Information and stories on Natural Disasters

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

Solutions to Volcanic EruptionsThroughout history, volcanic eruptions have caused countless injuries, deaths and destruction. Many of the eruptions include concurrent disasters beyond the direct flow of lava. These include tsunamis, agricultural deterioration and aerosols that cloud the atmosphere and reduce local or even global temperatures. This was the case during and after the eruption of Tambora in Indonesia in 1815, which claimed more than 100,000 lives. Since then, volcanoes continue to cause numbers of casualties while damaging infrastructure and impacting productivity around the globe. Many people view volcanoes as unstoppable forces of nature. In reality, there are several ways to mitigate the damage that volcanoes cause and the resulting poverty. It is impossible to stop volcanoes from erupting, however, several solutions to volcanic eruptions can help prevent loss of life and property.

Volcano Observatories

The most important factor in mitigating the damage caused by volcanic eruptions is predicting when the eruptions will occur. The endangered people are then able to evacuate accordingly. Accurate predictions tend to rely on established observatories near a given volcano. Each volcano observatory is occupied by a handful of experts who monitor the volcano’s behavior in order to predict eruptions.

Beyond merely existing and making accurate predictions, observatories should “have credibility and formal agreements with local and national governments.” This promotes effective action in times of crisis, as referenced by geologist Jacob Lowenstern. Historically, observatories were among the most important solutions to volcanic eruptions. However, the observatories can be expensive to build and maintain and require investments in equipment, technology and software. Recent innovations may allow developing countries to predict eruptions at a more affordable cost.

Deep Learning AI and Satellites

Historically, volcanologists have relied on ground observatories to predict eruptions. Due to recent innovations, it may be possible to reliably predict eruptions from satellites. Satellites are much less expensive to maintain as a whole. Satellite information was once unreliable due to noisy data, however, deep learning AI is increasingly proficient at filling the gaps in the data to form useful information. Currently, a group of researchers from Penn State University, with support from NASA, are working to improve the models to allow for accurate predictions of eruptions around the world.

Redirection of Lava Flow

While prediction methods and observatories can save countless lives, the facilities have little to no impact on the amount of property damage caused by inevitable eruptions. Many large cities in developing countries, including Managua in Nicaragua and Legazpi City in the Philippines, are built next to active volcanoes. Fortunately for the cities, there is still the option of diverting or stopping the flow of lava in order to prevent loss of infrastructure.

Lava redirection may be an expensive process, but when a lava flow is headed directly toward a city, redirection protects the city. In 1983, a large team armed with bulldozers, explosives and firehoses was able to divert the flow of the eruption from Mount Etna in Italy. While the project required an estimated $2 million, volcanologist John Lockwood says the diversion prevented the loss of around $100 million in property damage. Stopping the flow of lava is easier in the case of eruptions near the coast. In 1973 in Iceland, damage was mitigated by channeling large amounts of seawater into the lava to solidify it.

Lava diversion has its risks and some attempts have been unsuccessful. Some communities are not open to lava redirection. For example, some Hawaiians hesitate to interfere with lava flows due to spiritual beliefs surrounding Pele, the volcano goddess. However, as a last resort attempt to protect a city, lava redirection is still worth considering.

Continued Research on Solutions

Although volcanoes remain a force of nature that will inevitably cause damage, recent solutions to volcanic eruptions may improve safety and prevent poverty in the affected regions. Continued research into the solutions could make the solutions even more affordable and practical, resulting in more stable economies and the reduced risk of poverty.

Sawyer Lachance
Photo: Flickr

Aid for Earthquake Victims In Iran
Iran faced an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 in 2017. This is one of the worst natural disasters Iran has faced. It shook the ground and caused catastrophic damage. Iran sits on major tectonic plates. As a result, earthquakes are common in this nation. Additionally, fault lines cover about 90% of Iran. These earthquakes cause damage to homes, outdoor markets, businesses and schools. Earthquake victims in Iran often face homelessness and hunger. Fortunately, the Iranian Red Crescent Society provides relief to people natural disasters and other life-threatening emergencies displace. Volunteers at the Iranian Red Crescent have provided aid for earthquake victims in Iran.

The Iranian Red Crescent

Iran established the Iranian Red Crescent in 1922. It was originally known as The Red Lion and Sun Society. However, its name changed after it received admittance to the Red Cross Society in 1923. The Iranian Red Crescent provides employees and volunteers with life-saving training to manage all medical emergencies. In addition, many people require medical help after a natural disaster. Falling debris, leaking gas lines and live wires are dangerous and can easily injure someone in emotional disarray.

One of the most recent earthquakes happened near the town of Sisaket in February 2021. It was a magnitude 5.6 earthquake that resulted in 30 people injured and damage to infrastructure.

The earthquake destroyed the majority of houses in Sisakht. Villagers were nervous about the next quake due to the frequent seismic activity. Most people remained outside for fear of aftershocks. Outdoors is the safest place to be after or during an earthquake. The damage to Sisakht caused major power outages and damage to villages.

Helping Find Shelter

On the eve of February 17, 2021, The Iranian Red Crescent dispatched teams from Fars and Isfahan into the city of Sisakht. These teams assisted in providing materials such as blankets, tents, water and food. The organization placed six additional teams on standby in case further help was necessary. Furthermore, it sent three trucks of essential supplies to these outer regions.

It set up about 60 tents as emergency shelters. The tents provide privacy to families and individuals as the city rebuilds from this natural disaster. Additionally, the age of the pandemic has made sanitation a necessity. All Iranian Red Crescent workers wear masks to protect others and themselves from the COVID-19 virus. Furthermore, the support that The Iranian Red Crescent gave provides people with peace of mind that even in the worst times they are not alone.

Building a More Stable Future

In late 2019, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook the city of Kermanshah. This earthquake caused mass damage and resulted in 620 deaths. The devastation of this quake prompted earthquake safety training to go to schools. The Iranian Red Crescent participated in teaching children the importance of escaping danger, digging out of rubble and taking the injured to safe places. Additionally, more than 14,000 students in more than 110 schools received quake and safety exercises.

The Iranian Red Crescent deploys helps to ensure the safety and well-being of the people of Iran. While Iranians continue to face natural disasters, earthquake victims in Iran are more equipped to handle the situation now.

– Nancy Taguiam
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