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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs