IMPACT Initiatives commits to informing climate change related risks
for crisis-affected populations around the world
2020 was the warmest year ever recorded across the globe. Before that, the ten warmest years on record occurred between now and 1998. Nine of those happened directly after 2004. Human activities are responsible for driving climate change at an unprecedented pace. These rapid changes are creating an increase in the frequency, and intensity, of natural hazards such as such as storms, floods, droughts, and extreme temperatures as well as provoking a rapid decline in global biodiversity. From 2000 to 2019, disasters are estimated to have resulted in close to 3 trillion USD of global economic losses. In parallel, the global adaptation commission estimates that investments of 1.8 trillion USD in adaptation measures would return more than 7 trillion USD in avoided costs and other benefits. Poor and fragile countries are at the forefront of this global crisis. The Germanwatch Climate Risk Index shows that out of the ten countries most affected by extreme weather events, seven are among the least developed countries in the world. In 2021, once again the global risk report from the World Economic Forum has ranked failure to act on climate as one of the biggest threats to society.
There are immediate life-threatening manifestations of this global crisis: decrease in food security, increase mortality from water and air pollution, or disaster induced displacement. There are also cascading consequences. For example, competition for dwindling resources is exacerbating tensions between nations and communities, increasing the risk of violent conflict. And finally, persistent inequality compounded by COVID-19, means that vulnerable households in the world’s poorest and fragile states, are not equipped to deal with multiple shocks. This is causing more challenges for people to survive. The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimates that by 2050 the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance every year as a result of storms, droughts, and floods could double to 200 million people. In its worst-case projections, the Federation estimates that climate-related humanitarian costs will reach $20 billion per year by 2030, which is almost the cost of the entire humanitarian response sector.
Tackling this highly complex crisis means decision makers need to have reliable, timely and quality information to find common solutions to this global challenge. Understanding the drivers of climate change and evaluating its impact in fragile contexts is critical to inform resilient sustainable development. Capitalizing on the increasing availability of information, IMPACT Initiatives supports both humanitarian and development agencies translate data to knowledge to : i) be better prepared before a crisis ii) respond in a climate and environmentally conscious manner iii) design long term solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation.
IMPACT Initiatives, notably via its REACH, AGORA, and PANDA initiatives, is increasingly committing research efforts to inform the aid community on how to tackle climate risk. The objective? To identify evidence-based solutions that can be applied in fragile contexts to strengthen the resilience of communities. How? By conducting scientifically robust risk assessments, working with local actors to develop a better understanding of risk, and building local analytical and communication capacities.
- Via regular data collection processes, REACH monitors the humanitarian situation of populations affected by natural hazards and provides granular information on their needs and vulnerabilities.
- Through earth observation, and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), REACH analyses hazards and exposure to severe weather conditions to better inform preparedness and resilience.
- Working with local authorities, AGORA provides granular information on disaster risks to inform locally owned disaster risk reduction activities
- Capitalizing on robust data and analytics, AGORA works with communities to improve disaster risk management and invest in local capacities.
- Supporting partners with PANDA to implement robust risk and climate vulnerability assessments.
All updates from our research on climate resilience will be regularly shared in the Climate Watch thread below.
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25/05/22 – Syria and Iraq – Remote sensing and ground-truthing for a more impactful water scarcity response in Syria and Iraq
Syria and Iraq are facing a water crises, with low rainfall, reduced water-streams (upstream dams, downstream salinization) and poor water management. To provide information on the scope and scale of water scarcity and worsening WASH needs, IMPACT Initiatives, via it’s inter-agency REACH, uses remote sensing (RS) with on-the-ground assessments to inform the humanitarian response, whilst also providing strategic information to support long-term planning for the worsening regional water crisis.
In Syria, through very high spatial resolution NDVI, cropland area, and surface water area data (available in a WebApp) REACH extracts detailed information on crop health/cropland abandonment, and monitors surface water area of reservoirs for a comprehensive understanding of water availability and use. Remote sensing derived information is used to target rapid need assessments, and is combined with in-depth multi-sectoral quantitative household surveys to enable response prioritization. These include water management area-based assessments, which provide area-level data on water infrastructure and management, to enable tailored and sustainable WASH interventions.
Learn more by checking out the briefing note – Humanitarian Impact of Water Shortages in Northeast Syria.
In Iraq, REACH fills critical WASH information gaps through extensive and multi-faceted remote sensing exercises, including surface water dynamics, and precipitation trends. REACH partnered with the WASH Cluster to visualize and analyse data on precipitation and temperature change, based entirely on open source data. Maps were developed which overlay precipitation deficit data with data on population density and vulnerable population groups (IDPs, returnees).
More info in the Precipitation and Temperature Change in Iraq – November 2021 brief.
In both contexts, this combination of remote sensing and assessment data is leveraged for a more impactful response.
13/04/22 – Somalia’s drought triggers new displacements
Somalia is experiencing the third drought episode in a decade, following three consecutive failed rainy seasons. The drought is compounding existing food insecurity among both pastoral and farming populations, and needs are spiking across the region – 13 million people are currently estimated to be facing high levels of food insecurity and water shortages. Our latest hard-to-reach assessment sheds further light on drought-affected areas specifically in the south and central districts of Somalia.
The drought was cited as the primary reason why most people most moved out of 87% of assessed communities, as new displacement was most commonly motivated by a search for food and water. Most people were reportedly skipping two or more meals a day in over half of the assessed locations (58%), while nearly half (45%) of the assessed settlements reported rivers or ponds as the main source of drinking water.
Additionally, the chronic insecurity in Somalia has obstructed the access to humanitarian assistance, while limiting the availability of basic public services such as the provision of healthcare and education. REACH found that in 97% of assessed locations, no NGO support had reportedly been provided in the three months preceding data collection.
Findings depict a grave situation. People residing in the assessed settlements were reportedly experiencing severe needs and had limited options for coping if conditions continued to deteriorate – posing a heightened risk of excess mortality.
Read the full report: REACH_SOM_Drought Response_Advocacy Brief
20/04/22 – Syria – Understanding the humanitarian impact of the water shortages in Northeast Syria
While water access improved in recent months, due to the onset of the rainy season and increased flow in the Euphrates, groundwater levels have declined, and rainfall levels have remained substantially below long-term average levels in the current agricultural season.
REACH is providing an update through a briefing note on the humanitarian situation in light of the continued water crisis and reviews the impact on water access, electricity access, livelihoods, food security, and health. Various REACH sources, secondary sources, and information from REACH’s field team are used in this briefing note. This includes a Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA), conducted in March 2022, reviewing the agricultural and livestock situation in Al-Hasakeh governorate.
- Water Shortages : KIs reported that 21% of households in their community had insufficient access to water in August 2021. As the water network became less reliable, households reportedly relied more on private boreholes or wells, and water trucking. Yet, the high cost of water trucking was the most cited barrier to water access, reported by KIs in up to 46% of communities. These costs meant that households had to spend money on water at the cost of other necessities. Water access improved after August 2021 due to the onset of the rainy season and increased flow in the Euphrates. However, as drought conditions continued and groundwater levels have declined substantially, the situation is likely to worsen during the summer 2022.
- Electricity Impact : In January 2021, KIs in 50% of assessed communities reported having 9 or more hours of electricity per day in their community – by December, this had reduced to 19%. Levels have remained low into March 2022 despite rising water levels in the Euphrates because rationing has continued. Households are unable to cope with network shortages as the alternatives, solar and fuel-powered generators, are beyond the purchasing power of most.
- Livelihoods Impact : KIs in Hasakeh Governorate reported severe decreases in livestock numbers in March 2022. Sheep were most strongly affected, with 67% of KIs reporting herd sizes in their subdistrict decreasing by over 25%. Correspondingly, farmers have reportedly been giving up on livestock farming while crop cultivation and agricultural wage labour were similarly reported to be decreasing.
- Food Security Impact : Households struggle with the high cost of foods paired with low purchasing power; in March 2022, KIs in 82% of communities reported that households were unable to afford essential food items. Low wheat harvests in 2021 due to the drought have strongly contributed to this. With low rainfall continuing into the current agricultural season and considering the global surge in food prices, it is likely that this situation will worsen over the course of 2022.
- Health Impact : Reduced water access led households to restrict their hygiene practices, which may make them more vulnerable to infectious diseases and skin diseases. Furthermore, the use of untreated water from boreholes, wells and water trucks increases the risk of waterborne diseases. In August, KIs in 19% of all assessed communities reported that drinking water was perceived to be making people sick – at 32%, this was even higher in communities that primarily relied on private water trucking for drinking water.
Learn more by checking out the briefing note – Humanitarian Impact of Water Shortages in Northeast Syria.
23/12 – IRAQ – Precipitation & Temperature Change analysed to provide a comprehensive understanding of anticipated climate-related challenges affecting Iraq
Iraq is expected to face an increasing water crisis, as climate change impacts such as a decrease in surface water levels and droughts are becoming more pronounced. The 2021 drought led the government to decide that only half of the available irrigated land can be used for the cultivation of winter crops, resulting in food security and livelihoods concerns. Contributing factors affecting a potential water crisis include the cutbacks in river flows coming into Iraq from neighbouring countries, as well as poor water management.
Changes in temperature and precipitation are key indicators of climate change and have a direct impact on droughts and access to water. REACH Initiative in partnership with WASH Cluster in Iraq conducted an indicative analysis of precipitation and temperature change to support emergency preparedness and planning, as well as to evaluate climate-related impacts on the population. The analysis traces the changes in precipitation and temperature and overlays this data with residence data of four population groups: returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), IDPs in informal sites, and the general population of Iraq (see Figure 1).
The analysis of precipitation (1981-2021 time period) and temperature (2015-2021 time period) change in Iraq suggests that:
- The highest precipitation deficit is prevalent in the northern part of Iraq, concentrated in Erbil, Duhok, Al-Sulaymaniyah and Ninewa governorates.
- IDPs (including those living in informal sites) and returnees are more likely to be affected by temperature and precipitation changes. Namely, almost three quarters (74%) of IDPs, 51% of IDPs in informal sites, and 44% of returnees live in high deficit zones.
- Monthly average temperatures of 2021 were higher in most months compared to both the 2015-2020 average temperature and the 2020 average temperature (see Figure 2).
This analysis identified geographic regions and population groups most likely to be impacted by temperature and precipitation changes specifically. However, access to water of sufficient quantity and quality is affected by a range of factors, including but not limited to water salinity and pollution, which may alter the vulnerability profile of households in different areas of Iraq. REACH Initiative is currently exploring additional products to provide a comprehensive understanding of the climate-related challenges affecting Iraq.
More info in the Precipitation and Temperature Change in Iraq – November 2021 brief.
09/12 – South Sudan – Understanding cumulative effects of conflict and flooding on food security, coping capacity, and social stratification in Canal-Pigi county
Since the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) workshop in November 2020, the cumulative effects of conflict and flooding have left Canal-Pigi facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels of food insecurity projected until July 2021.
Canal-Pigi County has seen continued flooding since August 2020 and, at the time of the assessment, remained flooded with flood waters unlikely to recede soon. The flooding reportedly resulted in large-scale unseasonal internal displacement from low-lying areas into highlands mostly near the north of the county. Displacement to larger towns has further added pressure of an increasing internally displaced persons population on host communities’ resources, with the limited maize harvest and humanitarian food assistance provided being shared with the IDPs. In light of these recent shocks, REACH conducted a rapid assessment in Canal-Pigi in October 2021, to investigate whether humanitarian conditions have deteriorated.
- Focus group discussion (FGD) participants commonly reported that the food security situation was worse than in previous crisis years. This is reportedly due to a combination of factors, including the compounding effects of two years of consecutive flooding in 2020-21, increased insecurity incidents, reduced ability of households to plant key crops (such as sorghum), and a limited number of households that had received humanitarian food assistance over the past year. Flooding has led to widespread collapse of livelihoods, severely affecting the ability of households to cultivate and maintain livestock, and decreasing community and household coping capacities.
- Flooding has led to widespread collapse of livelihoods, severely affecting the ability of households to cultivate and maintain livestock, and decreasing community and household coping capacities. Canal-Pigi is situated within the Eastern Plains Sorghum and Cattle livelihood zone, where livelihoods depend on cultivation of sorghum and livestock rearing in a normal year. As flood waters remained high during the dry season in 2021, very few households were reportedly able to plant any crops and no sorghum harvest is expected in 2021.
- In addition to reliance on fishing and wild foods, FGD participants reported that community members were engaging in extreme coping strategies such as begging, restricting consumption of adults, only eating one meal per day, and skipping meals for consecutive days.
- Humanitarian service providers reported that provision of aid has been challenged by the floods, with disruptions and delays in services. Flooding and insecurity have also created several barriers for communities to access humanitarian food distribution points.
08/11 – REACH conducts a flood hazard assessment in northwest Syria where IDPs have been experiencing recurring winter flooding
In northwest Syria winter storms have the potential to generate devastating floods which have a disproportionate effect on internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps and informal sites. Recurrent heavy rain between 14 and 31 January 2021 generated widespread flooding throughout northwest Syria, affecting an estimated 122,953 internally displaced people (IDPs)1 and resulting in the death of a child and injuries to three other individuals. More than 300 camps and sites throughout the governorates of Idleb and Aleppo were impacted by the floods, 8400 shelters were reportedly destroyed, while a further 13,800 shelters suffered some level of damage. Thousands of households were forced to seek shelter in schools, mosques and open spaces where winter temperatures dipped below freezing.
Winter flooding within IDP camps and sites throughout Idleb and western Aleppo has been a recurrent problem for several years, the recent devastation suffered by vulnerable populations in these locations is tragically only the most recent example following many similar previous events in the past. In November 2016, camps in Dana sub-district were impacted by flooding which inundated tents and accessways causing destruction of property and movement difficulties. In December 2018 another severe storm resulted in widespread flooding throughout Idleb and Aleppo, and damage to tents and property was reported in more than 60 camps. Again, in March 2019 heavy rainfall caused severe flash flooding in the region, damaging road infrastructure and destroying food stocks. In June 2020 heavy rain in Ma’aret Tamsrin, south of Dana sub-district, caused severe flooding, resulting in the loss of three lives, and reportedly destroying hundreds of shelters and putting sanitation facilities out of service.
IDPs are among the population groups most vulnerable to the impacts of disasters associated with natural hazards for a number of reasons. The primary reasons are linked with the locations and living conditions of the sites where IDPs live. IDP sites and settlements are frequently located on land that has traditionally been considered uninhabitable due to environmental factors such as steep terrain, rocky or arid ground, or land that is known to be prone to seasonal flooding. Moreover, IDPs in camps and informal sites often live in densely populated environments and in shelters that are not designed to resist natural hazards.
In addition to the immediate hazard flash floods present to people and property, poor drainage and persistent standing water in and around shelters can lead to numerous health and sanitation problems in camps and informal sites extending the adverse effects of flooding beyond the event itself. Lastly, the current outbreak of COVID-19 and the rising number of confirmed cases in northwest Syria, add to the particularly concerning situation in the camps and informal sites this upcoming winter.
Key findings regarding the catchment of southern Dana sub-district which includes the densely populated Kafr Deryan, Tal Elkarameh, Dana, Sarmada, Burdaqly and Tilaada camp clusters. Numerous camps within these clusters have experienced severe flooding on multiple occasions since 2016.
- The assessment utilised HEC-RAS hydraulic modelling software to estimate flood depths and velocities during a heavy rainfall event within the catchment. The results have been analysed to highlight shelters located within IDP sites which may be most susceptible to flood hazards.
- The assessment detected 4,967 IDP shelters exposed to flash flooding with a modelled flood depth exceeding 200mm.
- The assessment detected 831 IDP shelters exposed to a flood hazard modelled (depth x velocity) categorised as a medium hazard or higher.
- Kafr Deryan, Tal Elkarameh, Sarmada and Dana considers as the most affected communities and clusters in south Dana subdistrict where the flood simulation computed 4,138 IDP shelters exposed to flash flooding in combined.
- The nature of the south Dana catchment as mountainous at the edges and flat plains in the middle made it more exposed to flash floods and increase the velocity of water running down toward the plains.
Learn more by reading the flood hazard assessment undertaken by REACH, highlighting shelters located within IDP sites which may be most susceptible to flood hazards.
27/07 – South Sudan – In Jonglei state, 2020 flooding impacts on shelter surpassed those of 2019
The October 2020 to July 2021 Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis results showed that Jonglei state has faced Phase 4 Emergency levels of food insecurity as of October, a crisis that has been in part driven by high levels of flooding in both 2019 and 2020. The REACH team conducted interviews with Key Informants (KIs) who had recently arrived from, recently visited, or received regular information from a settlement or “Area of Knowledge” (AoK), to assess the flooding impacts on shelter and displacement dating back to August 2019.
The findings showed that:
- in each county of analysis, 2020 flooding impacts on shelter surpassed those of 2019, with the amount of KIs reporting flooding forcing people to leave their residence at a significantly higher rate.
- Twic East county saw some of the most concerning flooding impacts, with the highest proportions of KIs reporting flooding-driven displacement of the five counties.
- Akobo county saw the highest proportion of KIs reporting displacement caused by any displacement driver or combination of drivers in a single month in December 2020, when flooding combined with other compounding shocks surged
More info in the Jonglei Climate Shocks and Displacement Trend Analysis Brief
09/06 – Somalia – Effects of Drought and Conflict on Households in Southwest State (SWS)
In 2020, Somalia endured a confluence of adverse, compounding shocks, which imposed significant tolls on a population already living under hardships of previous years. Already at the start of the year, Somalia was experiencing high rates of poverty – more than half of the country was estimated to be below the poverty line – as well as diminished agro-pastoral production, protracted displacement for significant segments of the population.
Beginning in 2019, the country experienced two overlapping locust swarms, which inflicted a high cost on farmers and herders and further imperiled food security and nutrition. A March 2020 rapid needs assessment estimated that 55% of farming land and 50% of grazing land had been affected by the swarms, a cause of concern in a country where, among the rural population, 50% of households are pursuing agro-pastoral livelihoods and the other 50% nomadic pastoral ones. By July 2020, it was estimated that as a result of locusts, along with other pests and flooding, the Gu season harvest could be as much as 15 – 25 percent lower than the long-term average from 2016-2019. The possible effects of diminished food production were already being observed, as, a 13 percent increase in new monthly admissions of acutely malnourished children was observed between January and March 2020
Somalia experienced an above-average rainfall from the Gu rains, which occurred from April to June, producing mixed effects for the population. The rains were vital for recharging subsurface water and relieving the existing water deficit, and were also attributed to improved harvest outcomes, the latter of which were especially critical in light of agricultural destruction by locusts. However, the heavy rains also contributed to significant flash and riverine flooding, beginning in April. The floods affected an estimated 919,000 people, including 411,905 of which were displaced, and others who experienced acute watery diarrhea or cholera.
The findings of REACH’s 2020 multi sectoral needs assessment (JMCNA) indicated that food security was particularly precarious in Southwest State (SWS
Households in Southwest State (SWS) have been particularly affected by the crises and shocks of the previous years, principally drought, insecurity, and flooding.
- SWS was found to have the highest proportion of assessed households (39%) facing extreme food security needs, almost double the national rate (21%). Across the state, among those households with extreme unmet needs in food security, needs were primarily driven by a dependency on friends/family or government and humanitarian agencies as their primary source of food.
- among the 44% of households in SWS not relying on tenuous sources of food, 89% were relying on a negative coping mechanism. Damage and disruption to infrastructure caused by recent flooding and conflict, along with disruption to humanitarian and government operations caused by COVID, has the potential to materially degrade existing living standards and deepen food security, nutrition, and health needs in the future.
As twin realities – the intensity of Somalia’s current needs and the unpredictable trajectory of major shocks and drivers of vulnerability – necessitates both short- and long-term humanitarian and development-oriented interventions informed by evidence, find out more by reading the report and factsheets of REACH’s 2020 multi sectoral needs assessment (JMCNA)
06/04 – South Sudan – Severe flooding causes the displacement of over 1 million people in 2020
The October-November 2020 Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis determined that an estimated 50% of the population in Northern Bahr el Ghazal (NBeG) state were classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse levels of acute food insecurity (AFI), with over 46% of children facing global acute malnutrition (GAM). Field reports and satellite data indicated that the high level of food insecurity and malnutrition encountered in NBeG was likely caused by a series of climate shocks, namely a combination of drought-like conditions in July followed by flooding in August/September 2020, both of which affected the harvest. Severe flooding across South Sudan has caused temporary displacement and disruption in service provision to more than 1 million individuals in 2020 (OCHA).
To support the understanding of food insecurity levels and the status of distress migration in the area, REACH conducted a qualitative assessment in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state to reveal the intricacies and impacts of the climate shocks as well as investigate reports of atypical displacement. These findings were then triangulated with recent satellite imagery analysis.
To inform the humanitarian response to the 2020 flooding and future disaster risk reduction efforts, building on methodologies developed by REACH for Yemen and Central African Republic, UNOSAT produced the first ever country wide flood susceptibility analysis and mapping for South Sudan. The criteria used include elevation, slope, topographic wetness index, rainfall intensity and duration (average maximum annual), distance from nearest drainage, height above nearest drainage, land-cover and soil type. The spatial resolution of the flood susceptibly analysis is 30 meters for the complete country.
- In 2020, a combination of climate shocks had a severe impact on food production. Delayed rains and drought-like conditions between May-July, followed by flooding from July-September interrupted the typical cultivation calendar. Dry conditions meant households had to delay land preparation and seed planting, which led to reduced crop health and growth. Subsequent flooding meant that a large amount of crops were destroyed, with many that could be salvaged impossible to cultivate due to delayed planting.
- Households were frequently using food-based coping strategies such as skipping meals, with foodstocks reportedly almost exhausted. This level of food insecurity is uncommon for this time of year, with the lean season usually between May – June before the harvest in July, suggesting food security conditions may deteriorate further before the next harvest. In addition, access to traditional livelihood-based coping strategies such as crop rotation has been impeded by repeated climate shocks, with this having the potential to further exacerbate food insecurity.
- Flooding in 2019 reduced food availability, which was then exacerbated by a second year of climate shocks. This has meant many households have faced protracted food insecurity.
- Although movement of individuals seeking seasonal livelihood opportunities in Sudan is normal for parts of NBeG, atypical movement intentions of entire households to Sudan or areas on the border were commonly reported for the three months following data collection, and many households were already moving. Such atypical movements were reportedly due to food insecurity, which was compounded by high market prices, driving movements to access livelihoods such as fishing or casual labour, or humanitarian assistance. Movements of entire households were reported to likely take longer than typical seasonal movements.
- Many households remaining in NBeG are the least vulnerable households, that have the financial means to afford high market prices. However, while the households moving in their entirety are reportedly quite vulnerable, among the most vulnerable households are those that are remaining behind because, despite having few assets or other means to cope locally, they are unable to make the journey, especially those with household members who are elderly or Persons with Disabilities and those who do not have the financial means to afford transportation by vehicle.
- Most respondents felt that rainfall had become more irregular in recent years. Many said that, if they were to experience climate shocks driving food insecurity similar to those in 2020 several years in a row, they would pursue longer-term relocation from their area.
For more information, the Climate Impact & Displacement Profile fact-sheet for the Northern Bahr el Ghazal state is available online.
04/03 – Ukraine – When climate change compounds conflict: the fight against wildfires in Eastern Ukraine
The impacts of climate change In Eastern Ukraine are becoming increasingly clear as the frequency of natural hazards such as droughts, heat waves, dust storms and wildfires continue to rise. In summer and autumn last year, drought conditions resulted in major wildfires in Luhansk oblast, damaging 500 homes and leading to 11 deaths in 32 settlements across the region.
These climate risks severely compound an already precarious situation in a region that has been suffering from the effects of a protracted conflict since 2014. Frequent shelling, land mine fields, and the contamination of unexploded ordnance in the Luhansk forest belt, which has been intersected by the conflict`s contact line since 2014, make the area extremely susceptible to wildfire risk, as highlighted in the IMPACT area-based risk assessment for Popasna raion. In addition, the area is heavily industrialised and decaying infrastructure and disruptions to health care access further hinder resilience.
Across the wider Sea of Azov area, milder winters and reduced precipitation has also led to agricultural stress and reduced crop yields. Eastern Ukraine was not alone in facing the impacts of climate change, with major wildfires also occurring in the Chernobyl region in April last year. The forest fires in the Chernobyl region started in the exclusion zone close to the nuclear reactor, lasting for several weeks. Firefighting was complicated by frequent changes in wind direction and lack of roads, making vehicle access difficult in the response efforts. Polluted air from the fires was recorded as far away as Cherkasy, Poltava and Dnipro.
In such cases, prompt geospatial information to inform early warning, monitoring, and response to wildfires can make a difference in disaster prevention, preparedness, and protecting communities. Through the combination of satellite imagery and real time data from drones, remote sensing can be an effective and complementary way of providing essential information in wildfire response, in addition to providing added situational awareness and safety for response personnel which is crucial especially in the context of Eastern Ukraine.
Under the 3P Consortium project to Prepare, Prevent and Protect civilian populations from disaster risks in conflict-affected areas, IMPACT Initiatives provided ad-hoc mapping support to the Luhansk Emergency Service department during the wildfires. These maps helped to identify fire-affected areas through active fire detection and fire spread monitoring, based on satellite data from the Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) and information on critical infrastructure and vulnerable communities.
In addition , IMPACT Initiatives provided the department with a drone and conducted training in geospatial analysis, highlighting the importance in the complementary use of drones and satellite data, such as that from the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, in wildfire disaster management.
A better understanding of disaster risks helps build awareness among affected populations, notably local communities, authorities, land planners, and state emergency services. Data feeds into the Disaster Risk Management cycle – not only to inform risk analysis but also to inform better preparedness, resilience, and response. This Ukraine example shows that the way in which data is collected and shared throughout the Disaster Risk Management cycle can make a vital difference in disaster prevention, disaster preparedness, and protecting first responders and communities in the event of a disaster.
For more information, please feel free to download the full “IMPACT area-based risk assessment for Popasna raion” report.
05/02 – Syria – Shelters for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Northwestern camps are vulnerable to flooding
Displacement associated with disasters and the effects of climate change is one of today’s most serious humanitarian and development issue. In the first half of 2020 alone, disasters triggered 9.8 million new displacements, and most were linked to weather-related hazards such as storms, floods and droughts. In northwest Syria, extreme flooding events are devastating families already reeling from ten years of conflict, displacement, economic ruin, and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seasonal floods have become increasingly severe in the region, gradually eroding the resilience that communities have against ongoing and future shocks. Understanding the role of climate change, how it compounds the crisis in Syria, and what can be done about it, is critical.
Flood hazards are a product of flood depths and flood velocities. Deep water and high velocity flows pose a great risk to people and their property, particularly in situations where shelters, roads, and other infrastructure are poorly constructed or maintained. This is often the case in the informal IDP settlements in Northwest Syria where storms and floods have devastating effects for communities residing there.
The flood hazard mapping process utilized by the REACH Syria team involves several stages beginning with the delineation of catchments/watersheds and the definition of major overland flow paths and streams. Utilising SAGA terrain analysis, hydrology and channel tools to process Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, flow paths and catchments for the whole of Syria were defined.
In parallel the REACH Syria team in partnership with UNOSAT was working to identify IDP shelters from satellite imagery using a combination of machine learning detection algorithms and manual interpretation of imagery by analysts from the REACH and UNOSAT teams.
Using the high-level overland flow and catchment data and the IDP shelter locations, the team was able to overlay the two in order to identify areas where high IDP shelter densities lay in close proximity to major overland flow paths. Using this method, supplemented by numerous reports of flooding from local news agencies and CCCM cluster members over the past 5 years, the catchment of northern Dana was selected as the study area for a more detailed flood hazard assessment.
Simulating flood-like conditions in the northern Syrian context by feeding data into a hydraulic modelling software, REACH teams were able to evaluate locations within the area that were most exposed to severe flood hazards, and also identify which infrastructure and settlements were most vulnerable.
Results from the hydraulic modelling exercise revealed that during modeled extreme rainfall events, nearly 2,500 IDP shelters within the study area are exposed to a significant flood hazard.
26/01 – Sahel – Climate change, compounded by COVID-19, is pushing migrants to the brink
Described as a Ground Zero for climate change by the United Nations, the Sahel region hosts some of the most vulnerable populations in the world. Yet climate change is just one of the many challenges Sahelians are forced to contend with. Most regions face the dire consequences born from ongoing conflict, food insecurity, and political instability. The combination of these issues, further compounded by the spread of COVID-19 and the measures taken to fight it, act as threat multipliers in some of the most crisis-affected communities globally.
For Sahelian populations who traditionally rely on movement to sustain their livelihoods and meet their basic needs, measures taken to fight COVID-19 in the region as well as nefarious environmental impacts created by climate change have severely reduced their capacity to cope.
Mobility dynamics in the Sahel build on long-standing migration patterns developed over generations, often part of the livelihood strategies to cope with the seasonality of the climate.
Environmental migration patterns are central to populations in Niger & Burkina Faso where accessing additional livelihoods is vital to counter insufficient agriculture-based revenues, and lack of food, itself a result of unpredictable climate. This fine balance, between insufficient harvest yields and vital seasonal migration patterns to complement, has been severely disrupted by the pandemic. Movement restrictions, especially across borders, have had devastating effects for migrants in the Sahel.
Given the current circumstances presented by COVID-19 and increasing climate change trends, there exists a general lack of understanding of the complex linkages between these two phenomena and migration.
The freshly published report “Pushed to the brink? The impact of COVID-19 on environmental migrants in the Sahel”, conducted by REACH, in partnership with the Start Network as part of its Migration Emergency Response Fund (MERF) aims to increase this understanding- to offer better solutions for aid actors to respond to this crisis of mounting importance.
09/09/20 – Pairing satellite data with household surveys to locate high flood risk areas in the Central African Republic
In late 2019, a destructive flood event that occurred in the months of October and November in the Central African Republic (CAR) occasioned the displacement of over 100,000 individuals and caused considerable damage. Historically, inclement rains in CAR have destroyed shelters, obstructed transportation routes, and increased the incidence of diseases like cholera and malaria. The tropical climate of the country, characteristic during the rainy season, is exacerbated by climate change trends which lead to more frequent and destructive flooding of towns and villages. The unexpected nature of such natural hazards reduces the resilience that communities have against shocks, leaving them more vulnerable to the consequences.
Through remote-sensing, REACH conducted a flood susceptibility analysis to classify areas within CAR that are more likely to flood, in an effort to inform enhanced preparedness. Results were then paired with indicators selected from the 2019 Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment conducted across CAR, in order to develop a measure of relative consequential flood risk. The risk component accounts for where the impact on affected communities would be the worst, based on previously reported vulnerabilities. Based on needs and vulnerabilities reported by affected populations living in the most at-risk areas, the analysis showcased areas where the compounded impact of flooding would likely be the worst.
The analysis produced two outputs that are useful for planning response on the ground. First, a spatial representation of flood susceptibility, followed by a flood risk score for each prefecture and sub-prefecture assessed. Data revealed for example that the Ouham and Kemo prefectures have the highest flood risk, while Ouham Pendé and Nana-Mambéré prefectures have the lowest. These calculations are based on a combined measuring of exposure, vulnerability, and hazard to flooding.
The flood risk score involved clipping the flood susceptibility layer to just the inhabited areas. This revealed that a significant portion of cities are highly susceptible to flooding. Many settlements in CAR are strategically located near rivers and tributaries which sustain the livelihoods of residents as a mode of transportation and means of sustenance. The banks of these waterways tend to overflow to accommodate the increasing amount of rainfall collected in these watersheds.
As a consequence, without any adaptation or contingency, the natural environment’s way of dealing with climate change will continue to impact affected populations, that are already suffering from conflict, and other shocks. The humanitarian community delivering assistance to affected populations in CAR must coordinate to mitigate the risks imposed by shifting climate trends. Failure to do so will inevitably impact the living conditions of entire communities, by diminishing their livelihoods and putting them at further risk.
22/01/20 – Climate change and natural hazards in Bangladesh show the need to focus on vulnerable populations
Living in a country where a quarter of the land is barely above sea-level, the people of Bangladesh are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the havoc wrought by natural hazards. Those who live along the coastline are even more prone to the destruction brought by sudden-onset disasters, whilst a rising population density makes the risk reality for millions today.
Bangladesh has a history of devastating cyclones: at the end of 1970, the deadliest cyclone on record resulted in over 500,000 deaths; in April 1991, a devastating cyclone hit the Chittagong district of southern Bangladesh causing over 130,000 reported fatalities; and in 2007, the destruction brought by Cyclone Sidr led to another 3,000 causalities. While certain measures, such as the construction and use of cyclone shelters, have helped reduce the number of cyclone-related causalities, Bangladesh is unable to fully cope with the devastating consequences of disasters caused by natural hazards. Further compounding this complex and precarious situation has been the influx of Rohingya refugees in August 2017, leading to roughly 900,000 Rohingya refugees now living along the southern coastline of Bangladesh. Fear of the wreckage a powerful storm would cause across the refugee camps is a constant concern for responders on the ground as well as the Bangladeshi government.
In order to help populations most vulnerable to the effects of cyclones and other natural disasters, REACH has been working to establish a baseline understanding of population centers, natural hazards, the natural environment, and hazard mitigation measures in both host communities and refugee populations. Through a combination of assessments, mapping exercises, trainings, and as the co-chair of a subgroup of technical experts mandated under the Information Management and Assessment Working Group (IMWG) as the Natural Hazard and Risk Analysis Task Force (NatHaz TF), REACH has helped to collect, streamline, and standardize information- valorizing how it should be interpreted in Cox’s Bazar. The NatHaz Task Force is a dedicated sub-group of technical experts mandated with unifying, analyzing, and then disseminating digestible natural hazard information destined for operational actors on the ground.
Through continued coordination and capacity building endeavors, REACH facilitates information gathering and sharing to help improve Bangladesh’s ability to respond to natural hazards and to assist those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
17/05/19 – Assessing humanitarian needs after Cyclone Idai proved two things – the first was the importance of baseline data
Natural hazards such as cyclones and heavy rains are becoming increasingly common on the southern shores of Africa. This trend driven by climate change was made visible in Mozambique where Cyclone Idai swept over the city of Beira and neighbouring provinces across to Zimbabwe. As extreme weather patterns become mainstream, the significance of data required to build preparedness is brought to the forefront of humanitarian action. So is the necessity for rapid response in assessing the needs of affected populations.
Between March 14th and 15th, Mozambique was struck by the culmination of a storm that had gained momentum over the region for the past weeks. When Cyclone Idai made landfall, it brought destruction and damage in its path. The urban areas of Beira, its port, and the rural regions in the surrounding Manica and Sofala provinces all felt the impact of the winds and rain. Idai caused substantial flooding and left entire communities submerged under water, bereft of shelter and in urgent need of assistance.
When Elliott Messeiller, senior REACH assessment officer part of the REACH deployment team, landed in Beira, the cyclone’s impact was visible at every turn. So was the lack of data. Response actors were hitherto forced to navigate with what little information they possessed. The gap between what was available and what was needed readily apparent.
From April 1st to 17th, two weeks after Idai swept across the country, REACH carried out a mapping and survey exercise across the hardest hit regions. The assessment reached beyond urban centres and main settlements to hard-to-reach areas that were only accessible by foot, boats or 4×4’s.
Among the key findings from the multi-sector needs assessment:
- Food was the most frequently cited priority need by households assessed.
- At the time of data collection, crop lands were reportedly still flooded in 59% of assessed areas.
- 87% of flooded areas reported a substantial loss of crops and livestock, posing serious food security threats.