Building Back Better: How to Cut Natural Disaster Losses by a Third

Stocks and Financial Services Press Releases Tuesday June 19, 2018 09:06
WASHINGTON--19 Jun--World Bank

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2018 – When countries rebuild stronger, faster and more inclusively after natural disasters they can reduce the impact on people's livelihoods and well-being by as much as 31 percent, potentially cutting global average losses from $555 billion to $382 billion per year. That's the conclusion of a new report from the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), released today.

The report, Building Back Better: Achieving resilience through stronger, faster and more inclusive post-disaster reconstruction, assesses socioeconomic resilience and the impact of disasters on people's well-being. It covers 149 countries, including 17 small island states, representing 95.5 percent of the world's population.

It finds that in small island states particularly, better post-disaster recovery and reconstruction efforts can reduce annual losses by an average of 59 percent. And in 10 countries with a high level of risk – Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Belize, Vanuatu, Peru and Angola – better reconstruction would reduce overall losses due to natural disasters by more than 60 percent.

"Building back better and stronger after a natural disaster is one of the most effective ways of ending the cycle of poverty and vulnerability that can trap people and communities," said John Roome, Senior Director, Climate Change, World Bank Group. "As climate change increases in intensity and impacts grow, we need to place an even greater priority on supporting countries with more resilient, swift and inclusive recovery and reconstruction processes."

The report looks at the potential benefits of improving reconstruction so that it minimizes the overall impact of disasters on affected populations, reduces future risks, and boosts resilience. Building on the recent Unbreakable report and its methodology to factor in the higher vulnerability of people living in poverty, the report looks at three dimensions:

Building back stronger could reduce future well-being losses by ensuring that reconstructed infrastructure and homes resist more intense events. If all post-disaster assets were designed to resist frequent disasters, annual disaster losses would be reduced by 12 percent in 20 years, delivering $65 billion in annual benefits.Building back faster after natural disasters could reduce well-being losses by 14 percent – equivalent to a US$75 billion gain. These savings are especially important to poor countries facing more frequent shocks, such as small island states and Sub-Saharan African countries.Building back more inclusively ensures that post-disaster support reaches all affected people and that no-one is left behind, unable to recover. This would help reduce disaster losses by 9 percent – equivalent to a US$52 billion gain.If implemented together – rebuilding stronger, faster, and more inclusively – major benefits totaling US$173 billion per year are possible. While the report largely focuses on stronger, faster, and more inclusive recovery processes, it also stresses that preparation is key to the principle of building back better.

"Reconstruction offers an opportunity to learn from the disaster and ensure that we break the cycle of repeated catastrophes," emphasized Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director for Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience, World Bank. "A better recovery and reconstruction cannot replace risk reduction and prevention, which remains the main instruments to reduce asset losses and, therefore, well-being losses. However, preparedness and building back better can complement the other components of the disaster risk management tool kit."

The report reviews many examples of countries – from China to Dominica – that have strengthened their ability to withstand the next natural shock, providing lessons that can be replicated elsewhere to contribute toward a more resilient future.

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