Disaster Risk Reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The number of reported disasters in Africa has significantly increased in recent decades, putting at risk its recent development gains. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is therefore an important pillar for sustainable development and an integral part of the World Bank’s activities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) is the primary global framework for DRR. Together with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), the African Union (AU) and other development partners, the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) are key partners to support its implementation.

The World Bank’s disaster risk management (DRM) activities in Sub-Saharan Africa are coordinated by the Africa DRM Team. This Report on the Status of Disaster Risk Reduction in the Sub-Saharan Africa Region looks back at its activities since 2008 and describes a more comprehensive approach to DRR in Africa.

The majority of disasters in Africa are hydro-meteorological in nature, with droughts still affecting the largest number of people on the continent and floods occurring frequently along the major river systems and in many urban areas.

Cyclones mainly affect Madagascar, Mozambique, and some of the Indian Ocean islands. Geological hazards are less pronounced and predominately appear along the Rift Valley. Sea level rise, coastal erosion, and storm surges are a growing threat for low-lying coastal areas in Africa.

With climate change, a higher magnitude and frequency of these extreme weather events is expected. Sub-Saharan Africa’s disaster profile is closely linked to the vulnerability of its population and economies and exacerbated by minimal coping capacities.

Most African countries have limited resources to invest in disaster risk reduction and minimal fiscal space to fund relief and recovery efforts after a major disaster. Disasters can be a tremendous setback for economic growth and performance. Poor, small island states and land-locked countries are particularly vulnerable to the economic impact of disasters. The capacities of many national and local DRM authorities remain limited. In many areas, the economy is based on rain-fed agriculture, which is highly susceptible to climate variability.

Critical infrastructure such as roads, telecommunication, and dams often lag behind rapidly growing needs or are not constructed according to risk prone standards. Large parts of Africa’s economic assets are located in densely populated urban areas; most are close to river deltas or other bodies of water.

A large number of urban residents live in informal settlements often located in areas such as floodplains or drainage basins that are highly vulnerable to disasters.

A Guest Editorial