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Download flyer: Building Resilience - Managing the Risks of Disasters in East Asia and the Pacific (772kb pdf)
The countries of East Asia and Pacific (EAP) suffer greatly from the adverse physical, social and economic impacts of natural disasters. Some 82% of all lives lost and 85% of all those affected by disasters since 1997, live here.

Factors such as climate change, urbanization and environmental degradation have increased the severity and rate of natural disasters from roughly 120 events annually in the 1980s to about 500 events today. This trend is also causing widespread destruction of billions of dollars worth of assets annually in some of the world’s most densely populated areas.

The unacceptably high loss of lives, human anguish and economic reversals led to a World Bank policy review in 2007 expanding the traditional emphasis on post-crisis damage assessments and reconstruction to disaster prevention and risk reduction through a series of development and policy initiatives with governments across the region.

Over the last decade, Disaster Risk Management (DRM) projects have shown convincingly how lives can be saved and critical infrastructure spared using new technologies, emergency and city planning, building codes, climate change adaptation and risk financing mechanisms.

For instance, Cyclone Nargis killed 130,000 in Myanmar in 2008 compared to 3,000 who died around the same time when Cyclone Ramshi hit Bangladesh—the difference was Bangladesh’s active cyclone risk reduction program.

With the fastest rate of urbanization in history—over one million urban migrants a month in EAP—reducing the impact of disasters has become intrinsic to fighting poverty. Indeed, development choices made today can influence future disasters and their impact.

Six of the ten most vulnerable countries to climate change events are in the East Asia region, and development in several Pacific island nations depends on adequate measures to reduce disaster losses caused by rising sea levels and environmental degradation. Many aspects of climate change adaptation are disaster risk management and new initiatives are being launched with partners and governments in the region to help vulnerable nations meet this growing challenge.


Vulnerability among these growing populations is amplified by a combination of increased climate events and urban/coastal migration: over 162 million people in EAP face displacement because of climate-change induced rises in sea-levels—including over 20% of Vietnam’s total population. Some 65 % of people exposed globally to flood risk live in EAP’s coastal megacities compared to 3% in South America and 1% in Australia.

In addition, 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes are situated along the eastern edge of Asia and South East Asia; these areas are also extremely seismically active and can have devastating consequences: for instance, the May 2008 Wenchuan quake led to 70,000 deaths and US$9.6 billion in economic losses.

In 2009, six of the ten countries with highest natural disaster related mortality rates, and also six of the ten countries whose GDP were impacted most by natural disasters were from Asia and Pacific region. The increasing intensity of disasters can be seen for instance, in Samoa where the total economic value of damage and loss caused by the 2009 Tsunami is estimated at about US$104.4 million equivalent to about 20% of the country’s GDP.

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The World Bank’s regional development strategy focuses on sustaining growth and reducing poverty through four pillars. The DRM program complements these:


In addition, demand from clients has led to several new strategic initiatives in FY10 in developing Early Warning Systems together with UNISDR and WMO, capacity building for post disaster needs assessments, new products for catastrophe risk financing such as micro-insurance and reducing urban disaster risk through better visualization tools, smarter building regulations, city planning and climate change adaptation measures.

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The World Bank has lent over US$1 billion for post-disaster recovery in the region: US$710 million was allocated for the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake recovery in China where over 50 sub-projects are in various stages of technical and safeguards clearance, procurement and construction. The remaining funds support housing and reconstruction programs in Indonesia’s Aceh and Yogyakarta where thousands of houses have been built, village communities rehabilitated, livelihoods restored, infrastructure both big and small rebuilt following the 2005 tsunami and 2007 Java earthquake. Emergency Recovery Loans for the series of disasters that occurred in 2009 are currently being prepared in Cambodia, Samoa and Tonga.

An additional US$300 million of the portfolio comprises risk reduction investments, the bulk of it in Vietnam where a Natural Disaster Risk Management project piloted a Community-based Disaster Risk Management component, which is now being expanded to cover 6,000 communes through a national program launched by the Government of Vietnam.

GFDRR trust funds will be used in FY12 in Vietnam to design hazard resistant infrastructure, build capacity for new disaster management centers and conduct a diagnostic review of the country’s forecasting and early warning system. In Indonesia, US$2 million will be used for capacity building of national and sub-national disaster management agencies and to develop a comprehensive national risk financing framework.

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The World Bank works with key international and bilateral partners on disaster risk reduction in the East Asia and Pacific region, including the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Global Fund for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). Funding from GFDRR has helped support both regional advocacy and knowledge sharing as well as provide support to countries for improving existing infrastructure and institutions to reduce disaster risk. GFDRR funding will be linked to Country Assistance Strategies and support development and implementation of DRM plans on the ground.

In FY09, a joint agreement between the World Bank, UNISDR and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) supported the development of a regional strategy for disaster risk reduction that would focus on enabling ASEAN states to invest in ex-ante disaster risk reduction through robust legislative, regulatory and financing frameworks. As part of this program, a training event was held in May 2009, and a follow on is scheduled for late 2010. Similarly, an MOU with the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) is supporting country specific catastrophe risk profiling and insurance initiatives as well as risk reduction through sustainable climate change adaptation and infrastructure development.

The World Bank and the Asian Disaster Reduction Center (ADRC) signed in February 2011 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to strengthen cooperation and regional partnerships for disaster risk reduction, and to enhance capacity-building and knowledge-sharing in disaster prevention, mitigation and response across East Asia and the Pacific.

The Bank is also working with the WMO to conduct a regional assessment of hydro-meteorological systems and needs in East Asian countries. This assessment will form the foundation for investment programs in early warning systems and related infrastructure and capacity building.

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EAP Disaster Risk Management Team

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