Natural Hazard Risk
Natural hazards pose a significant threat to the small island state of Jamaica, with potentially significant consequences for economic development and poverty reduction efforts. 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, 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 because 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 disaster risk reduction and adaptation to climate change as a way to improve national mitigation and response, and 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.
GFDRR has helped enable DRM in Jamaica since 2008 through country-specific and regional grants among Caribbean countries. GFDRR support in the country has been focused on risk reduction and financial planning, strengthening social protection systems for disaster response and financial resilience, and promoting resilient infrastructure.
Since 2015, through support from the African Caribbean Pacific-European Union (ACP-EU) Natural Disaster Risk Reduction(NDRR) Program, GFDRR assistance is helping Jamaica strengthen DRM and climate resilience in the country’s development planning process by mainstreaming DRM in policy development, improving the application of disaster risk analysis to selected sectors, and strengthening institutional capacity for reducing disaster vulnerability. These activities have enhanced the project delivery of the $30 million Jamaica Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project financed by the World Bank.
With help from GFDRR since 2016, the Government of Jamaica is mainstreaming DRM in regulation, planning, designing, construction, and management of school infrastructure along with the national education sector’s development plan. Activities aim to conduct a probabilistic seismic risk assessment of school facilities nationwide, enhance institutional capacity on DRM, and support the formulation of a risk mitigation program.
In parallel, since 2016, GFDRR is helping Jamaica increase preparedness and response of the poor and vulnerable affected by disasters. Activities are doing so through improving the design of critical social protection delivery instruments and providing capacity building and training for government staff.
From 2014 to 2016, through ACP-EU NDRR Program, GFDRR supported a regional program in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries 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.
Earlier technical assistance activities focused primarily on providing coordinated recovery operations and supplementary financing after major disaster events. Following August 2008’s destructive Tropical Storm Gustav, GFDRR activities helped to restore community infrastructure including basic, primary, and all-age schools and health clinics in the most0affected parishes. GFDRR also supporting training to increase the government’s ability to respond to natural disasters. Additionally, GFDRR has supported activities to help the Government of Jamaica enhance national recovery preparedness through the systematic development of national post-disaster assessment methodologies, and creation of stronger institutional coordination mechanisms for recovery.
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.