Natural Hazard Risk
Natural hazards pose a significant risk to the small island state of Jamaica, with potentially significant consequences for economic development and poverty. Jamaica is the third most exposed country in the world to multiple hazards, with over 96 percent of the country’s GDP and population at risk from two or more hazards. Its primary risks are linked to hazards including hurricanes, floods, droughts, earthquakes, storm surges, and landslides. High exposure is attributed to the country’s location in the Atlantic Hurricane Belt and the geophysical orientation of its low-lying coastal zones, and its mountainous topography. The Jamaican territory is also crossed by five major fault lines, including the Plantain Garden Fault Zone, which triggered the 2010 Haitian earthquake.
Climate change models predict Jamaica could be impacted by an increased frequency of catastrophic natural events as a result of heightened surface temperatures and global sea level rise. Adverse natural events in Jamaica regularly impact livelihoods, destroy infrastructure, and disrupt the provision of essential services.
In recognition of the challenges posed by natural hazards, the Government of Jamaica has taken steps to strengthen the country’s disaster risk management (DRM) and develop national strategies and policies to promote more resilient development planning. These steps include the Natural Hazard-Risk Reduction Policy (2005), the Building Code Bill (2013), and the Disaster Risk Management Act (2015), which is the primary policy tool for DRM in the country. Likewise, the country’s National Development Plan, ‘Vision 2030 Jamaica’ (2009-2030) identifies risk reduction and adaptation to climate change as a way to improve national mitigation and response, and to decrease risk vulnerabilities. Similarly, Jamaica’s National Adaptation Planning Process, renewed in 2012, addresses climate change impacts as a national development priority.
Jamaica has also taken steps to strengthen its fiscal resilience to natural hazard shocks, including by becoming a member of the multi-country risk-pooling Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF) SPC, with GFDRR support. It has also established a National Disaster Fund to finance emergency response and rehabilitation activities following disasters.
To further advance Jamaica’s DRM agenda, government priorities include:
- Improving institutional capacity to plan and respond to climate change events and natural disasters;
- Exploring additional options to strengthen fiscal resilience to natural hazard events;
- Constructing and promoting climate and disaster resilient infrastructure; and,
- Better understanding natural hazard and climate change risk.
Since 2008, GFDRR has helped enable DRM in Jamaica through country-specific and regional grants among OECS member countries. The majority of GFDRR support has been focused on risk identification, risk reduction, financial resilience efforts, and post-disaster recovery and reconstruction assistance.
GFDRR has also facilitated engagements after major disaster events. Following August 2008’s destructive Tropical Storm Gustav, GFDRR activities helped to restore community infrastructure like basic, primary, and all-age schools and health clinics in the most affected parishes. GFDRR also provided training to increase the government’s ability to respond to natural disasters. Additionally, GFDRR has supported activities to help the Government of Jamaica in enhancing national recovery preparedness through the systematic development of national post-disaster assessment methodologies, and through the creation of stronger institutional coordination mechanisms for recovery.
Through technical assistance and financial support, GFDRR is also helping Jamaica integrate risk considerations into new and existing educational investments; strengthen DRM and climate resilience in the country’s development-planning process; and build disaster-responsive social protection systems. From 2014-16, GFDRR supported a regional program in Jamaica and the Caribbean to help reduce landslide risk through the management of slope stability. The program included the provision of course materials, web-based learning, a knowledge exchange platform, and software for calculating and modelling landslide risk. The goal is to provide low-cost, community-based solutions to reduce landslide risk.
GFDRR anticipates new and continued demand in the following areas:
- Building institutional capacity to identify, assess, and understand disaster and climate risks in terms of their economic and fiscal impact;
- Improving Jamaica’s infrastructure resilience, including national and sub-national priority infrastructure (e.g., bridges and urban drainage) and critical public facilities (e.g., schools and fire stations);
- Strengthening disaster emergency preparedness and response efforts; and,
- Improving the generation and collection of targeted hazard and risk information and analyses, for use in monitoring systems and decision-making processes.