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

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Trade Talks Could Heat Up in 2015

With boosting trade a top priority for the Obama administration, 2015 may be the year that an agreement is finally reached on the Trans Pacific Partnership. But the trade deal, which is intended to boost trade between 12 Pacific countries, faces opposition as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school

All About America

AppleAndroid