Nepal’s opportunity to seize the moment for the future of its people

04 May 2015 by Sujala Pant, Governance Specialist, UNDP Regional Hub in Bangkok

A woman tries to recover belongings from the earthquake rubble.The need of the hour is to ensure that the generously contributed aid is disbursed in a timely and transparent manner and reaches people who need it most. Photo UNDP Nepal
When the elders in my family spoke of the 1934 earthquake, they talked about how scary it had been, and the damage it left behind. How Dharara, once the tallest structure in Kathmandu, was rebuilt. I was in Kathmandu this time around and it was terrifying to experience the earthquake. I took refuge in my aunt’s house, along with 25 other people whose homes, like many across the city, were either damaged or destroyed. … Read more

Nepal: A lesson in the risks climate change poses to disaster-prone countries

30 Apr 2015 by Daniel Buckley, Climate Change Policy and Finance Analyst, UNDP Sustainable Development Group

Internally displaced persons in Sankhu, northwestern NepalTens of thousands of people have been displaced by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April. Photo: Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi / UNDP Nepal.
As relief assistance rushes to Nepal after the earthquake, those efforts are being hampered by a number of factors. Weak existing infrastructure means many critical roads have been damaged. Remote mountain villages perched on hillsides require helicopters to distribute aid. Inadequate communications networks complicate the ability to understand and prioritise where relief is most needed. … Read more

Nepal: Why we must work together to reduce the risk of disasters in vulnerable countries

29 Apr 2015 by Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP

A 7.9 magnitude earthquake has caused widespread destruction in NepalIn 2011, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark visited downtown Kathmandu for an 'eathquake walk' - a tour on disaster preparedness. Photo: Bikash Rauniyar/UNDP Nepal
In 2011, I went on an official tour of downtown Kathmandu called the “Earthquake Walk.” This tour, led by the government and other partners on disaster preparedness, was intended to demonstrate the vulnerabilities of residential and other buildings, including those of heritage and religious significance, to the next large earthquake that would strike the region one day. What I learned on the tour was alarming. … Read more

Vanuatu begins rebuilding but faces severe challenges

14 Apr 2015 by Silke von Brockhausen, Communication Specialist, Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy

Damage from Cyclone Pam in VanuatuCyclone Pam has passed, but Vanuatu residents will need months, if not years, to recover from its devastation. Photo: Silke von Brockhausen/UNDP
Descending into Vanuatu’s international airport in Port Vila, I could see the devastation Cyclone Pam caused on March 13, sweeping nearly two dozen islands. What used to be a lush green landscape is washed brown by saltwater, trees are dead and uprooted, and houses have lost their roofs. … Read more

Maintaining HIV health services in the wake of disaster

01 Apr 2015 by Jean Thomas Nouboussi, HIV, Health and Development Team, UNDP Global Fund Programme, Haiti

Commemorating World AIDS Day in Petionville, Haiti. Photo: UNDP/Haiti
In 2010, Haiti suffered an earthquake with devastating consequences.  225,000 people died and 1.5 million people were displaced. There was 10 million cubic meters of debris, 30 of the 49 hospitals in the country were ruined, and 80 percent of schools and 60 percent of the government structures were destroyed.  With very little infrastructure left, the internally displaced people were settled in 1500 camps in the metropolitan areas. What happened to us in Haiti has been referred to as the largest urban disaster in modern history. The humanitarian effort following the earthquake was extraordinary, with much global attention and donor support. However, there was little funding and planning for the HIV response and to address gender-based violence.  These needs had not been integrated into the larger humanitarian work, despite the fact that Haiti has the highest burden of HIV in the Caribbean region. Incidences of rape in the internally displaced camps were high, young people were turning to sex work for economic reasons, and the rates of HIV and TB transmission increased. Haiti had been receiving Global Fund grants since 2003, but the weakened systems and capacities after the earthquake challenged their implementation. UNDP was invited to be the interim Principal … Read more

Building resilience and livelihoods in the aftermath of war

31 Mar 2015 by Benjamin Larroquette, Regional Technical Advisor, Climate Change Adaptation

 The UNDP-supported project is working to deliver tangible socio-economic benefits by investing in and restoring ecological infrastructure such as rangelands. Photo: UNDP/Afghanistan
Travelling through Afghanistan, one can see that the country is struggling to recover from 30 years of war. Poverty is especially apparent when you leave Kabul and travel to other parts of the country. UNDP has been in Afghanistan for more than 50 years, working closely with the Afghan government to operate projects across the country’s 34 provinces, but despite significant steps forward, this is a country that faces enormous recovery needs after decades of war, natural disasters and a continuing cycle of violence. After months of preparation, we at UNDP are now starting to implement the “Strengthening the Resilience of Rural Livelihood Options for Afghan Communities” project, the first climate change adaptation project in this country. UNDP is now helping Afghan communities withstand the effects of climate change, and we are focusing on building awareness and planning capacity, as well as demonstrating adaptation activities such as livelihood diversification, resilient water and irrigation infrastructure, and improved agriculture practices. This is a crucial project for poverty reduction in Afghanistan. Sixty percent of the Afghan workforce is employed in agriculture, but climate change impact has been making their lives difficult. Due to prolonged droughts, erratic rainfall and extreme temperatures, the most cultivable land … Read more

Vanuatu: at the apex of climate change, disaster risk reduction, and recovery

24 Mar 2015 by Shoko Takemoto, Regional Technical Specialist, Climate Change Adaptation and Water and Oceans, Fiji

 Scenes of the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam. Photo: Shoko Takemoto/UNDP
Early morning, I walked through downtown Port Vila, Vanuatu.  Tropical cyclone Pam certainly left many scars throughout the town: damaged buildings, one-sided trees, destroyed boats, and broken sea walls all silently speak of the immense power of what had swept through the land and the sea on the evening of 13th March 2015. Food security is a concern. The vegetable market at the centre of the town is still closed – there is no fresh produce left anywhere on the islands – and it may take weeks and months before the market will return to colour and life. Climate change and disasters go hand-in-hand in this exposed island nation, and clearly this disaster requires immediate relief. But as I continued walking by the waterfront, passing people, I could not help but notice the friendly smiles and warm good mornings that characterises the charm of the Vanuatu people.   Nambawan Café, a popular outdoor spot for gathering by the waterfront was already open a little before 7am, although it took me a while to notice that it was the same Café because most of the shops and structures around it had changed dramatically. I took the opportunity to speak to the staff … Read more

Building resilience in the face of mounting risks in the Arab Region

23 Mar 2015 by Sima Bahous, Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Regional Bureau for Arab States

Flood in SudanA flood-affected village in Upper Nile State in Sudan. Photo: Fred Noy/UN
Much has been said about the rolling back of development results and vulnerability of communities in parts of the Arab region because of violent conflicts, but less has been said about the increasing changes communities face from natural disasters and risks from climate change. Debates at the recent World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan highlighted that in the 21st century, development will need to be increasingly resilient to shocks and crises, and address the multi-dimensional nature of risk. This holds special relevance to the Arab region, as the most food-import dependent and water-insecure region on the planet today. The Risk Triad: Conflict, Drought, and Climate Change Many communities face the convergence of conflict, and one of the largest mass movements of forced migrants and refugees in modern history, and the exacerbating force of climate change, which brings more frequent and severe droughts, land degradation and food and water insecurity. Out of a population of 357 million, about 150 million in the region are exposed to drought risks. In Somalia, the famine killed between 50,000-100,000 people and displaced 4 million people.  In Syria, the drought of 2006-2010 decimated the livelihoods of more than 20% of the rural population, unleashing … Read more

Managing local level risks for sustainable development

18 Mar 2015 by Rajeev Issar, Policy Specialist, Disaster and Climate Risk Governance

 Jambeshwar Maji, 48, works around the lift irrigation unit. UNDP’s partnership with the Government of Odisha is helping communities in Puri in Odisha adapt to extreme weather events. Photo: Prashanth Vishwanathan/UNDP India
“The most effective disaster and climate risk management focuses on the local level.” As a Disaster Risk Management (DRM) practitioner, I heard this often, and yet only once I worked with communities on the ground did I truly understand the idea’s full import. Working with the GoI-UNDP DRM Programme in India showed me that the most successful and innovative DRM efforts start with communities. The Programme’s bottom-up approach allowed community members to identify their own risk management and climate adaptation needs, formulate local development and disaster management plans, and have these approved by elected village councils/representatives. It was particularly satisfying to note the sense of ownership the people had for the plans. While this might sound both intuitive and easy, I learned that a bottom-up approach requires sustained and continuous engagement with community members. It requires numerous meetings and consultations with a large cross-section of people, including women, the elderly and other traditionally overlooked groups. It requires sharing information and knowledge about successful practices with these communities, while also familiarizing these communities with administrative mechanisms and methods of promoting administration-community collaboration. We used this process in India. After the village/community disaster management plans were approved by the village council, the plans … Read more

Disaster resilience? There’s an app for that.

18 Mar 2015 by Patrick Grémillet, Partnership Advisor, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction

 Improved technology and disaster communication training supported through UNDP's projects in the Philippines helped local authorities obtain information rapidly and coordinate on a response during emergencies such. Photo: Hari Krishna Nibanupudi for UNDP
Mobile phones are helping revolutionize the way we protect communities from disasters. While more traditional measures, such as earthquake-resilient buildings and early warning broadcasts, will continue to be the hallmark of disaster risk reduction, innovations in technology are offering new ways to strengthen resilience. From simple SMS-style early warning messages to full touch-screen enabled ‘hazard maps,’ mobile technologies connect users to real-time disaster info. These innovations provide new ways of sharing life-saving information, but also help ‘crowd-source’ disaster info, allowing users to receive and update hazard-related information in real-time. Such technology has already had impressive results. For example, after the devastating 9.0 earthquake struck the coast of Japan in 2011, 120,000 residents in the Philippines’ exposed coastal communities received warnings of a possible tsunami on their mobile phones. While the tsunami fortunately did not materialize in the Philippines, some 150 coastal districts were nonetheless successfully evacuated. Countries around the world are using technology to raise awareness about disaster threats and create cultures of action. In Uzbekistan, UNDP helped create a mobile app in Uzbek and Russian that can transmit emergency information from the Ministry of Emergency Situations to at-risk communities. “It’s really easy to use,” says Vasko Popovski, UNDP’s Project Manager … Read more