News

NGO: Disaster Relief Efforts Insufficient

Earthquakes and floods are among disasters increasing in the world's urban areas.
Earthquakes and floods are among disasters increasing in the world's urban areas.
Joe DeCapua

A development organization says the 21st Century has brought an increase in urban disasters. It’s calling for a new approach to relief efforts as the world’s urban centers continue to grow.

CHF International says there are “two distinct but intertwined trends” underway. One is urbanization. In 2008, urban populations outnumbered rural populations for the first time. The second trend, it says, is an increasing number of disasters and a growing number of people affected by them. It cites recent the tsunami in Japan, floods in Bangkok, and the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand.

Courtney Brown is CHF International’s director of humanitarian assistance. He’s also the author of the briefing paper The 21st Century Urban Disaster.

“There are going to be more people in the world and those people are going to concentrate in urban areas. And there are going to be more disasters in the world. Just since 1970 we’ve had roughly a 400 percent increase in the number of disasters that are being reported on an annual basis. Now granted some of that is due to improved surveillance and improved reporting. But a big part of that is there’s just simply more disasters that are happening now. Climate change is driving a lot of that,” he said.

What might happen

Brown said the rate of urbanization is increasing around the world, but it’s happening faster in some areas than others.

“It is increasing most rapidly in developing countries – developing countries in Asia and in Africa. So while Africa hasn’t had a big, big urban disaster in very recent memory, the writing is on the wall that even for Africa what we’re seeing taking place in other parts of the world is on the horizon for the African continent. And so that’s why what we’re talking about now remains very relevant and pertinent in the African context,” he said.

For the past 20 years, he said, there have been three potential disasters that have kept humanitarian workers worrying when they might happen. One has come to pass.

“The first one was a big earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti because all the scenarios that were being run were indicating that that was going to be bad. The second thing is a big earthquake in Tokyo, Japan. And the third event is a big earthquake in Kathmandu,” said Brown.

There are about one million people in Nepal’s largest urban center. Brown says experts believe Kathmandu is 70 years overdue for a major earthquake.

Rural vs. urban

He added many disaster relief plans and operations are based on assumptions related to rural areas.

“Those assumptions are that a family is living in a one unit house on a plot of land that it either owns or can work. The assumption about the livelihood is that rural families will produce as much as they purchase if not more. And so those assumptions don’t always hold in the urban environment,” he said.

Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, CHF International received a USAID grant to try something different in disaster relief. It’s called the Katye project. Katye is Creole for neighborhood and was centered in the Ravine Pintade neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. It’s estimated two-thirds of the one thousand families there were left homeless.

Brown said, “Katye is unique and unique in the sense that it chose to target at the neighborhood level not at the household level. And the reason for that is because CHF recognized that households in a neighborhood are much more interlinked than outside of urban context. Their livelihoods are interlinked. You have dwellings where multiple families live in them. Picture an apartment complex.”

The idea was not simply to rebuild the neighborhood after the earthquake, but make it better and safer. Streets were made wider. Two story earthquake resistant houses were constructed. Building up instead of out made the neighborhood less congested.

The model led to other ideas to reduce the effects of any future disasters. These include tougher building codes, not building in flood plains, flood retention walls, non-construction zones along shorelines. It’s known as DRR, disaster risk reduction.

Brown said the time is right to implement these ideas.

“We’re coming up on the one year anniversary (3/11) of the Japan Sendai earthquake/ tsunami / nuclear event. And so we wanted the release of this paper to sort of coincide with the remembrance of the events that happened a year ago,” he said.

The Japanese disaster recovery has cost $235 billion so far. It’s called the most expensive natural disaster in history.

The CHF International paper says disasters are inevitable and responding is a daunting task. But says investing in disaster risk reduction can mitigate the impact when they do occur.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs