing the cycle of poverty by allowing homeless children to unlock their potential. Life Vision Academy is one of the most successful programs when it comes to reversing the impact of poverty in Nepal. At Life Vision Academy, formerly marginalized children are allowed the opportunity to construct a future free from the burden of homelessness. LVA also offers a program that trains homeless and underprivileged children in STEM, which ultimately broadens their horizons.
  5. In December of last year, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) launched a campaign that was able to rescue and rehabilitate around 750 homeless people from the nation’s capital in just two months. KMC provided necessities like shelter and health screenings to the rescued individuals. It also helped to reunite a large number of them with their families. In addition to this, the campaign also offered rehabilitation for any people affected by drug addiction.

Homelessness in Nepal is still a prevalent issue, but organizations are working to improve the lives of those affected by poverty. By rescuing people from the streets, rehabilitating people and giving homeless children an opportunity to tap into their potentials, these campaigns and programs are helping to lift the burden of homelessness from the country.

Hadley West
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

Non-Profits and Natural Disaster ReliefNon-profit organizations place volunteers in remote, developing countries during natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. Non-profits extend the reach of companies and governments in saving lives. Here are 10 facts about non-profits and natural disaster relief in 2019 and 2020.

10 Facts About Non-Profits and Natural Disaster Relief

  1. Experience Mission is a Christian, non-profit mission. It offers one week or up to nine-month immersion mission trips. Chris Clum founded this non-profit organization in 2003 in order to aid and form relationships with residents of third world countries. Abbie Thiebaut, an EM mission trip leader, went to Dorado, Puerto Rico shortly before the start of 2019 when Hurricane Maria struck the island. Hundreds of volunteers showed up as well in the course of seven months, she reports.
  2. Hunger Corp is a non-profit organization that focuses on the Amazon, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria destroyed most of the island of Puerto Rico in 2018, and Hunger Corp has continued with relief efforts since then. Hunger Corp rebuilds homes for Puerto Rico’s citizens, shows farmers agricultural solutions and supports local social-aid projects like Experience Mission. Hunger Corp partners with Experience Mission as well, recruiting hundreds of volunteers.
  3. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (CIRFRC) in Damascus, Syria saved more than 200,000 men, women and children from storms in January of 2019. They pull people from under debris and snow, provide medical services and nurture victims until they are able to fully recover. Syria, a developing country, faces destruction from harsh winter weather, floods, sandstorms and cyclones. CIRFC, one of the few non-profits in Syria, arrives at the scene each time there is a crisis.
  4. REACT International base of operations is in Glendale, California. This organization plans to prepare people for hurricanes. REACT International is a communications-based organization. Two ways the company provides help are through instructions available online and volunteers who speak via radio to the public.
  5. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a nonprofit that encourages U.S. foreign policies to send help to developing countries. It also aims to create healthy change within developing nations to jumpstart their own independence. USAID has a section specifically for post-disaster care called the United States Foreign Disaster Assistance, or USOFDA. USOFDA has spent $100,000 on foreign assistance in the Philippines since January 12, 2020. The Taal Volcano in the Philippines erupted on Jan 12 and destroyed the surrounding area. USOFDA was there to give medical care to thousands of injured people. This organization is staying in the Philippines to support the Filipino government’s efforts to restore and rebuild its nation.
  6. World Vision is another nonprofit that includes disaster care in its program. World Vision is currently partnering with USAID to provide the Philippines with supplies including food, water, shelter, safety and clothes. The nonprofit has 37,000 staff members and volunteers working in at least 100 countries.
  7. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) “provides knowledge, funding, and technical assistance” to its partnerships with other NGOs like USOFDA. It focuses on preventing future natural disasters as well as teaching nations like the Philippines to recover after disasters.
  8. Global Giving is an online source that creates a network between regular citizens who want to donate, government agencies, companies and nonprofits. Headquartered in Washington D.C., the website GobalGiving.Org has been operational for 17 years, raising $390 million during that period. Global Giving’s Disaster Recovery Network has a long-term recovery fund to rebuild Mexico City, Morelos, Puebla, Oaxaca and Chiapas in Mexico after three earthquakes destroyed communities and homes there in 2017.
  9. Heart to Heart International’s (HHI) mission statement is to “strengthen communities through improving health access, providing humanitarian development and administering crisis relief worldwide.” HHI helped Mozambique after Cyclone Idai hit in 2019, sending a response team to work with its residents. It helped them evacuate and provided basic needs like food and water. The non-profit also sent Mozambique medicine through partner companies like FedEx and UPS.
  10. Direct Relief is a non-profit organization headquartered in Santa Barbara, California. On January 8 of this year, Direct Relief reported that there was only one casualty when an earthquake hit Puerto Rico despite the structures such as businesses and homes that were destroyed. Running water was no longer available. Direct Relief sent at least 10 teams to bring medical supplies and medical care to Puerto Rico.

Volcanos, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and more devastate the globe. These 10 facts about non-profits and natural disaster relief in 2019 and 2020 give a peek into the amount and kind of work that is often needed to rebuild many developing countries in nature’s aftermath. Evacuating cities, preventing future disasters, healing victims and providing food and shelter are relief efforts that become more effective when organizations work together. Non-profits and government agencies need to cooperate to save lives. Currently, the United States government spends only 1 percent of its budget to fund nonprofits. Its impact can increase exponentially if more funding is given to the U.S. foreign policy.

– Sofia Ponomareva

Photo: Pixbay

CDC Intervention in Haiti
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere with a UNDP national poverty index ranking of 68th. The country is also home to one of the world’s most populated cities without a centralized sewage system –  Port-Au-Prince. Although the developing country is vibrant, Haiti is still struggling. Since the initial destruction that the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 brought, cholera and HIV have ravaged the nation. However, as a direct result of the CDC intervention in Haiti, the nation has not fallen. The CDC has provided financial and technical assistance to the Government of Haiti (GOH) since 2002. In the 2010 earthquake’s aftermath, the CDC refocused on both immediate health necessities and public health systems within days of the U.N.’s arrival. CDC intervention in Haiti assisted the GOH in developing disease surveillance systems and establishing a competent public health force aimed to aid Haiti in developing a proper disease outbreak response.

This past decade, Haiti has not seen much progress due to reform efforts growing stagnant. Subsequently, the changes the country has seen thus far have turned out to be unsustainable and/or have been ill-fitted solutions to Haiti’s unique predicament. Fortunately, CDC intervention in Haiti has been critical to the continued survival of many, and the number of people saved will hopefully continue to grow.

Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic and the CDC

The GOH and the CDC have also been collaborating to devise a longterm plan to eliminate cholera. CDC intervention in Haiti has increased patient case surveillance, laboratory capacity, oral cholera vaccine (OCV) administration and clean water and sanitation access in efforts to curb cholera’s spread

One of these efforts includes the Haitian Ministry of Health (MOH) building the National Cholera Surveillance System (NCSS) in conjunction with the CDC support. The platform is a rapid identifier of concentrated outbreaks, providing critical guidance to further prevent future outbreaks. Thanks to these efforts, along with others, incidence rates dropped from 112 cases per every 100,000 in 2017 to 25.5 cases for every 100,000 in 2018.

The CDC’s “Foot-Soldiers” in the Battle Against Cholera

Through the design of training programs, protocols and supplemental assistance, the CDC has created an entirely new workforce titled TEPACs or officially the Techniciens en Eau Potable et Assainissement pour les Communes. Having been key in Haiti’s disease prevention, these “foot-soldiers” ensure the safety of water sources, improve sanitation standards and routinely assess communal water systems and sources for free chlorine. They also performed Haiti’s first inventory of those sources; inventory of resources provide valuable information to donation/volunteering groups. Alongside the efforts of the CDC, TEPACs has launched the WASH initiative – coordinated work in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene – in a supplemental effort to eradicate cholera from Haiti.

CDC Impact On the AIDS Crisis

It is estimated that 150,000 people living in Haiti have HIV/AIDS. CDC intervention in Haiti is achieving more control over the AIDS epidemic. Outlining the concern of the epidemic and the impact of CDC support, 98 percent of all pregnant women and 100 percent of TB patients that CDC clinics saw received tests for HIV. Further, all TB patients that tested positive for HIV also received antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2018. 

The CDC and the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have sought to better medical treatment, fortify health care systems, improve laboratory information networks and cover medical fees. The development of information-sharing systems to track data of HIV patients has saved countless lives.

CDC Provides Household Water Treatment and Storage

The CDC also implemented household water treatment and storage (HWTS) to support adequate sanitary conditions for Haitians. HWTS has the potential to provide safe drinking water in primarily rural households. CDC intervention in Haiti has offered HWTS product certification developmental protocols and a national strategy for HWTS programs and product evaluation. The Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement (DINEPA) intends these programs to support disease prevention and treatment in Haiti.

A Solution to the Underlying Sanitation Problem

While recovery has been slow, CDC intervention in Haiti has been an immensely influential factor in public health. One aspect of public sanitation the CDC does not have a direct influence on is the waste that litters Haiti.

Today, the capital, Port-Au-Prince, is still without central sewage. With every rainfall, a potentially lethal flood of human fecal matter, urine and other harmful substances accompany the water. 

The country is in dire need of infrastructure reforms specifically for the needs of Haiti and its people. The CDC has dedicated itself to controlling and minimizing epidemics, but it has yet to address flooding latrines and a lack of proper sewage disposal systems despite their inflammatory influence on disease.

Flaure Dubois has a potential solution to Haiti’s flood problem. Dubois proposes the Haitian government hire those working to clean latrines, called Bayakous, to create jobs for Haitian citizens. Officializing the Bayakou occupation would bring a wage increase and higher public esteem. If the GOH and the CDC work in conjunction with Bayakous to educate citizens about the dangers of raw sewage, people might be more willing to pay for Bayakou services. Further, it would encourage the sewage shipment to treatment plants, rather than it going into canals. A larger influx of latrine waste enables Haiti’s one functional plant to operate at peak performance and support economic growth in the sanitation sector.

Government-funded Bayakous provide a basis to expand Haiti’s waste-management industry, eventually increasing aptitudes for efficient waste treatment/disposal methods. Expansion of this industry could result in a higher degree of sanitation and a lower rate of disease transmission.

The GOH or the CDC’s involvement in waste management would lead to superior safety and higher circulation of information for Haitian citizens and workers in the sanitation industry. Employing Bayakous has the potential to sponsor the country’s most important pillar in ensuring safe water sources and sanitation. By offering better equipment, methods and working conditions CDC intervention in Haiti can support sustaining health improvements. Haiti needs a sustainable solution to the root of its sanitation problem before it can begin to have lasting-recovery.

– Hana Burson
Photo: Pixabay

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

Flooding in Jakarta
Citizens of Jakarta rang in the new decade with fervor and enjoyment, accompanied by slowly rising brown floodwaters. The citizens ascended to the streets, but before long some found themselves swept up in one of Indonesia’s worst floods in the past 150 years – one that the country could not have prepared for. The floods have displaced over 400,000 people and 66 people have died within the first week of 2020. But importantly, this crisis of flooding in Jakarta has disproportionately affected the impoverished regions of the city, which received little public attention.

Increasing Population Affecting Poverty

Jakarta, like many quickly expanding metropolitan areas today, faces the challenge of a rapidly increasing population accompanied by many migrants to the city – a number which experts expect to reach 70 percent of Indonesia’s population by 2025. This rapidly expanding population makes it difficult for the current infrastructure and housing to adequately accommodate the increasing demand, therefore increasing construction rates and skyrocketing real estate prices. As a result, the poorest citizens are living dangerously close to areas that flood almost every year under normal conditions.

Adverse Weather Patterns Creating  an Impoverished Population

Unlike typical cities, half of Jakarta lies under sea level. The city has been sinking roughly 10 centimeters every year due to years of uncontrolled groundwater draining by large companies. This sinking conjoined with regular seasonal flooding creates enormous problems in terms of designing infrastructure. Further, increasingly dramatic typical weather patterns in Jakarta have made the extreme weather events less predictable, specifically flooding in Jakarta. The combination of dramatic weather events and poverty in Jakarta creates a cyclic system where temporary aid seems to be adequate when in reality it only serves as a temporary fix, allowing the cycle of destruction to propagate.

The government of Indonesia has taken measures to house displaced residents of Jakarta. Additionally, most of the electricity in the area is up and running again. However, the long term goals of President Joko Wikodo reflect a sentiment that does not seem to include the protection of citizens and the prevention of these incidents. Instead of continuing plans for a sea wall to protect the city from rising sea levels, President Wikodo intends to move the capital to a less populated, drier site on Borneo island. Though this might be a valid idea, this all but abandons the poorer communities in Jakarta, leaving these citizens behind without the resources to move.

Aid to Reduce Current Flooding in Jakarta

In the meantime, many aid measures occurred to help with the most recent round of flooding in Jakarta. All of the local shelters have sufficient food and medical supplies to harbor the 400,000 displaced people. Moreover, most of Jakarta’s citizens returned to their homes by the second week of January 2020. Aid methods, ranging from foreign financial and medical support to internal medical workers, continue to prove an effective yet temporary fix for the greater problem of the flooding in Jakarta.

– Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Wikimedia

Worst Tsunamis in modern history
Tsunamis have existed on Earth for as long as there have been oceans. A tsunami is a series of ocean waves that the displacement of water triggers, whether it be by landslide, volcanic eruption or earthquake. The word “tsunami” comes from two Japanese words, “tsu” meaning harbor and “nami” meaning wave. There have been a countless number of tsunamis on the planet. These are the five worst tsunamis in modern history.

5 Worst Tsunamis in Modern History

  1. The Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004: On the morning of December 26, 2004, an underwater earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 triggered a massive tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean. The tsunami first struck Indonesia followed by Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, South Africa and 11 other countries in a matter of hours. With some waves ascending over 100 feet, this tsunami has the highest recorded death toll with over 230,000 lives. Estimates determined that the material losses from the immense destruction were about $10 billion. There was also long-term environmental damage, displacing hundreds of thousands of people as the tsunami destroyed villages, resorts, farmland and fishing grounds. Prior to this tsunami, there were no proper preparations and communication strategies in the Indian Ocean for these types of disasters. Since then, scientists have prioritized improving the understanding of tsunamis and altered the way research and preparations are conducted. Of the five worst tsunamis, this one is the deadliest of them all.
  2. The Messina Earthquake and Tsunami in 1908: Southern Italy suffered devastation from both an earthquake and a tsunami in the early morning of December 28, 1908. The 7.5-magnitude earthquake and tsunami almost completely destroyed Messina and several coastal towns in both Italy and Sicily. This disaster claimed at least 80,000 lives and forced thousands more to flee. Even 100 years later, scientists still struggle with the origins of the earthquake and the tsunami. A recent study in 2019 has finally found the fault responsible for the earthquake in the Mediterranean. The combined force of the earthquake and the tsunami makes this disaster one of the five worst tsunamis in modern history.
  3. The Valdivia Earthquake and Tsunami in 1960: The most powerful earthquake in recorded history occurred on May 22, 1960, off the southern coast of Chile. The 9.5-magnitude earthquake arrived with a Pacific-wide tsunami with waves as high as 80 feet. The earthquake and tsunami claimed 1,655 lives, injured 3,000 and left two million homeless in Chile. The tsunami swept across the ocean, resulting in millions of dollars in damages in Hawaii and killing people in Japan and the Philippines. Estimates determined damages in Chile alone to be about $550 million. This disaster is significant because it was the largest earthquake ever recorded and caused the first global tsunami. This tsunami left no corner of the Pacific Ocean untouched, leaving devastation in its wake and making it one of the five worst tsunamis in modern history.
  4. The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011: One of the worst disasters in Japanese history is the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region in Japan on March 11, 2011. The earthquake had a magnitude of 9.0 and a series of waves followed, reaching as high as 132 feet. This disaster claimed over 15,500 lives and left more than 450,000 people homeless. The damages to infrastructure from this event were far greater than any other tsunami in modern history. People estimated that the material losses were $300 billion and the tsunami also resulted in a level seven nuclear meltdown and release of radioactive materials at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Six million Japanese households were without electricity and one million were without running water. About 270,000 people had to evacuate due to the nuclear emergency. While the cleanup was still ongoing, the radiation levels dropped faster than people expected and people deemed some areas to be habitable again.
  5. The Sunda Strait Tsunami in 2018: The Sundra Strait Tsunami occurred on December 23, 2018. This is the third major tsunami to originate in this area, the first being in 1883 and the second in 2004. This tsunami came with no warning even though the area previously endured two of the worst tsunamis in modern history. At least 373 people died with reports of hundreds more missing and the displacement of almost 2,000 people. While the rest of the list dwarfs this number, what makes this tsunami one of the worst is the fact that the death toll could have been less had people put the proper preparations in place. People only found out that volcanic activity by Anak Krakatoa caused the tsunami after the fact. However, the tsunami warning system was flawed, as its design was only to detect seismic activity, not volcanic, which allowed for this tsunami to come by surprise.

When one imagines the five worst tsunamis in modern history, it suggests that these are the largest or deadliest tsunamis. While most of these tsunamis are among the deadliest, what makes them the worst is that they came when people least expected them. However, each one of these tragedies posed a lesson that allows people to take better preventive measures to save as many lives as possible.

– Emily Young
Photo: Flickr

environmental factors affecting impoverished communities
The environment can have profound effects on impoverished communities by being a huge force in either aiding or hindering developing countries. Those facing extremely impoverished conditions often rely almost solely on the health of their environment in order to sustain a clean, resourceful and plentiful living environment. An abundance of varying environmental factors like temperature, average rainfall, wildlife, water sources, soil nutrients and pollution levels can contribute to the general well-being of citizens in impoverished communities. Meanwhile, a lack of resources that could improve significant environmental factors in comparison to the more advantaged higher-class community can put impoverished communities at an automatic disadvantage. The quality of water, the availability of natural resources and the vulnerability to natural disasters are all aspects of how the environment affects impoverished communities.

Quality of Water

Water sources available to a community can come in many forms and are critical to the everyday life of communities in poverty; the quality of local water sources and the resources available to maintain good quality water are examples of how the environment can have an effect on poor communities. Citizens of impoverished communities often cook, clean, drink, fish, irrigate their crops and bathe in shared water sources. This shows just how critical the quality of this water can be to an entire community.

Low-infrastructure regarding water filtration and purification can cause an increase in health problems. One of these health problems can be cholera, a potentially life-threatening disease common in impoverished communities due to water contamination. The accumulation of trash, dumping of hazardous materials and daily reliance on a source of water can cause contamination.

Availability of Natural Resources

Natural resources also assist in a community’s prosperity and serve as an example of how the environment affects impoverished communities. A rural community often relies on natural resources like agriculture and soil quality, livestock and genetic diversity and forests and fisheries for multiple reasons. A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) revealed the positive effects of maintaining natural resources in impoverished communities. The study successfully expanded access to land in South Africa, increased access and management of forests in Bolivia, supported the sustainable management of watersheds in India, improved access and management of fisheries in Samoa and enabled the poor to be a part of the carbon market in Mexico. The FAO study also exhibits that an increase in natural resources can increase job opportunities for local citizens. More consideration and funding for natural resources, as well as education, can increase the well-being of an impoverished community.

Vulnerability to Natural Disasters

An impoverished community often faces increased vulnerability due to the devastating effects of natural disasters. Some natural disasters are hurricanes, tornados or tsunamis. The World Bank study reports that the effects of natural disasters cost the global economy $520 billion a year. This estimate is 60 percent higher than any previous estimate once it properly considered impoverished communities. Impoverished communities are especially vulnerable because there are few prevention and action emergency plans due to improper resources. Stronger government support and improved technology to better prepare for upcoming disasters could decrease the risk of detrimental effects.

A significant disadvantage low-class communities face compared to higher-class communities occurs because of an extreme lack of infrastructure, funding towards protecting natural resources and governmental prevention and action plans in the event of a natural disaster. Studies by the FAO and The World Bank demonstrate the importance of even one factor of the environment that affects impoverished communities. Once impoverished communities can put more focus into taking care of the environment, they can start building themselves from the ground up.

– Kat Fries
Photo Credits: Google