IOM joins Making Cities Resilient 2030 as supporting entity

The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has joined the MCR2030 initiative as a supporting entity. MCR2030 is UNDRR’s flagship program, building on the achievement of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign that began in 2010. It welcomes cities, local governments, and all parties who wish to support cities along the resilience roadmap.

The IOM Regional Office for the MENA region has developed the Urban Diagnostic Toolkit to map gaps in migrants’ integration in urban settings, aimed at increasing urban resilience of migrants, refugees, displaced persons, host societies and local governments by strengthening migrants’ social cohesion in the spatial, institutional, economic, climate and resilience city systems.

Increasingly, IOM and UNDRR collaborate across a range of workstreams from high level policy engagement related to the Sendai Framework for DRR’s Midterm Review process, the Global Platform for DRR and Regional DRR Platforms, and more recently on the Early Warning for All Initiative, COP27 and the Center of Excellence for Disaster and Climate Resilience, which IOM recently joined as a member of the Steering Committee. Partnership also extends to technical cooperation on the implementation of the annual workplan of the Senior Leadership Group for DRR for Resilience inclusive of work to mainstream DRR into humanitarian action. IOM is also supporting UNDRR’s leadership on the development and roll out of Risk Information Exchange and the creation of a second-generation disaster loss accounting platform to replace DesInventar. The latter was recently dialogued under the leadership of UNDRR-UNDP-WMO at the Bonn Technical Expert Forum meeting in late November.

This is the beginning of a new collaboration between the two UN agencies. UNDRR warmly welcomes the new MCR partner to work jointly on paving the road for increasing migrants’ resilience in urban contexts.

MRC2030 is a unique cross-stakeholder initiative for improving local resilience through advocacy, sharing knowledge and experiences, establishing mutually reinforcing city-to-city learning networks, injecting technical expertise, connecting multiple layers of government, and building partnerships. Through delivering a clear roadmap to urban resilience, providing tools, access to knowledge, and monitoring and reporting tools, MCR2030 will support cities on their journey to reduce risk and build resilience.

WMO issues guidelines on coastal flooding early warning systems

New WMO Guidelines on the Implementation of a Coastal Inundation Forecasting Early Warning System offer solid and practical advice for countries, donors and experts seeking to set up early warning systems against an increasing hazard.

The guidelines are a contribution to the UN Early Warnings for All initiative and reflect the high priority needs of small island developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries that are particularly vulnerable to these coastal hazards.

“The severity of the impacts of disasters, especially on coastal communities, is well known and documented. A contributing factor is the increasing intensity and frequency of meteorological and oceanographical hazards caused by climate change, including sea-level rise, which can seriously affect SIDS and other coastal nations,” state the guidelines.

“It is critical to recognize that coastal inundation can result from single or multiple hazards, and that it is being exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, especially associated with sea-level rise."

“Coastal inundation events are an increasing threat to the lives and livelihoods of people living in low-lying, populated coastal areas. Furthermore, the issues for most countries that have vulnerable coastlines are the increasing level of development for fishing, tourism and infrastructure, and the sustainability of their communities,” it says.

The new guidelines were presented during a side event during WMO’s Commission for Weather, Climate, Water and Related Environmental Services and Applications (SERCOM), attended by more than 140 participants from all over the globe, including the South Pacific, the Caribbean, and Africa.

WMO is grateful to the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative and the Korean Meteorological Administration for financial support.

These guidelines are based on the successful implementation of demonstration systems in four countries between 2009 and 2019 through the Coastal Inundation Forecasting Demonstration Project, which included a special focus on Pacific islands. They also incorporate key principles of WMO's Flash Flood Guidance System (FFGS) and the Severe Weather Forecast Programme.

The aim is to be a “one-stop” shop that countries can follow to prepare and implement their own coastal inundation forecasting early warning system. It provides a straightforward 10 step process with templates featuring policy, management and technical processes that countries or regions can use to build their own early warning system, from vision through to “go-live” implementation. As such information is not always readily available in many countries, these guidelines have concentrated on these features in developing and building a system, including necessary information for sponsors and advice on the resources necessary for success.

The Guidelines are also a registered activity of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

ASEAN Framework on anticipatory action in disaster management

The ASEAN Framework on Anticipatory Action in Disaster Management provides guidance for defining and contextualising anticipatory action at the regional level with some considerations for its implementation by Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This Framework outlines three building blocks of anticipatory action and proposes a Plan of Action for 2021–2025 with the primary aim to streamline anticipatory action in disaster risk management (DRM) through joint regional efforts. The implementation of the action plan will strengthen the ASEAN’s vision of building disaster-resilient nations and communities.

It aims to help advance implementation of anticipatory actions in the ASEAN region while supporting ASEAN in spearheading a common language, objectives and ambition for the global community working on anticipatory action. It represents a landmark commitment from ASEAN to move the anticipatory action agenda forward in the subregion in support of a climate-resilient future. It should be seen as a vehicle to accelerate regional policies and support ASEAN in implementing global frameworks, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). An anticipatory approach can achieve these commitments by addressing the humanitarian–development nexus and gaps between disaster risk management and climate change adaptation, maximising climate science and disaster risk finance.

Burying short sections of power lines could drastically reduce hurricanes’ impact on coastal residents

Princeton researchers funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation investigated the risk of this compound hazard occurring in the future under a business-as-usual climate scenario, using Harris County, Texas, as one example. They estimated that the risk of a hurricane-blackout-heat wave lasting more than five days in a 20-year span would increase 23 times by the end of the century.

But there is good news: Strategically burying just 5% of power lines — specifically those near main distribution points — would almost halve the number of affected residents.

"The results of this work, part of NSF's Coastlines and People Megalopolitan Coastal Transformation Hub, show the value of convergence science approaches for developing actionable solutions to society's major challenges, such as the increasing frequency of storm events," says Rita Teutonico, director of NSF's CoPe program.

Heat waves are among the deadliest types of weather events and can become even more dangerous when regions that rely on air conditioning lose power. Historically, a heat wave following a hurricane has been rare because the risk of extreme heat usually passes before the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season in late summer. As global temperatures rise, however, heat waves are expected to occur more often and hurricanes are likely to become more common and more severe, increasing the odds of hurricane-blackout-heat wave events.

"Hurricane Laura in 2020 and Hurricane Ida in 2021 both had heat waves following them after they destroyed the power distribution network," said Ning Lin, a civil and environmental engineer who led the study. "For this compound hazard, the risk has been increasing, and it is now happening."

In a new study, published in Nature Communications, Lin and co-authors looked at the risks associated with the compound hazard and how infrastructure changes could mitigate the potentially deadly effects. They combined projections of how often and when hurricanes and heat waves would strike in the future with estimates of how quickly power could be restored in areas with outages after a major storm.

The team chose Harris County — the home of Houston — as their model county because it has the highest population density of any city on the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes Harvey and Ike both walloped Houston, causing an estimated 10% of residents to lose power.

The team also considered power grid improvements that would reduce the impact of a hurricane-blackout-heat wave for residents. Burying 5% of wires near the roots of the distribution network would reduce the expected percentage of residents without power from 18.2% to 11.3%.

"Mostly, our current practice is randomly burying lines," Lin said. "By burying lines more strategically, we can be more efficient and more effective at reducing the risk."

The importance of early warning systems in disaster risk reduction

It is not enough for an early warning system to correctly identify an incoming hazard, it must also ensure that the populations and sectors that are at risk can receive the alert, understand it, and most importantly, act on it.

Disasters, increasingly frequent and intense, have become a major issue requiring urgent action. In 2021, 432 catastrophic events took place, incrementing the average of 357 annual catastrophic events recorded in 2001-2020. Only last year, 101.8 million people were affected worldwide, and the economic losses amounted to 252.1 billion US dollars.

The impacts of a disaster are often unequally distributed, affecting disproportionately the most vulnerable. These events cause a disruption in the economy and livelihoods of people, producing dramatic socio-economic downturns that hamper short-term recovery and long-term development. On this basis, the promotion of resilience to face all kinds of shocks and stresses is considered a key element for the global development agenda.

In line with this perspective, and in accordance with its mandate, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has focused on building resilience through the promotion of employment and decent work.

In order to achieve this, the ILO works with its tripartite constituents – governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations – to develop a response to disasters that can answer immediate needs, but also deploy a long-term vision to build resilience for risk management through employment-centred measures. These include skills development, job creation through employment-intensive investments, enterprise support and business continuity management, among others.

This year, the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction focuses on early warning systems, a fundamental element to decrease the destructive impacts of a disaster. An effective early warning is capable of saving many lives and reducing damage by 30% if activated 24 hours before the event. However, today, one-third of the world’s population, mainly in the least developed countries, is still not covered by early warning systems.

The purpose of early warning systems is mitigating the risk produced by disasters, but these risks are compounded by the socio-economic vulnerability of the population exposed to the hazards. In this context, early warning systems must be inclusive and sensitive to the different sources of vulnerability. As indicated by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) , these systems must be people-centred, end-to-end, and multi-hazard.

Early warning systems play a significant role in the world of work. By disseminating timely and accurate information regarding disaster risk, they enable preparedness action as well as a rapid response from workers, employers, and national or local authorities, and can therefore prevent human and economic losses in the workplace. For instance, farmers, pastoralists, fishers, and foresters are among the most-at-risk communities to disasters. Moreover, early warning systems can also play a crucial role in decent work, as part of the occupational health and safety standards in disaster-prone countries.

Early warning systems are essential to prepare and respond effectively in the short term, corresponding to the first stages of disaster management. Moreover, the implementation of such systems can also contribute to building resilience, as enhancing preparedness strengthens the capacity to recover rapidly, and reduces vulnerability.

Public Health Emergencies: Data Management Challenges Impact National Response

Public health emergencies evolve quickly, but public health entities lack the ability to share new data and potentially life-saving information in real-time—undermining the nation's ability to respond quickly.

To address this, the federal government must overcome three major challenges—specifically, the lack of:

- Common standards for collecting data (e.g., patient characteristics)
- "Interoperability" (meaning not all data systems work together)
- Public health IT infrastructure (the hardware, software, networks, and policies that would enable the reporting and sharing of data)

This snapshot discusses our related work and recommendations.

Public health emergencies evolve quickly, but public health entities lack the ability to share new data and potentially life-saving information in near real-time. To address this, the federal government must overcome 3 major challenges in how it manages public health data. GAO has made a number of recommendations to help address these challenges. However, many of these recommendations have not been implemented.
The Big Picture

Longstanding challenges in the federal government’s management of public health data undermine the nation’s ability to quickly respond to public health emergencies like COVID-19 and monkeypox. These challenges include the lack of:

- common data standards—requirements for public health entitles to collect certain data elements, such as patient characteristics (e.g., name, sex, and race) and clinical information (e.g., diagnosis and test results) in a specific way;
- interoperability—the ability of data collection systems to exchange information with and process information from other systems; and
- public health IT infrastructure—the computer software, hardware, networks, and policies that enable public health entities to report and retrieve data and information.

Over 15 years ago, federal law mandated that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) establish a national public health situational awareness network with a standardized data format. This network was intended to provide secure, near real-time information to facilitate early detection of and rapid response to infectious diseases.

However, the federal government still lacks this needed network and has not yet overcome the challenges identified in previous GAO reviews. Having near real-time access to these data could significantly improve our nation’s preparedness for public health emergencies and potentially save lives.

Without the network, federal, state, and local health departments, hospitals, and laboratories are left without the ability to easily share health information in real-time to respond effectively to diseases.

GAO’s prior work identified three broad challenges to public health data management and recommended actions for improvement.

1. Common Data Standards

To ensure that information can be consistently reported, compared, and analyzed across jurisdictions, public health entities need a standardized data format. Due to the lack of common data standards, information reported by states about COVID-19 case counts was inconsistent. This in turn complicated the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to make comparisons. Public health representatives also noted challenges in collecting complete demographic data. This made it difficult to identify trends in COVID-19 vaccinations and the number of doses administered. Although CDC had intended to implement data standards, its strategic plan did not articulate specific actions, roles, responsibilities, and time frames for doing so.

- Re recommended that HHS establish an expert committee for data collection and reporting standards by engaging with stakeholders (e.g., health care professionals from public and private sectors). This committee should review and inform the alignment of ongoing data collection and reporting standards related to key health indicators.
- Recommended that CDC define specific action steps and time frames for its data modernization efforts.

2. Interoperability among Public Health IT Systems

The inability to easily exchange information across data collection and other data systems creates barriers to data sharing and additional burdens on entities that collect and transmit data. During the early stages of COVID-19, the lack of IT system interoperability caused health officials and their key stakeholders (e.g., hospitals) to manually input data into multiple systems. In addition, some state health departments could not directly exchange information with CDC via an IT system. This led to longer time frames for CDC to receive the data they needed to make decisions on the COVID-19 response.

- Recommended that, as part of planning for the public health situational awareness network, HHS should ensure the plan includes how standards for interoperability will be used.

3. Lack of a Public Health IT Infrastructure

The timeliness and completeness of information that is shared during public health emergencies can be impeded by the absence of a public health IT infrastructure. During the early stages of COVID-19, some states had to manually collect, process, and transfer data from one place to another. For example, a state official described having to fax documents, make copies, and physically transport relevant documents. The official noted by establishing a public health IT infrastructure, such as the network HHS was mandated to create, errors would be reduced. To help mitigate challenges in data management for COVID-19, HHS launched the HHS Protect platform in April 2020. However, we reported that public health and state organizations raised questions about the completeness and accuracy of some of the data.

- Recommended that HHS prioritize the development of the network by, in part, establishing specific near-term and long-term actions that can be completed to show progress.
- Recommended that HHS identify an office to oversee the development of the network.
- Recommended that HHS identify and document information-sharing challenges and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fastest-growing port in Texas just got even safer

Mariners sailing in and around Port Freeport — the fastest-growing port in Texas — have something to celebrate.

The seaport, located outside of Houston, is now fitted with a NOAA system that improves safe and efficient marine navigation. The technology is part of a nationwide network called Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System, or PORTSⓇ.

Freeport PORTS is the 38th system in this network of precision marine navigation sensors. The integrated series of sensors track oceanographic and meteorological conditions as they unfold around the port. This will greatly increase the navigation safety of vessels entering and exiting Port Freeport.

“Precision navigation is critical to our nation’s data-driven blue economy and helps our environment,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “The real-time information tracked by NOAA allows ships to move safely within U.S. waterways to make operations more efficient and lower fuel consumption, which also lowers carbon emissions.”

More than 30 million tons of cargo moved through Port Freeport in 2019, which supported more than 279,000 jobs nationwide, for a total economic impact of $149 billion. The new system will allow all mariners to have access to real-time water level, currents and meteorological information, helping them to better plan vessel transits and prevent accidents.

Studies prove that the NOAA PORTS program reduces shipping collisions, groundings, injuries and property damage. When a new PORTS is designed, local stakeholders determine the sensor types and location requirements to support their safety and efficiency decisions.

“This new system, and the others like them around the country, reduce ship accidents by more than 50%, and allow for larger ships to get in and out of seaports and reduce traffic delays,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. “PORTS can also provide real-time data as conditions rapidly change, giving our coastal communities time to prepare and respond.”

Newly installed current meters collect and transmit real-time current observations in waterways where those conditions can change quickly and over small distances. One current meter that is mounted on a buoy is installed along the port entrance channel to capture critical cross currents data outside of the Surfside Jetty. A second current meter is installed on a pier in the intercoastal waterway near the Surfside Bridge to collect data that will indicate the strength of currents near an important turning point for vessels coming in and out of Freeport Harbor.

The new system also integrates real-time water level and meteorological information from the NOAA Freeport Harbor National Water Level Observation Network station. That equipment is installed on a specialized single platform structure which is common in the Gulf of Mexico. Wind speed and directional data will help users plan for safe pilot boarding and ship passages during adverse weather.

USDA invests more than $698,000 in critical infrastructure to combat climate change

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that USDA Rural Development will invest more than $698,000 in critical infrastructure to combat climate change across rural Missouri.

Among the funded projects is Macon Coca-Cola Bottling Company's installation of a 46.98 kilowatt solar array system. The company will use a $20,000 Rural Energy for America Program grant to replace 71,831 killowatt hours (100% of the company's energy use) per year, saving the company more than $6,000.

The investments reflect the goals of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which addresses immediate economic needs and includes the largest ever federal investment in clean energy for the future, the USDA said.

For example, the Act includes $14 billion in funding for USDA programs that support the expansion of biofuels and help rural businesses and electric cooperatives transition to renewable energy and zero-emission systems.

USDA is making these investments through Community Facilities Disaster Grants, Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants, and Rural Energy for America Program Energy Audits and Renewable Energy Development Grants.

IOM supports Palau to build community resilience and preparedness to natural hazards

The Republic of Palau is exposed to natural hazards such as storm surges, typhoons, earthquakes, and tsunamis that can result in localized and national emergencies as well as population displacement.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), in partnership with the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO), has been working closely with the Government of the Republic of Palau (Palau) and community members to prepare for, and respond in a timely manner to, lifesaving needs during natural hazards and shocks.

IOM, under the Palau Emergency Preparedness and Enhanced Resilience project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance, engaged the Government of the Republic of Palau, NEMO, Palau Red Cross Society, Ministry of Education, and community members in tabletop exercises to test emergency response plans and procedures and address operational gaps by working closely with relevant authorities.

"Employing a comprehensive approach to disaster risk management requires the contribution and engagement of various government actors as well as community group representatives at all stages of the preparedness, response and recovery process," says Salvatore Sortino, Chief of Mission to IOM Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau.

"Tabletop exercises like these are key to ensuring comprehensive understanding and full ownership of respective roles and responsibilities. We are extremely grateful to NEMO for their leadership in these exercises," Sortino added.

IOM together with key government and non-government representatives reviewed Early Warning Processes to improve early warning systems, underlining roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the event of a natural hazard.

In Melekeok State, where tsunami preparedness systems need strengthening, IOM conducted a tabletop exercise to simulate hazard events and enable coordination on effective use of emergency communication channels, emergency evacuation routes, and school evacuation procedures among other critical aspects of tsunami response.

These tabletop exercises complement ongoing efforts to address critical needs by improving evacuation shelters and their management to minimize injury and loss of life, as well as testing government response structures and pre-positioning relief items.

IOM revamped five emergency evacuation shelters (EES) including the installation of typhoon shutters, and provision of water tanks, generators, and solar lights.

Additionally, through the project, more than 80 community representatives in five states have been trained on EES management, and five water quality management teams have been established and trained.

Testing the Resilience of the European Healthcare Sector

To ensure citizens’ trust in the medical services and infrastructure available to them, health services should function at all times. If health services and infrastructures in Europe were the object of a major cyber attack, how would we respond and coordinate at both national and EU level to mitigate the incidents and prevent an escalation?

This is the question Cyber Europe 2022 sought to answer using a fictitious scenario. Day one featured a disinformation campaign of manipulated laboratory results and a cyber attack targeting European hospital networks. On day two, the scenario escalated into an EU-wide cyber crisis with the imminent threat of personal medical data being released and another campaign designed to discredit a medical implantable device with a claim on vulnerability.

The Executive Director of the EU Agency for Cybersecurity, Juhan Lepassaar, said: “The complexity of our challenges is now proportionate to the complexity of our connected world. This is why I strongly believe we need to gather all the intelligence we have in the EU to share our expertise and knowledge. Strengthening our cybersecurity resilience is the only way forward if we want to protect our health services and infrastructures and ultimately the health of all EU citizens.”

The pan-European exercise organised by ENISA rallied a total of 29 countries from both the European Union and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), as well as the EU agencies and institutions, including ENISA, the European Commission, the CERT of EU Institutions, bodies and agencies (CERT-EU), Europol and the European Medicine Agency (EMA). More than 800 cybersecurity experts were in action to monitor the availability and integrity of the systems over the two days of this latest edition of Cyber Europe.

Can we strengthen the cyber resilience of the EU healthcare?

The participants who engaged in the complex exercise were satisfied with the way the incidents were dealt with and the response to fictitious attacks.

Now, the analysis of the process and of the outcomes of the different aspects of the exercises need to be performed in order to get a realistic understanding of potential gaps or weaknesses which may require mitigation measures. Dealing with such attacks requires different levels of competences and processes which include efficient and coordinated information exchange, the sharing of knowledge around specific incidents and how to monitor a situation which is about to escalate in case of a generalised attack. The role of the EU level CSIRTs network and the draft standard operation processes (SOPs) of the CyCLONe group also need to be looked into.

The deeper analysis will be published in the after-action report. The findings will serve as a basis for future guidance and further enhancements to reinforce the resilience of the healthcare sector against cyber attacks in the EU.

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