How can development aid help build resilience to natural disasters?

By Daniil Filipenco

How can development aid help build resilience to natural disasters?

Natural disasters are unavoidable. However, together we can become better prepared and reduce their destructive effect.

There are optimistic signs that mankind may be able to plan for and handle frequent and catastrophic climate-related disasters. Cyclone Bhola in South Asia in 1970 and Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005 are two examples of disasters that claimed thousands of lives and caused billions of dollars in damage because people were not prepared for them.

Even though no two disasters are alike, nevertheless there are things people can do right now to improve readiness, lessen the effects, and foster a resilient recovery. In countries where the authorities do not have sufficient funding for this, development aid is among the few solutions that those people and communities affected can benefit from. This article will consider the cost of natural disasters, what resilience is, and what the role of aid in building it is as well as which countries disburse the most for climate-related aid programs worldwide.

The cost of natural disasters

Climate change and natural disasters are more likely to cause damage in poorer countries and less developed regions. Disasters are thought to cost the world economy US$520 billion every year and plunge 26 million individuals into poverty, according to data provided by the World Bank. Furthermore, according to Oxfam, over the last 30 years, nearly 190 million people in developing countries have been affected by extreme weather-related occurrences every year.

Family farms in a poorer financial situation are far more likely to suffer the severe consequences of a flood or drought which can destroy crops and bring a devastating financial impact.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross, by 2050, the economic impact of disasters in terms of people and money may double and 200 million people will need humanitarian assistance in order to survive as a result of weather-related calamities. This will be the case if the world does not make appropriate investments in adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

What does resilience entail and what are the key steps to achieve it?

Resilience refers to the power of people, societies, and socioeconomic groups to handle the unexpected effects of disasters and quickly regain their ability to respond appropriately.

A resilient community is one which can endure and handle an unexpected occurrence, and resilience has emerged as an important strategy at all levels – local, regional, and national. People should be ready in advance, shielded from threats, and capable of responding to them before aid arrives.

How can community resilience be strengthened?

1. Initial preparation: Resilient systems have to be correctly established to handle the severe consequences of disasters by employing the necessary actions and initiatives.
2. Preventive measures: These need to be designed to ensure that loss is prevented before it occurs.
3. Safety: All safety measures should be initiated and function properly to reduce the effects of the disaster when it occurs.
4. Reaction: This phase relates to how quickly the entire system can offer critical emergency relief to those who are most in need.
5. Restoration: Once the danger is no longer present, the recovery phase begins, and it is important to make certain that the system of resilience learns lessons to ensure it becomes more prepared for events that may occur in the future.

The importance of climate-related official development assistance

Although the severe risk posed by climate change is widely acknowledged, the international community has lagged behind in taking action to slow it down.

After several years of modest spikes in bilateral allocated climate-related Official Development Assistance (ODA), 2021 witnessed a substantial drop in funding, both in terms of absolute amounts and the percentage of overall bilateral allocatable ODA.

According to the latest data provided by Donor Tracker, bilateral funding was US$34.5 billion in 2021, down 16% from the US$41.3 billion in 2020. Programs associated with adaptation received US$22.9 billion while programs related to mitigation received US$17.7 billion.

The role of aid in building disaster-related resilience

ODA has been crucial in creating and putting into practice initiatives that promote environmentally conscious growth, biodiversity protection, climate resilience, and the handling of natural resources. Development aid has already made it possible for numerous countries and regions to promote sustainable development and increase their capability to adapt to climate change in several ways.

1. In the aftermath of a disaster, development aid can offer quick support that may take the form of emergency supplies (water, food, flashlights and batteries, dust masks), medical equipment and drugs, clothing and bedding, and shelter.

For instance, after the Türkiye–Syria earthquake in February 2023 which led to widespread damage over a huge area and the loss of thousands of lives, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) provided emergency relief items including tents, blankets, plastic sheets, and sleeping pads.

2. Development aid can help to recover old and build new more resilient infrastructure that can withstand the effects of natural disasters. This may include the erection of robust housing, hospitals, schools, fire stations, water supply systems, bridges, roadways, and coastal areas. Resilient infrastructures such as these help to strengthen communities, making them more prepared for future disasters.

For instance, The World Bank and the Japanese government are collaborating with developing nations to increase resilience in infrastructure projects to help to prepare for extreme weather and geological events. One of the projects, the Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries, is helping over 100 nations to increase resilience in all areas of development.

Overall, in fiscal year 2022, the World Bank Group contributed an all-time high of US$31.7 billion to support nations to address climate change.

3. Development aid supports environmental conservation initiatives such as reforestation, biodiversity protection, environmentally conscious land use, and safeguarding ecosystems against catastrophic weather events.

One of the most visible instances of a region in need of regeneration is the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. An initiative aimed at planting 73 million trees has been launched in the country after a 17% decrease in the forest area over the past 50 years has been registered.

The biggest climate-related ODA-contributing countries

In 2021, 71% of the overall bilateral climate change adaptation and mitigation investment across all Development Assistance Committee (DAC) nations came from the top three climate-related ODA contributors.

Japan is the top OECD DAC donor in terms of spending linked to climate change with US$9,5 billion. The land of the rising sun is followed by Germany with nearly US$8 billion, while the third largest donor country is France with over US$7 billion.

Fig.1. The largest climate change ODA contributors in 2021 (the data is provided by Donor Tracker)

Total ODA commitments tagged as being principally or significantly related to climate change mitigation and/or adaptation.

Source: Donor Tracker

Key sectors of contribution

The climate-related commitments of most donor countries focus on projects in sectors such as infrastructure (US$5.5 billion), agriculture (US$4.7 billion), energy (US$4 billion), water and sanitation (US$3.7 billion), and environmental protection (US$3.6 billion). The graph below illustrates the data in more detail.

Fig.2. DAC Donor Countries’ Climate Change-Related Commitments by Sector, 2021

Source: Donor Tracker

Final word

Dealing with the consequences of climate-related disasters across the globe requires worldwide collaboration. Today, poor nations are at a higher risk of being severely affected by natural disasters which is why it is vital for development aid to help these countries to deal with the consequences of calamities and build disaster resilience for any possible climate-related issues in the future. Together, people of the world can build a sustainable future while safeguarding our planet for generations to come.