Information and stories on Natural Disasters

Resilience Policies
Not only do natural disasters cost the global economy $520 billion annually but extreme weather also thrusts 26 million global citizens into poverty annually. People enduring poverty experience the adverse effects of floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters more severely because they often live in “fragile housing in disaster-prone areas” and take up employment in industries that are more “susceptible to extreme weather events,” such as “farming and agriculture.” In response to extreme weather and the impact it has on vulnerable populations, the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) released a report that puts forth the idea of natural disaster resilience policies to protect the impoverished from natural disasters and help them to cope with the consequences. The suggestions in this report to the 2016 U.N. Climate Change Conference were to implement early warning systems and improve access to personal banking, social protection systems and other critical investments.

What are Natural Disaster Resilience Policies?

The purpose of a resilience policy is to help those living in developing countries develop resilience, which refers to “the ability of individuals, communities and states and their institutions to absorb and recover from shocks [while] positively adapting and transforming their structures and means for living in the face of long-term changes and uncertainty.”

With calls for a resilience policy package, specific countries can tackle the financial strain that comes after a natural disaster. For instance, in September 2020, Haiti receive a payout of about $7 million “on its Excess Rainfall (XSR) parametric insurance policy following the passage of Tropical Cyclone Laura.” By having their own resilience policies, developing countries can help their most impoverished citizens in the aftermath of natural disasters.

The nature of insurance policies introduced under the resilience policy benefits those facing the impacts of natural disasters by paying out automatically when conditions “meet or exceed pre-agreed thresholds” regarding wind speed, rainfall or economic losses through insurance policies called parametric policies.

The Economic Benefits of Resilience Policies

The World Bank and GFDRR’s suggestions for resilience policies propose improving disaster risk management (DRM) in 117 countries. For instance, Angola, a country in Central Africa, could potentially see “$160 million a year in gains” if the country were to implement “scalable safety nets” to support the nation’s most impoverished citizens in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Countries with resilience policies are already noting benefits. Due to “an innovative insurance program, Haiti, Barbados, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines received a payout of $29 million in support of recovery efforts after suffering the effects of Hurricane Matthew.”

Scalable safety nets must consist of flexible systems and procedures, including registration and payment mechanisms that will “enable the safety net [to] increase (and decrease) assistance when appropriate” and provide “good quality risk information to understand when a shock has occurred” to allow contingency planning to provide the disbursement of the fund after of a disaster.

How Governments Can Assist

Governments can help end global poverty and support those in developing countries after a natural disaster through investments in infrastructure, developing appropriate land-use policies and building regulations. The U.S. Agency for International Development intends to utilize disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs to achieve resilience in countries experiencing extreme weather conditions. Striving for longer-term prevention, the DRR programs will focus on attaining objectives such as “prioritizing and strengthening early warning, preparedness, mitigation and prevention” and “transitions to foster resilience and [support] diversified livelihood strategies” to help impoverished people withstand extreme weather and the impact of natural disasters.

Natural disaster resilience policies can provide better housing and create better employment opportunities for those living in poverty by diversifying the workforce. For instance, in Uganda, “72% of [Uganda’s] labor force works in agriculture,” which is an area that is “highly climate-sensitive.” This puts one of Uganda’s main exports, coffee, at risk in the face of natural disasters or extreme weather events that could potentially prevent the country from producing and harvesting its export. Droughts in 2020 led to the loss of about 50% “of all coffee yields” in Uganda.

By reducing the impact of natural disasters on communities worldwide through resilience policies, poverty can decrease as countries will be better able to adapt to extreme weather changes “and boost the resilience and prosperity of their most vulnerable citizens.” With the ability “to cope, rebuild and rebound,” millions of people can remain out of poverty.

– Grace Watson
Photo: Flickr

Typhoon-Proof Wind Turbines
A Japanese energy startup called Challenergy is creating the first wind turbines that can withstand and harness energy from typhoons. The wind turbines are designed to help countries, especially in Asia, derive some benefit from frequent tropical storms. Typhoon-proof wind turbines could provide a solution to the challenges storm-prone countries often face when they have to shut down standard wind turbines because of typhoons. The robust design of typhoon-proof wind turbines could make renewable energy more accessible to developing countries where tropical storms are prevalent. Building the turbines could also create jobs and protect the environment, which benefits low-income communities.

Deriving Benefits From Typhoons

Atsushi Shimizu, the founder of Challenergy, told Reuters that a central goal behind creating the turbines is to turn typhoons into a positive. Tropical storms have historically caused ample damage to Japan and other Asian countries, but the typhoon-proof wind turbines could make the storms highly beneficial to people and the environment. Typhoons often destroy traditional wind turbines and put them out of service, but the design of Challenergy’s “Magnus Vertical Axis Wind Turbine” withstands and benefits from storms by harnessing powerful wind energy. The turbines could save people, energy and the environment by withstanding tropical storms and providing sustainable energy, even during typhoon season.

How Typhoon-Proof Wind Turbines Work

Challenergy designed the “Magnus Vertical Axis Wind Turbine” without the traditional pointed blades that are characteristic of wind turbines. The typhoon-proof wind turbines resemble egg beaters, featuring square, upright blades that spin horizontally in the wind’s direction. As a result, Challenergy’s wind turbines are sturdier and more able to capture clean energy from typhoons than traditional wind turbines.

Shimizu told CNN that Japan has often imported wind turbines from Europe, but they are poorly designed for areas with frequent typhoons. If Challenergy’s typhoon-proof wind turbines are successful, Shimizu predicts the turbines could provide enough clean energy to “power Japan for 50 years.” Challenergy is on its way to introducing a new, sustainable energy source to Japan and the rest of the world through its typhoon-proof wind turbines.

The Benefits at Large

Every year, Japan experiences around 26 typhoons and other tropical storms, which makes it difficult to maintain wind turbines and harness energy from the storms. Challenergy’s typhoon-proof wind turbines could provide a long-term solution to Japan’s current low capacity for wind energy. The turbines could create jobs in Japan and other countries and provide a reliable source of clean energy amid both normal and extreme weather conditions. Challenergy’s turbines offer a solution to the challenges of integrating clean energy in typhoon-prone countries. The turbines could help all parts of the world, regardless of climate, adopt sustainable energy sources to protect the environment, which everyone relies on to survive.

Challenergy is still testing its wind turbines to optimize performance, but nevertheless, the typhoon-proof turbines offer hope of a clean energy source that will cater to countries that experience an abundance of natural disasters. For many developing countries, this could mean a long-term energy supply that shows resilience in the face of frequent natural disasters in contrast to traditional wind turbines.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Trimble MX7
Natural disasters are detrimental to impoverished regions, and countries like Colombia, where approximately 36% of its population subsists in poverty are no exception. Recent efforts from the World Bank’s Global Program for Resilient Housing have led to the genesis of a Trimble MX7 vehicle-mounted mobile-mapping system that can improve responses to natural disasters in Colombia.

Poverty-Natural Disaster Nexus in Colombia

Colombia has experienced six major earthquakes, four volcanic eruptions, annual major landslides and recurrent extensive flooding in the past 30 years, stunting sustainable development efforts. According to historical records, inadequate land use management and insufficient housing standards account for 80% and 20% of damage and loss, respectively. Impoverished communities lack choice mobility and circumstances force them to settle in areas that are vulnerable to extreme weather. Farming and agriculture, common occupations among working-class people, also lie bare in the face of natural disaster, and above all, such people receive less government and community support for poverty than their wealthier counterparts.

Trimble MX7

The World Bank’s Global Program for Resilient Housing (GPRH) has employed a potential game-changer for natural disaster confrontation and poverty reduction in Bogota, potentially aiding the 27.5% of Colombia’s population that live in monetary poverty. Machine learning algorithms are useful for scanning images that a Trimble MX7 vehicle-mounted mobile-mapping system captures aerially and terrestrially of infrastructure and urban areas that would suffer the most in the event of a natural disaster. The GRPH conceived the idea to capture imagery to detect infrastructure weaknesses and vulnerabilities due to concerns about “soft story” buildings — structures with windows, wide doors and other openings that cannot withstand earthquakes. The “soft story” risk played out on September 19, 2017, when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico, taking 40 buildings from their foundations, one of which was the Enrique Rebsamen school where seven adults died along with 19 children.

The Role of Policy

Policy gets to structure the usage of innovation such as Trimble MX7 to preclude preventable damage from natural disasters. Fortunately, Colombia’s government has recognized this in its National Development Plan and the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit’s (MHCP) Strategic plan, where the latter must develop strategies to reduce liabilities and regulate fiscal risk. The MHCP has identified three policy goals to solidify fiscal risk and give rise to and support a better economy: identification and understanding of financial risk due to disasters, financial management of natural disaster risk and catastrophe risk insurance for public assets.

Conclusion

Natural disasters are a serious concern in Colombia, with the country’s impoverished communities suffering the most from the aftermath. The Trimble MX7 is a promising new technology that will save lives and prevent people from falling into extreme poverty in the wake of natural disasters.

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: Flickr

Floods in Timor-Leste
Between April 29 and March 4, 2021, extreme weather struck the nation of Timor-Leste. Cyclone Seroja created “strong winds and heavy rain,” according to the Associated Press. The U.N. explained that heavy rain, in turn, led to landslides and flash floods during the cyclone. The challenging weather struck Timor Leste’s capital city, Dili, particularly hard. In fact, around 8,000 Timorese people had to move to temporary shelters and 34 people died due to the floods in Timor-Leste.

Since April 2021, the floods in Timor-Leste have received little coverage from Western news sources and the work of rebuilding and providing resources is ongoing. In fact, the country’s government requested more “support to address residual humanitarian needs” in June 2021.

The Current Situation

A U.N. report, dated July 16, 2021, has provided details about which areas still require attention. These include the evacuation centers, which are still housing 730 people, as well as food and water accessibility. As part of its section on “Gender & Protection,” the report stressed the necessity for well-lit bathrooms with lockable doors for both men and women at the evacuation centers. Additionally, the report noted that those living in evacuation centers will need access to materials so that they can fix their damaged homes or build new ones. 

More broadly, clean water and COVID-19 are major concerns. Initiatives to restore the country’s piped water supply system is on their way in order to deliver water to the capital and other areas. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases have risen, and the country lacks supplies and equipment to deal with the pandemic effectively. Cyclone Seroja resulted in the flooding of Timor Leste’s national medical storage facility, leading to the destruction of medical supplies.

The report from the U.N. shows that there is a demand for information as well. In its section on “Education,” the report noted that “[d]etailed information on damages and losses in schools not yet available.” The report listed the problem in regard to its “Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene” section as well.

USAID Food Assistance

Shortly after the floods in Timor-Leste, The New Humanitarian reported that “food affordability [was] emerging as [a] growing [worry]” due to the impact of the floods on crops. In fact, the cost of rice increased by more than 20% in one year. The U.N. has suggested that Timor-Leste implement a referral system to resolve malnutrition. 

On July 8, 2021, USAID announced that it would give Timor-Leste an additional $900,000 in assistance after having given $100,000 in the aftermath of Cyclone Seroja. On July 9, 2021, Kevin Blackstone, the U.S. ambassador to Timor-Leste mentioned that the U.S. aimed to impact “farmers in remote areas” by providing “cash or vouchers to buy seeds,” as well as necessary farming tools.

Further Assistance

USAID’s contribution is only the tip of the iceberg. The U.N’.s report lists many other actions that governments and organizations have taken to aid the Timorese government. Among other measures, the Timorese government has given out 36,600 water purification tablets. Additionally, UNICEF gave supplies to a Tasi Tolu community so that education for children could continue and the UNDP began a cash-for-work program, offering jobs to those who need them. Finally, various organizations have worked to provide education about gender-based violence.

The New Humanitarian’s coverage in April 2021 highlighted the actions of local volunteer groups in Timor-Leste. One woman named Berta Antonieta Tilman Pereira worked on fundraising so that she could start community kitchens for evacuees in the aftermath of the floods. Pereira stated that “the community themselves needs to be organized” because “the system that we’re…supposed to trust and rely on…is totally slow and not responding.” The New Humanitarian pointed out that the Timorese government did not request help from international bodies until April 8, 2021, which was four days after the disaster.

Three months after Cyclone Seroja, much still needs to occur in regard to dealing with the effects of floods in Timor-Leste. According to the U.N., 26,186 “affected families…have received emergency support,” and “[t]he majority of the temporarily displaced have returned home.” However, organizations are also carrying out a great deal of work in the hopes of long-lasting recovery.

– Victoria Albert
Photo: Flickr

Germany’s Recent FloodsFloods across Germany left hundreds dead and thousands displaced. The event not only caused mourning across the European continent but also created questions regarding Germany’s disaster response strategies. However, natural disasters like flooding do not occur often in the nation, so professionals believe that citizens will recover from Germany’s recent floods.

Flooding in Germany

During one week in July 2021, severe flooding occurred across Europe due to dangerous thunderstorms and rain. News sites and governments across the world stated that this natural disaster hit Germany the hardest. The country experienced nearly six inches of rain over 24 hours. Many call it the hundred-year flood. Of the 205 lives lost due to the flooding in Europe, 173 deaths occurred in Germany. Many of those people were located in the worst-hit Rhineland-Palatinate region.

While those missing are still being sought after, recovery teams state that they have little hope of finding any more survivors. However, professionals say that the death toll could have been worse. “The floods are very localized,” Dr. Andreas Sobisch, a John Carroll University political science professor from Germany, stated. “However, Germany does not often have these natural disasters. The floods are still a bit of a shock.”

The Response From German Officials

Germany’s recent floods put a halt to the country’s national electoral campaign for many candidates. Before the disaster, weather experts cautioned German authorities about the incoming rain and potential floods. However, the leaders chose to leave prevention and relief in the hands of local officials. Unfortunately, for many communities, there were no preventative actions. This led to heavy political discussions among the German populous. There are now discussions about what their current representatives will do for flooding in the future. According to AP News, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer stated that many were using the disaster as a time for “cheap election rhetoric.”

Politicians like Angela Merkel are now looking to improve Germany’s disaster relief. She is promoting disaster-triggered phone alerts and improving the nation’s infrastructure altogether. Yet, political competitors are seeking to prevent catastrophes like this from ever occurring again. CNBC stated that those running in the upcoming election are using the floods to promote their campaigns against climate change. Multiple meteorologists claim that the floods were a result of global warming and that there needs to be an active battle against climate change.

How Citizens Are Impacted

Currently, thousands of people have been left without homes due to Germany’s recent floods and the number is only expected to climb. Rescue teams are still searching for the hundreds missing across the country while many citizens are left in shock.

However, on July 21, the German government passed a $472 million relief package for victims of the flood. The funds will be distributed soon. Local officials will oversee divvying out the money. The package is also meant to kickstart the rebuilding of some of Germany’s lost structures, including schools and hospitals.

Although many across the world expect Germany’s reconstruction to be costly, experts believe that recovery can be accomplished in a timely manner. On the note of recovery, Dr. Sobisch states that “Germany’s economy is the same if not better than the U.S.” and that “Germany will not be set back by these floods.”

How to Help Germany

Many organizations are currently working to aid the flood victims inside Germany. A few organizations are offering help, including the German Red Cross and the German Life Saving Association. The district of Rhineland-Palatinate also set up a direct donation program through bank transfers. Other districts followed suit with their donation information available via a search of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance’s online directory.

Laken Kincaid
Photo: Unsplash

Natural Disasters in TurkeyThe year 2021 is setting records in extreme heat and droughts, and Turkey is currently facing its worst heatwave in 30 years. On July 28, 2021, wildfires began to spread across the southwest coastline of Turkey. A total of 156 destructive blazes erupted and killed nine people, during these natural disasters in Turkey. The strong winds, low humidity and temperatures above 204 degrees Fahrenheit helped spread the fires quickly and made it extremely difficult to work towards putting out the fires. According to the Mugla municipality, wildfires have already affected more than 230,000 acres in Turkey.

Under Fire

Disputes have emerged as to whether or not Turkey’s government was prepared to handle such natural disasters. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is receiving criticism for not purchasing properly equipped firefighting planes despite knowing that Turkey often faces wildfires.

The fires began in mountainous southwest Turkey, meaning ground intervention was not possible. Despite the Turkish Aeronautical Association containing previous fires with planes, the government claimed to have no water-dropping planes in inventory.

Floods Follow Fire

Changing weather is causing more extreme environmental events throughout the world, and Turkey is facing several of these disasters. By August 9, 2021, heavy rainfall helped put out all but two fires. Just days after, starting August 11, 2021, Turkey faced flash floods that swept through the Black Sea Coast. With a current death toll of 77 and 47 people still missing, the torrents of water and debris are devastating from these Natural DIsasters in Turkey.

The most heavily hit area is Kastamonu province, where apartment buildings experienced destruction after the Ezine river burst its banks. Additionally, the floods collapsed buildings, destroyed bridges, clogged the streets and cut the power supply. Over 1,700 people were evacuated, with boats and helicopters rescuing many citizens.

Natural Disasters and Poverty

There is a clear connection between natural disasters and poverty; natural disasters disproportionately affect poor people. Following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Turkey’s poverty rate rose above 12%, meaning that these natural disasters will heavily affect many people. Unfortunately, the Turkish government did little to deal with the economic impact of COVID-19, and the lack of support contributed to rising poverty levels.

When facing poverty, any amount of impact on assets or consumption levels is a threat. Often, those facing poverty have to accept living in more risky areas due to affordability, which can lead to devastating outcomes during natural disasters. Additionally, people in low-income countries have less infrastructure to protect them.

A World Bank report found that the impact of extreme weather events on poverty is even more devastating than previously thought. Each year, natural disasters cause consumption losses of $520 billion and push 26 million people into poverty.

Often, events like these increase the damage to buildings, infrastructure and agriculture. These losses only represent the losses of those wealthy enough to lose something, and they fail to show the magnitude that the world’s poor suffer. With this idea in mind, the World Bank warns that natural disasters are a huge impediment to ending global poverty, and it is essential that poor people receive social and financial protection from unavoidable disasters.

The Good News

Poland sent firefighters, police officers and equipment to Turkey in order to help deal with the fires and flooding. Additionally, hundreds of Turkish volunteers banded together to help fight the fire. Volunteers formed a human chain to help carry equipment to firefighters and even put out a hillside fire with instruction from fire crews.

Turkish Philanthropy Funds has set up a Wildfire Relief Fund in order to provide support during the wildfires in Turkey. This support includes provisions of food and emergency aid to help those affected.

– Jacqueline Zembek
Photo: Flickr

Assistance to Haiti
On August 14, 2021, a powerful earthquake hit the Caribbean country of Haiti more than 11 years after the last devastating earthquake struck on January 12, 2010. Like its predecessor, the recent quake has brought about widespread destruction and loss in Haiti. Multiple organizations have stepped in to provide assistance to Haiti during this time of need.

Comparisons to the 2010 Earthquake

The 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti measured 7.0 on the Richter Scale, followed by multiple aftershocks. Recorded history indicates that the 18th century was the last time the country experienced such a powerful tremor. The quake exposed the weaknesses of Haitian building infrastructure due to the country’s “lack of building codes.” Haiti’s electrical power system was similarly unreliable. Estimates indicate that the 2010 catastrophe affected some 3 million people.

2021 Haiti Earthquake Facts

Measuring at 7.2 on the Richter Scale, the recent earthquake has led to the deaths of more than 2,200 Haitians. Around 12,200 people have experienced injury and hundreds of citizens are missing. Infrastructure wise, the earthquake destroyed and damaged about 132,000 homes, 20 schools and 25 medical centers. Of all the Haitian cities, the earthquake hit Jeremic and Le Cayes the hardest. According to seismologists, the earthquake epicenter was located some 78 miles west of Port-au-Prince. Experts also believe that the quake occurred along the same fault line as the region’s 2010 earthquake.

Assistance to Haiti

To date, search and rescue teams are working to locate and recover missing Haitians. Humanitarian organizations have also engaged themselves in relief efforts. One such organization, World Vision, has distributed emergency hygiene kits and food supplies to 6,000 Haitians. Across a five-year span following the 2010 catastrophe, World Vision made measurable impacts, providing millions of affected people with food supplies and hundreds of thousands with shelter, among other efforts.

Additionally, the organization built new schools and established feeding programs for the many displaced, hungry children. The severity of the recent earthquake necessitates similar aid. As such, World Vision’s next target is to provide medicine, shelters, food, water purifiers, agricultural support, child protection efforts and other forms of assistance to an additional 240,000 people.

How to Help

To ensure comprehensive aid, humanitarian groups welcome assistance to Haiti from third parties in the private sector. Organizations also encourage interested individuals and institutions to donate to their disaster relief funds. Another option for ensuring that Haiti receives aid involves sponsoring a child through these same organizations. Besides providing essential services for the child, the sponsorship also provides access to education and healthcare.

Humanitarian groups are coordinating relief efforts with partners to better assist those in need, especially in areas where essential goods and services such as food, water and electricity are in high demand. Many consider Haiti to be one of the most impoverished countries globally. The combined efforts of concerned individuals and humanitarian organizations can help promote the country’s long-term recovery from the cumulative effects of natural disasters, economic problems, the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread social unrest.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Flickr

Cell ServiceWhen a hurricane rips through a Caribbean island, news sites often report the destruction of buildings, damaged roads and lost lives. However, one of the most important things that people lose in a natural disaster is often invisible to a spectator’s eye: cellular connectivity. Cell service is crucial to life in the Caribbean islands, just as it is around the world. When Caribbean countries lose cell service, rescue operations, the economy and society itself grind to a halt. That is why many people have been developing creative ways to ensure cellular access during natural disasters.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria destroyed 75% of Puerto Rico’s cell towers, which deprived 91% of Puerto Ricans of their cell service. The most immediate effect of losing service was the inability of rescue teams to find or assist survivors. For weeks after the disaster, large parts of the island remained unable to communicate with the rest of the world to tell people about the island’s condition.

Rebuilding After Hurricane Maria

The lack of internet and cellular service proved a chronic problem for Puerto Rico as it attempted to rebuild after Hurricane Maria. Businesses were unable to advertise or sell their goods, and people could not coordinate rebuilding projects.

Even a year after Hurricane Maria, 10% of small businesses had not reopened and 40% of the population had lost their jobs or were earning less than they had before the hurricane. Estimates of the total financial cost of the hurricane range from $43 billion to $159 billion.

Cell Service and Subscriptions

In Puerto Rico, the internet is so important that the poorest 40% of the population pay about one-fifth of their income for broadband service. The rest of the Caribbean is equally dependent on connectivity. In most Caribbean countries, there are more cell subscriptions than people. The island nation of Dominica, for example, had 152 cell subscriptions for every 100 people in 2014. While other Caribbean countries have been lucky enough to avoid destruction on the scale of Puerto Rico, cellular and internet access after hurricanes is a region-wide problem.

Organizations Helping

Various organizations have proposed many innovations that could provide access to cell service and the internet in the aftermath of a disaster. One potential solution is internet balloons. These are huge balloons that float more than 12 miles in the air and grant internet access to huge swathes of land. Such balloons can undergo quick deployment in the wake of catastrophe and remain in the sky for as long as necessary. Unfortunately, Google’s Loon, the largest maker of these balloons, has shut down. As a result, the future of the idea is in doubt.

Other solutions also exist. Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) is a special way of sending radio signals in disaster situations. TETRA is a decentralized system, so it can broadcast from boats, storm shelters, planes and countless other mediums.

TETRA is also a two-way system, allowing people to communicate with each other in addition to a central broadcaster. Several Caribbean nations, such as the Dominican Republic, already use TETRA systems to provide both warning and relief to the public.

Natural disasters are inevitable, and so much depends on a country’s ability to respond to and recover from them. Perhaps no factor is as important for recovery as good cellular and internet service. New technology will hopefully ensure that connectivity continues when people most need it.

– Thomas Brodey
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Space Technology Combats PovertySpace technology is a multifaceted tool that can help preserve the environment and improve agricultural success. Space technology combats poverty in communities by tracking global poverty, monitoring natural disasters, measuring pollution, protecting wildlife and managing resources.

Tracking and Predicting Poverty

Space technology is an emerging method for pinpointing and combating poverty. Data from satellites and algorithms can help countries accurately determine the most impoverished communities in need of resources in order to best assist the communities.

For example, nighttime images from satellites can reveal the areas that can afford electricity and the areas that cannot. Nighttime electricity use can have greater implications for economic activity and performance, which governments can study to better understand the distribution of wealth.

Once governments understand the geography of poverty in their countries, governments can distribute resources effectively. Satellites can also capture images of crops to help farmers estimate their harvest sizes. At large, countries can use crop data to understand local economies, assist farmers with crop insurance and warn them about potential crop failure.

Monitoring Natural Disasters

Space technology also combats poverty by monitoring natural disasters around the world. Satellites track a wide range of natural disasters, including wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, storms and floods. Satellites can also locate human-prompted events such as industrial accidents and oil spills.

By tracking global environmental disasters, space agencies allow the international community to pinpoint at-risk areas and distribute aid accordingly. Countries can use satellite data to better prepare for environmental disasters and identify the regions that will experience the most damage, and therefore, require the most aid. Additionally, when satellites predict an impoverished community will experience a natural disaster, the community can more effectively prepare for it in order to mitigate damage and destruction.

Protecting the Environment

Satellites can also be used to measure pollution and protect wildlife. By measuring water, air and soil pollution, satellites can distinguish between natural resources that are safe to consume and natural resources that are best used for agricultural purposes. Satellites can also locate areas contaminated by oil spills and mining activities.

With this knowledge, governments can work more efficiently to contain and address pollution. Additionally, satellites protect wildlife by tracking changes in ecosystems. The use of satellites helps the global community understand and preserve biodiversity by monitoring various habitats and species.

Countries can use information from satellites to make more constructive efforts at maintaining wildlife, natural resources, and ultimately, agricultural success. Space technology combats poverty by protecting the environment and improving agriculture in impoverished areas.

Managing Resources

Space technology can also locate and manage natural resources in impoverished areas. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, space-based innovations are promising solutions to environmental and natural resource-related conflicts in developing countries. Remotely collected data from satellites can inform areas of study such as agriculture, geology, surveying, inventory and land use.

Experts in these fields can use knowledge from satellite data to help impoverished communities maximize land use and natural resources. As a tool for collecting expansive global data, space technology combats poverty by helping developing countries gather and monitor data to make the most informed decisions.

With the help of satellites, governments can locate vulnerable areas and direct aid to the people most in need. Space technology ensures decision-making targets those who will benefit the most.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

housing solutions for the PhilippinesThe homeless population in the Philippines is a staggering 4.5 million, representing about 4% of the population. This number is expected to rise to 12 million by 2030 if no action takes place to address the issue. Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is where a significant portion of homeless Filipinos reside. For this reason, activists often center efforts around increasing housing solutions for the Filipinos in Manila. Hope in solving the housing crisis is rising as efforts begin introducing creative solutions to cater to the Philippines’ unique needs.

Bamboo Houses

EarthTech, an innovative development agency focused on sustainability, recognizes the Philippines’ housing problem as a crisis. EarthTech has proposed an affordable, sustainable and efficient solution: modular homes made out of bamboo. Unlike other housing solutions for the Philippines, CUBO Modular, the designer of the homes, prefabricates them off-site. This means that the homes can be put together on-site in just four hours. The engineered bamboo lasts up to 50 years and absorbs carbon rather than produces it. This makes bamboo a durable and environmentally friendly material.

Solar Paneled Homes

The Philippines has one of the highest household electricity rates in Southeast Asia, often creating a financial burden for low-income houses. Imperial Homes Corporation (IFC) has been tackling this problem through the development of “energy-efficient communities” like Via Verde Homes.

Via Verde houses consume about 25% less water and roughly 40% less energy in contrast to standard housing. IFC also installed solar panels on the roofs of all Via Verde Homes. The solar panels substantially cut down families’ electricity bills, allowing them to afford other essential needs. The IFC continues to work on building low-income, solar-paneled homes in the Metro Manila area. The innovative company has received international attention, winning the ASEAN Business Award for Green Technology in 2017.

Resistant Housing

The Philippines Archipelago experiences an average of 22 typhoons a year. Normally, five to nine of those typhoons cause serious damage. Typhoon Sisang in 1987 demolished more than 200,000 homes, after which the Department of Social Welfare and Development initiated the Core Shelter Housing Project. The Project teaches the Filipino community how to construct their own weather-resistant homes. The Project has created more than 41,000 low-cost houses for people whose homes have been destroyed by annual typhoons. Each home costs about $300 to build. Construction of the homes focuses on resistance, and when finished, can withstand typhoons up to 180 kph. Furthermore, the shelters are built with locally available materials such as concrete and steel. This makes the shelters one of the most ideal housing solutions for the Philippines.

Long-Lasting and Inclusive Urban Development

The Philippines Housing and Urban Coordinating Council, a governmental organization, released a statement addressing the growing homeless population in Manila and other cities in the Philippines. The Council stressed the need for community input regarding housing solutions in the Philippines. Bringing the community into the conversation means leaders can better understand the root problems that affect a particular area.

The Council would focus on long-lasting urban development, meaning permanent housing solutions rather than more temporary and unstable shelters. The statement also addressed the need for increased water and job availability. The Council believes this would holistically solve the Philippines’ housing crisis.

Advocacy and Sustainability

Habitat for Humanity runs a Habitat Young Leaders Build movement that mobilizes youth to speak out in support of homeless communities, build houses and raise funds for housing solutions. Habitat Philippines is advocating the Presidential Proclamations to implement tenure policies for informal settlers who reside in illegal, unused housing, making them vulnerable to losing shelter.

This organization, along with the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development, is in the process of implementing the New Urban Agenda into the development strategy of the Philippines. This Agenda is a document outlining standards and policies necessary for sustainable urban development. Thus, the implementation of the New Urban Agenda would provide the foundation for permanent housing solutions for the Philippines and other urban programs.

Moving Forward

In order to create permanent housing solutions for the Philippines, urban development that includes resources and programs to keep Filipinos out of homelessness and poverty is needed. Housing that is sustainable, resistant to natural disasters and affordable to purchase and maintain will ensure the basic right to shelter for many Filipinos.

– Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Flickr