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Blogs

The latest insights on resilience and disaster risk management
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A rainy commute is unpleasant for most. But in many cities across Africa, a rainy season brings more than mere inconvenience. Especially where drainage and sewage systems are inadequate, rainfall can quickly result in flooded streets. Pedestrians are forced to take off shoes to trudge through murky waters.

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In 2018, Ngaoundéré was selected as one of 12 cities to participate in Open Cities Africa, an initiative of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) that supports the collection of open-source risk information through citizen engagement and the development of data products to support local decision-making.

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For the past five years, the Africa Hydromet Program has worked to unite communities, countries, and the entire continent to tackle looming disaster risks. In its first phase, the initiative has dedicated $312 million to overcome these challenges, so much so that across Africa, 26 million people are benefitting from improved hydro-meteorological—hydromet—services with investments from the Africa Hydromet Program. 

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As part of its portfolio of urban resilience diagnostic tools, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery’s (GFDRR) Building Regulation for Resilience Program has drawn from expert institutions and researchers to design a fire risk assessment tool for the built environment.

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Ibadan is the third most populous city in Nigeria—Africa’s largest country in terms of population and economy. This city of six million also happens to be the country’s largest in terms of geographic area, but like many other cities, urbanization is largely uncontrolled, and people are exposed to disasters like floods.

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Over the last three years, our team has been working hand in hand with the government of Sierra Leone to enhance urban mobility in the capital city of Freetown, and to protect the local transport system against growing climate risk. This past year have been especially hard, with remote working, multiple virtual missions, and dramatic economic slow-down in Sierra Leone.

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When we launched Open Cities activities in Brazzaville, Congo, in 2019, our main objective was to help the municipalities of Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire design tools to mitigate floods and erosion risks in urban areas. Little did we know that the outcome of this work would have a powerful impact on the Congolese youth.

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Advances in technologies like satellites and smartphones have transformed maps as we know them. The gold standard map is now digital. It is accessible – open data approaches mean that map data can be repurposed by many agencies, organizations, and communities at once. With the growth of crowdsourcing platforms like OpenStreetMap, it is even collaborative – anyone can contribute information to the map, improving upon the work of others.

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By now, most countries have adopted a digital COVID-19 surveillance dashboard illustrating data and information such as case tracing and even geo-tagged local outbreaks. However, tracking infection rates, contact tracing, and case hotspots is not enough. There is limited integration of COVID-19 data with natural hazard data and risk information. An important next step for countries to enhance their preparedness is to identify the intersections between COVID-19 epidemiological models and risk models of natural hazards. 

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While countries at all levels of development face flood risk, the vast majority of the world’s flood exposed people – 89% – live in low- and middle- income countries.  Critically, it is not only major, more infrequent floods, but also smaller, frequent events that can reverse years of progress in poverty reduction and development.