19 October 2020
A complex set of disasters have emerged alongside Covid-19 – and the usual approaches to risk management are proving inadequate.
In East Africa and Pakistan people have faced Covid-19 plus swarms of locusts that have devastated crops. While countries in South East Asia and the Pacific have experienced Covid-19 plus cyclones.
These ‘Covid-plus’ disasters are ripping up conventional risk planning and risk management strategies. A cyclone shelter built to house 500 people fails to protect people fully if they can’t social distance. Lockdown measures that stop people from working slash incomes; simultaneous locust infestations reduce crop yields and increase food prices.
Many communities were already on the frontline of disasters before Covid-19 – now the risk they face has compounded. In short, resilience is at risk. Previous development gains are being wiped out. Communities may not be able to bounce back unless action is informed by the multiple risks communities face.
Views from the Frontline
Our Views from the Frontline report highlights nine reasons why people are still losing their lives and livelihoods to disasters. These conclusions are drawn from surveys with over 100,000 people in 44 of the most at-risk communities in the world. 216 organisations have been involved in engaging communities, local governments and civil society organisations to gather the data.
The nine conclusions we have drawn at the global level provide insight on some of the most common underlying causes of risk: communities are often excluded from decision-making; development projects rarely take into account the risks communities face; little funding is available at the local level; and responsibilities are not adequately appointed in local governments.
So how do we change things? The analysis of the survey data suggests three approaches to achieving risk-informed development: inclusiveness, coherence and adaptiveness.
An inclusive approach considers the experience of different groups of people. The threats people face, and the barriers to overcome these threats, are often different, as well as their capacity to cope. Risk planning and management must take these differences into consideration.
Robust risk analysis is the key to risk-informed development. Data should be disaggregated, people-centred, unbiased and accessible. The Views from the Frontline data can be disaggregated – by age, gender, disability, and whether they live in rural or urban areas – for every community.
If the voices of those most at risk are not taken into account, marginalised communities will continue to be disproportionately impacted by hazards, including Covid-19.
Moving from one crisis to another as a way to deal with these complex disasters won’t work anymore. These situations don’t provide a choice – you can’t respond to one disaster and not the other.
Saving lives and livelihoods requires risk planning and management to be coherent for people who are facing those multiple threats.
Historical data and observations cannot guide us to the correct risk assessments and analysis. We need to take into account the interconnectedness of disasters, climate change and the underlying vulnerabilities of the communities.
Coherence at the local level means taking action that addresses multiple threats at the same time, informed by the perspectives of people most at risk, including the local government and other stakeholders.
At the national level there must be coordination: different departments need to coordinate their activities so that there is no duplication, or one activity hindering another.
Threats, and the resulting risk, can change rapidly. Climate change is making extreme weather events more frequent and more intense. Communities may not be able to cope unless they can enhance their adaptive capacities.
Unprecedented disasters like Covid-19 show us the gaps in our approach: it was not only the risk that was not perceived, but also the extent to which this threat has cascaded into a full-scale socio-economic crisis.
Risk planning and management must be more dynamic and adaptive, so that communities bounce back faster and better.
In our Views from the Frontline programme, the conclusions that each unique community draw from their data are used to create a coherent local action plan to develop their adaptive capacities to address the dynamic environment they live in.
The impact of Covid-19 has shown that an inclusive, coherent and adaptive approach to risk analysis and management is crucial for reducing the loss of lives and livelihoods.
Views from the Frontline demonstrates that risk-informed development is possible if the communities most at risk are included. Robust data gathered from communities most at risk is the key to turning our aspiration of risk-informed and sustainable development into reality.
Shivangi Chavda is the Views from the Frontline programme coordinator for GNDR. She has over 20 years’ experience of implementing DRR and CCA programmes.
Photo (top): A nurse consults with a patient in rurual Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, during Covid-19. Credit: Yvonne Etinosa
Photo (above): Views from the Frontline pariticipants in Odisha State, India. Credit: Sarika Gulati