More than ever, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is experiencing increasingly frequent and severe hydrological and meteorological (hydromet) hazards such as floods, droughts, heat extremes, heatwaves, and sea-level rise. Underlying processes— including climate change impacts, population growth, land use changes, and urbanization patterns—are increasing the number of people in the region at risk from these hazards, especially those in coastal, low-lying areas.
Undoubtedly, timely and accurate hydromet information and, more importantly, people-centered and impact-based early warning systems (EWS) will be indispensable if governments in MENA are to protect lives and livelihoods in this new normal of extreme weather. Against this backdrop, GFDRR and the World Bank have been supporting governments in their efforts to strengthen the region’s hydromet services for the long term.
A key focus for the technical team thus far has been to develop analytical work and provide advisory services that can guide and inform governments as they strive to modernize their hydromet services.
For starters, the team has developed a regional hydromet services atlas, which provides a deep dive assessment of the state of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHS) for each of 20 countries and territories across MENA. Informed by that assessment, and prioritizing countries with the lowest capacities in hydromet and EWS, the team has formulated practical recommendations for selected governments to strengthen their respective NHMSs. While the assessment revealed that the capabilities of NHMSs vary considerably across the region, it also found that all would likely benefit if countries were to pursue intra- and inter-regional cooperation on hydromet strengthening in view of the shared challenges.
Specifically, in two prioritized countries—Djibouti and Tunisia—the team has developed comprehensive roadmaps for strengthening their respective hydromet services. Each of the roadmaps provided a more extensive diagnostic of the gaps, challenges, and opportunities facing the countries’ NHMSs than provided by the regional atlas. In both countries, the roadmaps highlighted the lack of awareness about the importance and value of hydromet as a key constraint to further public investment. The roadmaps helped to address this problem through a costbenefit analysis, which revealed that, in both Djibouti and Tunisia, investment in hydromet will produce socioeconomic benefits significantly greater than their costs—by up to $8 in socioeconomic benefits for every $1 invested in hydromet and EWS.
In addition, the roadmaps for Djibouti and Tunisia also proposed strategic frameworks for hydromet modernization covering short-term, medium-term, and long-term actions, including cost estimates and staffing requirements for each phase of development. Drawing on the Weather and Climate Resilience report published by GFDRR, the actions proposed by the roadmap covered the three main components of a modernization program for an NMHS: enhancement of the service delivery system; institutional strengthening and capacity building; and the modernization of observation, information and communication technology (ICT) and forecasting infrastructure.
The above analytical work has already begun to inform hydromet modernization efforts in MENA. For example, the Tunisia roadmap, alongside GFDRR technical and advisory support, proved instrumental in the preparation of the World Bank’s Tunisia Integrated Disaster Resilience Program, which promotes disaster preparedness by strengthening hydromet systems and EWS in the country through a set of investments and reforms, including the strengthening of NHMS commercial services. The project also implements over half of the Tunisia roadmap’s key action points. GFDRR support leveraged cumulative development financing of $100 million for the project, including co-financing by the French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement, or AFD), in addition to a $25 million commitment from the government of Tunisia.
Looking ahead, GFDRR and the World Bank are eager to mobilize analytical work to help catalyze hydromet modernization in the wider region. A team is currently carrying out a gap assessment of hydromet and EWS in Egypt that is informing the preparation of an anticipated World Bank lending operation on climateresilient agrifood transformation in the country. The assessment is also expected to lead to a roadmap document for strengthening hydromet and EWS in Egypt.