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.

New open-source software that decrypts social media messages to help manage risks and disasters

The European Commission’s new algorithm developed by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) can segment social media messages to identify, verify and help manage disaster events -such as floods, fires or earthquakes- in real-time.

Suppose you are an emergency responder and you see a social media post showing an unusable road in a place not covered by traditional news. Suppose you see a similar message from several accounts. Wouldn’t you wonder if they were referring to the same event or whether that area was worth a more detailed analysis with a satellite image?

It was with this in mind that scientists from the JRC helped deal with the 2021 Haiti Earthquake by using social media data analysis to complement the assessment of impacts in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.

This experience was the first real case usage of a software platform that can scan millions of social media texts and images per day for situational awareness and impact assessment. This information is collected, filtered and geocoded automatically and in real-time using machine learning (artificial intelligence) models.
A software that helps responders with flood risk management

The first goal of this platform was to provide an additional geospatial layer in the European Flood Awareness System (EFASSearch for available translations of the preceding linkEN•••) and the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS). These two online systems offer flood forecasts based on model simulations which are crucial to the Copernicus Emergency Management Services Managed by JRC.

The monitoring ability of these early warning systems is mostly anchored in satellite images and numerical models.The integration of this new social media for disaster risk management (SMDRM) software will allow them to assess the likelihood and impacts of a flood event with even greater accuracy.
An open-source tool available to all researchers and technicians

The new layer for EFASSearch for available translations of the preceding linkEN••• and GloFAS is the first product developed using the SMDRM software. Nonetheless, since the software has been released as open-source -free and open to all technicians linked to crisis response who want to leverage it- the scientists expect it to have a wider use and they remain available for collaboration.

The SMDRM software can be adapted for different scales and label relevant images for floods, storms, earthquakes and fires, resulting in valuable information for reports or descriptions of the situation on the ground or in the vicinity.

Technicians or researchers working on map development can use the code to find more data to improve or confirm their findings and complement information extracted from traditional sensors or earth observation sources.
Software that connects citizens to disaster risk management

The SMDRM software data help confirm whether an event is happening and where exactly the most affected locations are.

It is a clear example of how social media and active citizenship can contribute to disaster risk management as it help crisis responders improve their situational awareness in the immediate aftermath of an event.

DOE Should Address Lessons Learned from Previous Disasters to Enhance Resilience

Natural disasters, such as cyclones, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, and severe storms—and the power outages resulting from these disasters—have affected millions of customers and cost billions of dollars. The growing severity of wildfires and extreme weather events in recent years has been a principal contributor to an increase in the frequency and duration of power outages in the U.S. Federal agencies, such as DOE and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, play a significant role in disaster response, recovery, and resilience.

This report (1) identifies lessons learned from federal, state, and other entities' responses to selected disasters that affected the electricity grid from 2017 to 2021; and (2) examines federal agency actions to address those lessons learned. GAO selected a nongeneralizable sample of 15 of 35 disasters that affected the grid from 2017 to 2021. The 15 selected were among the most severe events across a range of types, locations, and years. GAO also examined agency and industry responses; reviewed relevant reports, policies, and documents; and interviewed federal, state, and local officials, as well as selected industry stakeholders.

Power outages caused by natural disasters have affected millions of customers and cost billions of dollars. The Department of Energy plays a key role in disaster response and long-term electricity grid recovery.

DOE has taken some steps to improve its workforce and training, tools and technology, and local capacity to respond to disasters. But, DOE doesn't have a comprehensive plan for coordinating response and recovery responsibilities within the agency. In addition, DOE hasn't used lessons learned from previous disasters to prioritize recovery efforts.

In responding to selected disasters occurring between 2017 and 2021, federal, state, and other stakeholders identified lessons learned in the areas of planning and coordination, workforce and training, tools and technology, and local capacity. In the area of planning and coordination, agency officials and reports highlighted that disaster responses were more effective when strong working relationships existed between federal, industry, and local stakeholders. Regarding workforce and training, a Department of Energy (DOE) report emphasized the importance of having a dedicated pool of responders with expertise in grid reconstruction and recovery, especially when responding to multiple, concurrent or successive disasters.

Federal agencies have taken steps to address lessons learned by improving workforce and training, tools and technology, and local capacity. For example, to address workforce lessons, DOE began deploying a Catastrophic Incident Response Team to quickly bring responders with subject-matter expertise to affected areas. However, DOE does not have a comprehensive approach for coordinating its broader grid support mission that includes disaster response, grid recovery, and technical assistance efforts. Specifically, roles and responsibilities within DOE for transitioning from response to recovery are unclear, as are how lessons learned from previous disasters are used to prioritize recovery and technical assistance efforts. GAO's Disaster Resilience Framework states that bringing together the disparate missions and resources that support disaster risk reduction can help build resilience to natural hazards. By establishing a comprehensive approach that clearly defines roles and responsibilities, and acting on lessons learned across DOE, the department could better target resources and technical assistance. This approach, in turn, can lead to enhanced grid resilience and reduced disaster risk.

 

Investing in resilient infrastructure for a better future

Day-to-day life depends on infrastructure and its services, this includes supply-chains, electricity, water and sanitation, and information networks. But in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing extreme weather events, these systems are under increasing threat.

A single event in December 2020, Cyclone Yasa, caused around USD 1.4 billion in damage to health facilities, homes, schools and other critical infrastructure in the Pacific island nation of Fiji. Beyond the economic toll, there was immeasurable disruption to people’s lives as a result of downed systems, extending the duration of the disaster beyond the passing of the cyclone.
Vital services for people and communities

Measuring the resilience of infrastructure is a challenge: There is no common understanding of what “resilient infrastructure” means, nor agreed benchmarks against which to gauge infrastructure resilience. Infrastructure is commonly understood as comprising assets and buildings; this needs to shift to include the vital services they provide.

“Social resilience touches on the capacity for a community to adapt, a resilient community is able to respond to changes, post-stress, in a positive way,” said Esther Anyakun Davinia, Uganda’s Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, speaking at a 7th Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction session titled, ‘Building a better future: Investing in resilient infrastructure for all’.

Moving towards net resilience gain

The Principles for Resilient Infrastructure – developed by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) to support the implementation of the Sendai Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – describe a set of principles, key actions, and guidelines to create national-scale net resilience gain, and improve the continuity of critical services.

“We need a framework – such as we have for net zero," said panellist Rob Wesseling, CEO of The Co-operators Group, a Canadian insurance company. “There were no net-zero alliances not too long ago. There is already an excess of $130 trillion committed to various aspects of net zero which can be used to improve resiliency.”

Investing in sound infrastructure, Wesseling argued, would pay out in resilience dividends.

The net resilience gain approach requires that infrastructure investments enhance resilience and not create any additional risks.

The six interconnected Principles are designed to guide infrastructure stakeholders and leaders in building infrastructure resilience, calling for a process that is continuously learning, proactively protected, environmentally integrated, socially engaged, adaptively transforming, and based on shared responsibility.

The implementation process itself will give users a better understanding of their existing infrastructure systems: their performance, exposure, regulatory environment, challenges and barriers, as well as offering entry points for better risk-informed decision making and investments.

“Short cuts lead to greater costs, so maintenance needs to be integrated,” said Dena Assaf, United Nations Resident Coordinator for the United Arab Emirates. “How the infrastructure systems are maintained and integrated must be informed by the Principles for Resilient Infrastructure.”
A stress test to measure policy impacts on infrastructure resilience
“Infrastructure stress testing helps governments and stakeholders to base policy decisions and investments on factual and up-to-date information on the status of the resilience of infrastructure systems."
- Beata Janowczyk

Regulations that govern critical infrastructure also need strengthening. Governments must revisit their mechanisms and practices to evaluate whether they can cope with increasing requirements brought about by climate change, shifting demographic and development patterns, and other stresses.

Understanding the risk landscape – and its potential impacts on public finances – provides a good basis for realistic assessments of the costs and benefits of financing and policy options.

UNDRR’s recently developed Resilient Infrastructure Stress Test helps policymakers to see how policy changes could impact critical infrastructure, exposing major gaps to be prioritized. The stress test measures infrastructure performance against various stressors, and offers an assessment to provide specific policy recommendations.

“Infrastructure stress testing helps governments and stakeholders to base policy decisions and investments on factual and up-to-date information on the status of the resilience of infrastructure systems,” said Beata Janowczyk, head of the Risk Assessment and Emergency Planning Unit in Poland’s Centre for Security.

With significant recovery funding investments being made in new infrastructure, risk reduction and resilience must be central considerations shaping how and where these resources are spent.

Breaking silos to build resilience – Multi-hazard, multi-sectoral approaches to managing disaster risks

Disasters unfold across national boundaries, involving a range of interrelated hazards and complex dynamics. To tackle disaster risks and build resilience in the face of increasing climate-related disasters, it will require a united effort to move beyond working in silos.

“Member states, the UN system, governments – whether national, local or community-level governments – will need to learn more and more how to work in an interdisciplinary manner,” said David Smith, coordinator of the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies, and moderator of the session Breaking the Silos – Towards multi-hazard, multi-sectoral approaches to managing risks at the 7th Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“One ASEAN, one response”

Southeast Asia and the Pacific region are especially affected by natural hazards, and in recent years has been the site of numerous disasters – cyclones, floods, tsunami and seismic events, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Susana Juangco, Director of the Philippines Office of Civil Defense, explained how ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has taken steps towards better coordination in its disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies.

“The disaster risk landscape is becoming more complex and challenging,” she said. “There is a need to strengthen and broaden cooperation, not only within the ASEAN region but also externally, including with non-traditional partners.”

One example is the ASEAN Joint Taskforce on Humanitarian Assistance, which draws in expertise from many sectors – political, defence, health, social welfare and development.

“Disaster management should be everyone’s business,” she said, “Instead of working in silos, inter-operativeness and coordination should be the essence of all our DRR initiatives.”
Understanding risk from community viewpoints

Bijay Kumar, Executive Director of the Global Network of Civil Society Organisations for Disaster Reduction (GNDR) described how an inclusive, community-based approach can strengthen DRR and resilience building by drawing on local perspectives.

“As a global network… we are trying to see how risks are understood from the perspective of the people experiencing them.”

A GNDR programme has examined how communities have been included in various governance systems, and how this inclusion has changed over a ten-year period, drawing on the experiences of representative samples of communities across 48 countries worldwide.

In Indonesia, for example, the study found that a consultative process helped to activate a penta-helix approach involving local governments, civil society, academia and the media in developing plans which were then taken up at a national level.

“It is possible to bring a comprehensive analysis to inform a sustainable way of building resilience,” he noted.

Finding the right tools for the job

Scientists have a range of tools at their disposal for assessing disaster risk. There are well-established methods for assessing primary impacts from external shocks, but in many of the places that experience disasters, data is often in short supply. However, when it comes to assessing systemic risks and the complex dynamics that cause wider impacts, there are fewer options.

Olaf Neußner, an independent expert for the German Committee for Disaster Reduction (DKKV) believes that recent global events – the pandemic and the war in Ukraine – could help to break down silos between different avenues of research, and create new opportunities for risk analysis.

“There is a lot of information available, and researchers can look into this and see what the cascading effects actually are,” he said.

In order to process the enormous volume of data, risk assessments could draw on machine learning and artificial intelligence to better understand causal relationships and connections between hazards and impacts.

Economic models could also be useful in understanding the socio-economic impacts of disasters – this requires that the two silos of economic and DRR analysis are bridged.
“Breaking silos takes time and energy, but it is worth it.”

Peter Binder, Director-General of MeteoSwiss and the Swiss Permanent Representative to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), offered examples of how DRR initiatives in Switzerland have deliberately set up structures to break down silos.

This entailed establishing the Steering Committee on Intervention in Natural Hazards, which brings together government and academic institutes dealing with weather, fire, civil protection, seismic events, avalanches and topography. The Committee operates on three hierarchical levels, each involving all of the parties.

A similar collaborative approach is applied by the National Centre for Climate Services, bringing together seven federal offices with academic institutions.

“Breaking silos takes time and energy, but it is worth it,” he said.

An earth system approach

At an international level, Binder noted that the WMO – with responsibility for weather, water and climate – provides another example of breaking silos.

“The three disciplines are intimately linked in nature and, therefore, should also be in our scientific and operational treatment,” he said. “This is the earth system approach, indispensable for managing multi-hazard risk.”

Switzerland is promoting an initiative to take this further, to bolster global preparedness for natural hazards.

Under the WMO Coordination Mechanism, “all available authoritative information on meteorological and hydrological threats from WMO members should be directed into the information channels of the pertinent UN and humanitarian aid organisations. This constitutes a multi-organizational and multinational effort to mitigate risk related to meteorological, hydrological and climate hazards,” he said.

[Source: UNDRR]

Disaster Resilience: Opportunities to Improve National Preparedness

Each year, disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires affect hundreds of American communities. The federal government provides billions of dollars to individuals and communities that have suffered damages. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, extreme weather events are projected to become more frequent and intense in parts of the U.S. as a result of changes in the climate. Investments in disaster resilience can reduce the overall impact of future disasters and costs.

This testimony discusses GAO reports issued from 2015 through 2021 on disaster preparedness and resilience. This includes FEMA's National Preparedness System and associated grants; hazard mitigation grant programs; and GAO's Disaster Resilience Framework for identifying opportunities to enhance resilience. The statement also describes actions taken to address GAO's prior recommendations through March 2022.

GAO has evaluated federal efforts to strengthen national preparedness and resilience and identified opportunities for improvement in several key areas:

FEMA Efforts to Strengthen National Preparedness. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—the lead agency for disaster preparedness, response, and recovery—assesses the nation's emergency management capabilities and provides grants to help state, local, tribal, and territorial governments address capability gaps. In May 2020, GAO found that FEMA and jurisdictions have identified emergency management capability gaps in key areas such and recovery and mitigation. GAO recommended that FEMA determine steps needed to address these capability gaps. FEMA agreed and plans to develop an investment strategy that aligns resources with capability gaps.

FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs. In February 2021, GAO found that state and local officials faced challenges with FEMA's hazard mitigation grant programs. Specifically, officials GAO interviewed from 10 of 12 selected jurisdictions said grant application processes were complex and lengthy. This could discourage investment in projects that would enhance disaster resilience. FEMA officials said they intended to identify opportunities to streamline, but did not have a plan for doing so. GAO recommended that FEMA develop such a plan. FEMA agreed and is in the process of doing so.

Identifying Opportunities to Enhance Disaster Resilience. In October 2019, GAO issued a framework to guide analysis of federal actions to promote resilience to natural disasters and changes in the climate. For example, the framework can help identify options to address government-wide challenges that are of a scale and scope not addressed by existing programs.

FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience

As climate change increases disaster risks across the country, emergency managers and government officials are beginning to implement strategies to build community resilience. FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience provides a roadmap of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs and initiatives that advance community climate resilience. FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience assists FEMA’s state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) partners in navigating the FEMA resources that are available to support communities in mitigating impacts of climate change.

Building resilience is a long-term, ongoing cycle that requires multiple steps to accomplish. Each section of the FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience corresponds with a step in that cycle and provides information about FEMA services, programs, and grants available to SLTT partners. Each SLTT partner has a unique experience with FEMA and has participated in different elements of the resilience cycle. SLTT partners with limited FEMA experience may choose to start from the beginning of FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience, while other SLTT partners may navigate directly to their program of choice.

Each section of FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience provides a brief description of the program, service, or grant, an overview of who can apply, examples of the FEMA programs in action, and helpful tools and resources for learning more about the program, service, or grant. In addition, where applicable, FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience also points out areas where equity can be prioritized. FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience explains how existing tools, such as the National Risk Index (Risk Index), can assist SLTT governments and their communities, right now, in making informed planning decisions including considerations of impacts from future weather conditions.

FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience also provides a quick glance at FEMA funding sources, such as the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, designed to support communities in building capability and capacity to mitigate the increasing impacts of climate change.

FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience is available to download at https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fema_resources-climate-resilience.pdf

UNDRR ROAMC: How disaster preparedness makes the difference when disaster hits

When COVID began to infiltrate the Caribbean, the World Food Programme (WFP) quickly contacted governments to find how to best help funnel cash to people left struggling to feed their families as jobs began to melt away.

For Dominica, helping rapidly digitalize the country's largely paper-based data collection and payment systems was the speediest and most effective solution, says Regis Chapman, head of office for WFP in Barbados.

Within weeks, WFP helped Dominica implement systems to more efficiently collect and analyze the data needed to determine who was eligible for payments to help ride out the pandemic.

By printing scannable QR codes on payment envelopes and asking people to sign digitally to confirm receipt, Dominica quickly created a visualization dashboard to show where and when funds were distributed.

“We're now looking at developing an information management system to better manage data on all their social protection programs, not just the public assistance program," says Chapman.

“The socio-economic aspect of COVID has been devastating. The lowest income groups are the people who are most affected and we’ve seen huge spikes in food insecurity.”

WFP’s shock responsive social protection program is one of the many in the Caribbean supported by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) which has provided $183 million in aid to the region - excluding Haiti - since 1994.

Through its DIPECHO disaster preparedness program, $50 million of those funds have targeted disaster risk reduction and community resilience programs.

Now as middle-income Caribbean countries compete with other parts of the world for increasingly tight donor funding, it is more important than ever to show how projects support communities and protect lives and livelihoods, say experts.

BLUEPRINTS

Presenting evidence of successful schemes also helps create templates that can be used in other parts of the world, says Saskia Carusi, external relations officer for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean (UNDRR).

“It’s important to show how successful projects are from an accountability point of view," says Panama-based Carusi.

"But for ECHO, it’s important to show evidence that projects save lives and make a difference, and that there are still needs in the region."

The best evidence should be a combination of quantitative data showing how losses are reduced by disaster risk reduction projects, alongside qualitative examples of how schemes work on the ground, says Carusi.

Evidence should also examine whether localized, pilot projects can be rolled out in neighboring communities or even scaled up to a national level, she says.

With EU funding, UNDRR has created the dipecholac.net platform where organizations can highlight their Caribbean projects and show how they relate to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

It now wants organizations to upload videos, documents and infographics to the site that show how Caribbean projects have been adapted to make a difference during the pandemic and other emergencies.

For the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the pandemic has underscored the importance of preparing Caribbean communities to deal with multiple hazards, says Marisa Clarke-Marshall, IFRC coordinator, partnerships and planning.

During the crisis, Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRTs) trained by the Red Cross with ECHO funding to deal with hazards such as hurricanes, have rapidly adapted to help communities cope with COVID, she says.

Trained primarily to conduct initial damage assessments, give first aid and coordinate immediate response, CDRTs have helped identify those most in need in their communities, and deliver cash vouchers and hygiene kits.

The CDRT project has attracted attention from major donors keen to set up similar teams elsewhere, while an ECHO-funded tool to assess risk and vulnerabilities is now used globally, she says.

HIGH-LEVEL IMPACT

Events such as November’s UNDRR co-organized VII Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean provide an opportunity for both governments, multilaterals and non-profits to show which projects best helped tackle COVID while continuing to ramp up preparedness.

For UNDRR, its projects to boost Caribbean business resilience reaped dividends during the pandemic as companies adapted their continuity plans that were primarily designed to tackle climate-related crises, says Carusi.

Its EU-funded project to increase preparedness and disaster risk reduction through the Caribbean Safe Schools Initiative is now generating interest from other countries in Latin America, says Carusi.

"UNDRR’s work on policy and advocacy in the long run has a higher impact," says Carusi.

For WFP, EU funding is supporting its work with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency (CDEMA) to pre-position generators, prefabricated units and other gear to help countries better prepare, save lives and reduce losses.

"A lot of what we're looking at is how do we help government systems to become more resilient," says Chapman.

"One of the region's prime ministers recently said, everybody says the Caribbean is so resilient, it's that we have to be. You have to stand up when you're knocked down and start all over again because what other choice do you have."

[Source: UNDRR]
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