News / Asia

Partnership to Reward Creative Fixes for Natural Disasters

FILE - A woman holds her child as she waits while rescuers search for her husband, a victim of a landslide in Vietnam's northern province of Yen Bai on September 8, 2012.
FILE - A woman holds her child as she waits while rescuers search for her husband, a victim of a landslide in Vietnam's northern province of Yen Bai on September 8, 2012.

Michael Yates remembers recently seeing footage of a South Asian woman who woke up in the middle of the night surrounded by water. She grabbed her children and fled to higher ground, but left everything behind in the flooding, as he recalls.

Yates, the director for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s mission in Asia, said that inexpensive tools like early warning systems might have helped this woman minimize her losses. These are the types of remedies USAID was looking for as it announced a $100 million fund on Wednesday to tackle natural disasters, climate change and other crises.

But the so-called Global Resilience Partnership in Asia and Africa, co-launched with the Rockefeller Foundation, is not a humanitarian relief fund. For starters, it’s putting out a call for creative proposals to help those in developing countries better prepare for disaster or recover from it more quickly.

“People should be energized into bringing out their best and brightest ideas,” Yates told reporters via video conference from Bangkok.

A typical relief fund would provide food, medical care and shelter after catastrophes like Typhoon Haiyan, which struck Southeast Asia in November. By contrast, the resilience partnership aims to use technology and other ideas to minimize the damage from the beginning. Gauges to monitor rivers, for instance, could be paired with SMS and email warnings, so that people can anticipate rising water levels.

Sponsors view the approach as an investment with dividends. When victims lose less of their property or livelihoods at the start of a crisis, they can avoid tough decisions down the line that often multiply the damage, such as skipping school to use tuition money for food.

Could save billions

Ashvin Dayal, managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation, said the partnership could net savings for countries and individuals. While $100 million is a modest amount, its impact could be much larger because it could prevent losses during natural disasters and because governments would not have to repeatedly spend funds on the same problems year after year.

“When you aggregate it, this dividend runs into billions of dollars per year and something that could be of macroeconomic importance to a country,” said Dayal, who also was on the conference call.

The resilience partnership, which targets South and Southeast Asia, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel, will start taking submissions for inventive solutions in September. The contest is expected to award funds to the winning applications in early 2015 and will focus on groups from different sectors that come together to form multi-disciplinary teams.

“Our intention is to work with USAID missions and other partners throughout the region to ensure that they’re incorporating resilience into all of their programming,” Yates said. “Not just our environment portfolio, but our health portfolio, our agricultural portfolio. Resilience is something that needs to be integrated in everything we do.”

Aiming for a mix of solutions

Dayal said that they’re seeking ideas in three categories: predictive analytics and technologies; measurement and metrics; and innovative and flexible financing.

Financing would encourage investors to channel capital into areas that help families plan for the future. A low-income housing upgrade fund, for example, would lend money to those who don’t have the few hundred dollars needed to renovate their homes for storm protection, even though it could save thousands of dollars later.

Other solutions the sponsors floated include crowd-sourced data collection and crisis mapping. In dealing with food insecurity and climate change, they discussed ongoing experiments with drought-resistant corn as well as strains of rice that could tolerate flood or increasing amounts of salt from encroaching seawater.

The fund partners estimate that weather-related disasters cost the world $200 billion annually, an increase of 300 percent in the past 30 years. While $100 million is just a drop in the bucket by comparison, Dayal said that figure is likely to grow as they appeal to public and private donors.

“This is a $100-million initial investment by two organizations,” Dayal said. “It is very much our ambition and our hope that in the next year or so we will bring new partners into this and we can grow the fund. So hopefully success will breed more interest.”

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs