Ed note. This is a guest post by Sundaa Bridgett-Jones Associate Director, International Development, The Rockefeller Foundation
A year ago this week, international humanitarian agencies were rushing to the Philippines to respond to Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms to make landfall in modern history. The storm impacted 16 million people in the Philippines and killed over 6,300 people. A year on, we can draw lessons from the response so that communities may be better prepared next time a calamitous weather event strikes.
With climate change making severe weather events more frequent, make no mistake: there will be other deadly storms of this, if not greater, magnitude. Which means that now is the time to take action. The lesson of Haiyan, and of so many other catastrophic events, is that we must think differently about our future and reassess our past approaches. And the key difference needs to be that we look ahead through a lens of resilience, making investments that will allow individuals, organizations and systems to survive and adapt regardless of what challenges may come their way.
We need to invest in resilience because it can help save lives. It can also save precious resources that are needed for solving myriad development challenges. One example is in the coastal Vietnamese city of Da Nang where residents had access to a revolving loan fund to stormproof their houses by raising foundations to reduce flooding or securing roofs against high winds. When Typhoon Nari hit Da Nang in 2013, all 244 households that completed the housing upgrade emerged damage free.
Investing in resilience now makes economic sense. In 2012, the economic costs of weather-related disasters alone amounted to roughly $160 billion worldwide. Estimates by the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction suggest that $1 spent on prevention can save $4 being spent on post-disaster reconstruction.
One way we can foster resilience is by engaging people with strong local knowledge in both defining problems and finding new solutions. To do just that, the Global Resilience Partnership, spearheaded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Swedish International Development Agency, and USAID, is inviting cross-sector, multi-disciplinary, teams to apply to the Global Resilience Challenge. The Challenge aims to address resilience issues in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and South and Southeast Asia, the regions with the highest needs, by surfacing solutions that address local realities.
Staring back on this somber anniversary of Haiyan, the Challenge is seeking to play a role in changing the future course of how disasters affect communities – minimizing their impact, and hastening the rebound, while ensuring that day-to-day everyone’s lives are better.