Humanitarian emergencies

Supporting detail:

Helping countries protect themselves against future disasters

Disaster resilience

Resilience means boosting a country’s ability to deal with disasters - whether it is helping people in earthquake zones build to withstand shocks or helping poor farmers to grow drought-resistant crops. Reducing the impact of natural disasters saves money, lives and livelihoods, especially in developing countries.

Justine Greening, International Development Secretary

Investing in disaster resilience helps countries and communities to be much better prepared to cope and recover quickly when disaster strikes. The UK’s humanitarian policy, ‘Saving lives, preventing suffering and building resilience’, explains how the UK will assist countries build resilience to crises and respond to humanitarian need. We have produced an approach paper on disaster resilience, along with a 2-page overview

This is of growing importance with the expected increase in the severity and frequency of shocks as a result of climate change, resource scarcity and urban migration. In 2011 alone, 302 disasters claimed nearly 30,000 lives, affected 206 million people and inflicted damages worth at least US$366 billion.

We have committed to build disaster resilience into all our country programmes by 2015. This is a Structural Reform Plan commitment.

We have developed a set of minimum standards for our country offices. The first step of this is conducting a multi-hazard disaster risk assessment. (PDF, 939KB, 6 pages)

Progress is already being made. Minimum standards have been reached in a first set of eight countries: Bangladesh; Ethiopia; Kenya; Nepal; Malawi; Mozambique; Uganda; and Sudan. For example, in northern Kenya, we are improving the coordination between social protection, education, nutrition and private sector development investments, which together have a key role in reinforcing resilience. We are also making sure there is flexibility in our investments, so that they can provide early response to early warning of potential disaster.

More detailed country and sector case studies can be downloaded:

Cost Effectiveness of Disaster Resilience

Investing in disaster resilience in advance of shocks or in the early stages of a crisis is more cost-effective than humanitarian response when a disaster is in full swing. These investments lessen needless suffering and loss of life and, by protecting livelihoods, help communities recover much more quickly.

To demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of investment in disaster resilience and early-response, we commissioned research amongst pastoralists in Kenya and Ethiopia and agricultural communities in Bangladesh, Mozambique and Niger. It was found in Kenya that - over a 20 year period - every $1 spent on disaster resilience resulted in $2.90 saved in the form of reduced humanitarian spend, avoided losses and development gains. In Bangladesh the equivalent figure was $5 for every $1 spent. A linked study demonstrated that significant benefit can be gained from providing multi-year finance for humanitarian operations, rather than short-term, fixed funds. These benefits include lower operational costs, increased flexibility for early response and greater predictability.

The reports from this study are available below:

Political Champions for Disaster Resilience

Donors and partner countries have now made strong commitments to integrate disaster resilience into humanitarian assistance and longer-term development investments. The challenge now is to implement these policies on the ground: how to back Governments to integrate disaster risk into development plans; how to generate common assessment of risks and joint plans for tackling them that draws in both humanitarian and development assistance; and how to make sure individual investments are aligned with these and have the flexibility to build resilience? This is no small task. To help, an informal group of donors, recipient countries and the private sector was formed. The Political Champions for Disaster Resilience is co-chaired by Justine Greening, UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, and Helen Clark, UNDP’s Administrator, members include Bangladesh, CARICOM, EU, Japan, Mozambique, OCHA, Sweden, UAE, USA, Willis Re and World Bank.

At its meeting in Washington DC on 19 April, the Group focused on two issues. The first was on building resilience in specific countries and regions, which is at the heart of the Political Champions’ agenda.

Haiti was identified as a potential country where the Group could support the Government in getting greater focus and investment in reducing and managing disaster risk. Justine Greening and Helen Clark led a visit of the Group to Haiti in April 2012. There was agreement with the Government to focus on three core areas. The first is backing the Government’s inclusion of disaster management in its development plans. The second is making sure donors’ investments build resilience. The third is starting to put this into practice in a number of areas of the country.

The second issue was stimulating the private sector, in particular insurance. The level of insurance penetration is lowest where vulnerability is increasing. In developing countries just 5.0% of direct losses are insured compared to 40% in developed countries. There are a range of factors preventing the penetration of insurance. They include lack of risk data, regulatory failures, insufficient scale of transactions, high start-up costs and lack of confidence in insurance products. Given the challenges in getting insurance market penetration in lower income countries, it was agreed that a fresh and energised conversation is needed between the public sector and the insurance sector to assess the opportunities and to agree on a joint package of investment to stimulate the market.

Another linked piece of work is improving the use of public finance instruments to stimulate private sector engagement in building disaster resilience. A further component is on disaster risk assessment and financing, with the initial focus on Pakistan. Together, these initiatives provide the opportunity to engage the private sector very practically and constructively.