Natural Hazard Risk
Heavy rainfall, hurricanes, and tropical storms are the principal natural hazards affecting Belize. These events bring recurrent floods and storm surges that incur severe economic losses.
The damage of Hurricane Keith in 2000 exceeded 45 percent of gross domestic product, while one year later, Hurricane Iris’ 14-foot storm surges submerged the country’s largest city, Belize City, and destroyed roughly 4,000 homes. Today, a deteriorating road infrastructure and poor drainage system impede post-disaster connectivity, slowing emergency response.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change identifies Belize as one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Despite being the least densely populated country in Central America, Belize’s population and economic activity are largely concentrated within and just outside a low-lying coastal zone. The Belizean society and economy are therefore highly sensitive to climatic and disaster-related shocks.
Investing in climate-resilient public infrastructure and implementing institutional reforms to prepare financially for disasters are government priorities. In the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Belize established the National Emergency Management Organization to coordinate ex-ante disaster preparedness and post-disaster response activities. In 2013, with support from GFDRR, Belize adopted the first comprehensive national strategy to address the impacts of climate change on social and economic development. The National Climate Resilient Investment Plan (NCRIP) encompasses infrastructure interventions, capacity-building activities, and policy actions.
The government is prioritizing three areas to further its disaster risk management (DRM) and climate-resilience agenda:
- Increasing the flood and climate resilience of road infrastructure;
- Shifting toward strategic, proactive investment that crowd in efficiencies and reduce climate and disaster vulnerabilities; and,
- Integrating NCRIP into the country’s development strategy.
Since 2008, GFDRR has financed technical assistance and analytical work to advance disaster and climate resilience in Belize. National and regional trainings on emerging tools and methodologies have been focused on and sequenced to build the government’s technical capacity to assess disaster risks.
Among Caribbean practitioners, GFDRR supported trainings on using the post-disaster needs assessment methodology and promoted knowledge exchange. A 2014 regional knowledge exchange workshop deliberated on measures to combat coastal and river-bank erosion and on ways to share skilled DRM human resources within the region going forward.
At the country level, GFDRR support has focused on closing risk information gaps while helping the government identify and prioritize investments in climate resilience. Support for the NCRIP, through the ACP-EU Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Program, identified $430 million in investment needs and informed a $30 million World Bank-financed Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project. In addition to engaging a wide range of stakeholders to create a robust geospatial model, these investments will work to enhance the resilience of road infrastructure against flood risk and climate change impacts.
Leveraging recently completed and on-going projects in Belize, GFDRR is supporting the government to build the institutional capacity to project and better-manage the potential fiscal impacts of disasters. And, correspondingly, to identify cost-effective financial protection options and appropriate risk-financing tools.
Resilience-building activities in Belize are in the early stages. As such, GFDRR anticipates continued demand from the government in the following areas:
- Closing geospatial information gaps to support risk-informed resilience planning;
- Improving implementation and coordination among Belize’s relevant agencies; and,
- Integrating hazard and risk considerations in the planning and management of road infrastructure.