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Albania

Albania

Rains and inadequate infrastructure lead to floods 

Albania is a flood-prone country which over the past 15 years has faced increasingly strong, drawn out periods of rain. The country experienced particularly severe flooding in 2010–2011, 2015, and in 2017. Villages located on slopes are also at high risk of landslides. 

Inadequacy in and poor maintenance of infrastructure, including deterioration of dyke systems and drainage channels, poorly maintained pumping stations, and illegal construction of buildings in flood prone areas, increase the severity of flood impacts.  

From responding to preventing disasters

The Albanian Red Cross (ARC) supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is implementing the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance Programme in four communities in the Shkodra Municipality which face a particularly high flood risk. 

The ARC, supported by the IFRC, is using its expertise and experience in providing humanitarian aid, promoting good health, reducing disaster risk, and advocating for the rights of vulnerable people to build flood resilience in these communities. This is achieved by building people’s knowledge about, and capacity to plan, respond, and recover from flood events and to facilitate risk reduction through behaviour change. The work is also focused on building internal capacity for disaster risk reduction and resilience building within the ARC – an organisation largely consistent of volunteers. 

Strong relationships are key to success

The Albanian Red Cross has introduced communities and local authorities to a more holistic way of thinking about resilience through the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC). These stakeholders are now able to recognise how different interventions will complement each other and systematically address flood risks in the communities, rather than focus on “silver bullet” solutions.

A key component of the programme is the formation of well-trained and connected community response teams, which will form the basis for future interventions and for independent community-led activities. The strong relationships the ARC has built both within the communities and with local authorities are vital for the existence and effectiveness of these teams.

Australia

Partners working in Australia

Knowledge from Australia 

Look out for the upcoming Post Event Review Capability on Wildfires in Tasmania 

Australia

The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance is not implementing any community programmes in Australia, but considering the increasing severity and frequency of wildfires in the country, and the successful application of our award winning Post Event Review Capability (PERC) methodology on fires in the USA, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is using the PERC to conduct a holistic review of a wildfire disaster in southwest Tasmania, Australia, in January 2019. 

The PERC provides a structured process for learning why a hazard became a disaster and how to avoid future events turning into disasters. The PERC methodology was originally developed to analyse flood events but has proven useful to understand other hazard events too, an example of how our work can have impact beyond flood resilience.

Information about the methodology, and all our PERC reports can be found on the Flood Resilience Portal

 

Bangladesh

One of the most flood and climate change affected countries in the world

Bangladesh is one of the most flood prone countries in the world. Floods have huge costs for Bangladesh, both in terms of lives, property, livelihoods, and development gains lost. This low lying, coastal country crisscrossed by large rivers is incredibly vulnerable to climate change and associated increases in sea level and rainfall resulting in floods. 

Building community resilience in Bangladesh

The Alliance has been working in Bangladesh since 2013 to build community flood resilience. 

Both Practical Action and Concern Worldwide work directly with 30 flood prone communities using the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) to understand and strengthen their capacity to plan, prepare, withstand, and recover from floods. Among other activities we support diverse and sustainable livelihoods options for community members, building their financial capacity to cope with floods. 

We use our knowledge from the FRMC, our interventions in communities, and in the case of Concern an in depth analysis of the role of natural capital in reducing flood risk to work with leaders on local, regional, and national levels to improve flood resilience practice, policy, and investments. 

Floods and the Coronavirus pandemic 

In 2020 people in Bangladesh are severely affected by floods as well as the Coronavirus pandemic. Alliance partners have worked together with local Union Disaster Management Community (UDMC) groups to understand the needs of community members facing health risks, unemployment, and floods, in order to provide recommendations for action. You can read our report Monsoon, floods and COVID-19: building community resilience in Bangladesh, and a later update on the Flood Resilience Portal

During the 2020 monsoon Practical Action, along with local partner VERC (Village Education Resource Centre), have disseminated Covid-19 context specific flood early warning messages to over 9,000 households who have been better able to respond to floods and save lives and property as a result. Practical Action has also used its dissemination strategies and tools to raise awareness of actions that can reduce the spread of Covid-19, including the wearing of masks and good hand hygiene. 

Community Resilience Action Groups set up by Concern Worldwide and local partner ASOD (Assistance for Social Organization and Development) have in coordination with the Upazila Health Department (UHD) organised medical camps which provided medical advice and medicine to people in nine areas affected by floods in June 2020. A total of 1,883 people including children, women, people with a disability, and elderly people received support. This is an example of how coordination between the programme and government stakeholders during the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in better emergency response, including response to floods.

 

Partners working in Costa Rica

Knowledge from Costa Rica

Costa Rica 

Multiple vulnerabilities leading to high flood risk 

The Costa Rican Red Cross supporting community in Filadelfia during floods. 

In Costa Rica vulnerability conditions, increases in population and settlements without planning, poor distribution and use of land, and the mountainous geography of steep slopes have created great ecological and social imbalances that can lead to devastating floods. 

Prolonged rains create floods in the plains of the country while intense downpours lead to flashfloods as well as land and mudslides in mountainous areas, both causing deaths and damage to agriculture, housing, commerce, and infrastructure.

Evaluating and improving Disaster Risk Reduction governance 

The goal of the Alliance work in Costa Rica is to improve governance of, and the legal framework for, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), with a focus on flood resilience, to benefit communities that are regularly affected by disasters. 

For this purpose, the programme seeks to identify and analyse the currently applicable Costa Rican regulatory framework for DRR and from this develop recommendations and proposals for improvements. 

Specific activities and objectives of the prorgamme include:

  • Achieve good practices and learning in Disaster Risk Management, based on field experiences and analysis of specific contexts.
  • Recommend the generation of policies, plans, guidelines, strategies, and municipal frameworks in accordance with the comprehensive disaster risk management policy.
  • Reinforce coordination at the national, provincial, and municipal levels between different disaster management mechanisms.
  • Strengthen national, provincial, and municipal capacity for community resilience to floods.
  • Improve the governance and regulatory disaster risk management framework.

Use of the IFRC Checklist on Law and DRR 

The IFRC Checklist on Law and DRR has been applied to the Costa Rican context in a participatory and consultative manner, involving key stakeholders at national, provincial, and municipal level. 

In December 2019, the results of the analysis were presented and cross-checked with municipal actors in four municipalities of the Guanacaste region. The results of the checklist were also presented in a final report titled "Evaluation of the legal, institutional and political framework of Costa Rica related to Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation". 

El Salvador

Most of El Salvador’s population live in hazard prone locations 

As much as 89% of El Salvador is at risk of natural hazards. Of these, floods and earthquakes have the worst impacts. Accelerated population growth, absence of river drainage systems, and poor infrastructure conditions are part of the explanation why up to 95% of the population live in hazard prone areas. 

In May 2020, as a result of tropical storm “Amanda”, two of the communities where Plan International work as part of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance were flooded.

Building capacity for resilience 

Plan is working in four communities in El Salvador to increase their resilience to floods. The knowledge gained through this work is captured and shared to build capacity in resilience building programmes within and beyond the Alliance, and to influence national policy and practice. 

Plan has established civil-, and school based protection committees, in these four communities. In close collaboration with the General Directorate of Civil Protection (DGPC) Plan is supporting these committees to develop the capacity to coordinate preparedness and response in emergency situations together with the DGPC, reducing their dependency on external aid in the event of floods and other hazards.   

Following the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on communities, Plan facilitates economic recovery by supporting particularly vulnerable households, and family businesses working in the green economy.

How and why Plan focuses on children in floods 

Children, especially girls, are often disproportionately impacted by floods and other natural hazards. During and after a flood schools are often used as shelters. Some children, particularly girls, may be forced to give up their education altogether as even when schools re-open they are required to support the family’s recovery. 

That is why Plan puts children, especially girls, at the centre of its work in El Salvador, advancing children’s rights through activities like the establishment of school protection committees, and awareness raising campaigns. Plan is working on a study analysing the impacts caused by flooding and climate change on girls in El Salvador. The results of the study will provide additional insights about flood impacts differentiated by age and gender; and how we can and should address the particular needs of children and adolescents when building flood resilience.

Germany

Flooding is Germany’s number one natural hazard

Germany is exposed to coastal, fluvial, surface water, and flash flooding. Riverine flooding is a major concern across the whole country, in addition, localised urban flash floods are a growing concern.

Both climate change and socio-economic factors contribute to rising flood risk levels, including land use and land cover practices such as soil sealing, ageing drainage infrastructure, and insufficient catchment-wide flood prevention planning. Flood risk management efforts in Germany have traditionally focused on riverine floods and storm surges along the coast. 

A holistic approach for improving urban flood resilience

The London School of Economics and Zurich Insurance Group work in North Rhine-Westphalia with two urban communities facing river and surface water flood risk to systematically analyse their flood resilience. By implementing the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) local partners are supported in their efforts to ensure long-term flood resilience. Using the FRMC tool, LSE and Zurich work with local government (and other stakeholders) to collect data, measure flood resilience, and design interventions. The participatory nature of this approach also supports increasing risk awareness as well as acceptability and credibility of selected resilience measures within the communities.

Combining academic research with local expertise

LSE and Zurich work closely with local flood risk managers as well as other academic partners from Germany to integrate their work into existing research collaborations. This way latest research findings, combined with the Alliance's innovative FRMC approach ensure the best possible knowledge base for local decision makers to improve their communities’ flood resilience.

Merging existing data and research findings on flood risk in the communities with information from households, businesses, and other flood-relevant actors enables the community to systematically analyse the strengths and weaknesses regarding the communities’ flood resilience from different angles, helping local decision makers prioritise flood risk management spending.

 

Partners working in Honduras

Knowledge from Honduras

Honduras

Disasters hampering development and exacerbating poverty 

In the last 20 years, Honduras has been one of the most disaster affected countries in the world. Disaster impacts in Honduras negatively affect development and contribute to increasing poverty. 

In the last two decades about 15 per cent of the country has suffered from floods. Where the Alliance works in Villanueva, San Pedro Sula, Choloma and Sula Valley, more than 26 per cent of the territory has been affected.

Understanding and improving Disaster Risk Reduction policy and practice

The goal of the Alliance programme in Honduras is to improve governance of, and the legal framework for, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), particularly for floods. For this purpose, the programme seeks to identify and analyse the currently applicable Honduran regulatory framework for DRR and from this develop recommendations and proposals for improvements.

Specific activities and objectives of the project include:

  • Develop a study of flood DRR policies, plans, guidelines, and legal frameworks in municipalities.
  • Optimise collaboration around flood related DRR through coordination networks, planning and execution of actions involving entities such as the Permanent Contingency Commission of Honduras (Comisión Permanente de Contingencias, COPECO), the Commission for the Control of Floods of Valle de Sula (CCIVS), municipalities and other external actors, according to the Sendai Framework for Action and the Central American policy on comprehensive disaster risk management (PCGIR).
  • Encourage community organisation with applicable information on legal DRR frameworks. 
  • Promote community participation on flood related DRR, primarily in the municipalities of Sula Valley.

Achieving change through multi-sectoral collaboration

The Honduran Red Cross discussing actions and legal provisions to reduce flood risks with decision makers. 

In the project areas, an multi-sectoral partnership was formed consisting of municipal governments, private companies, COPECO’s regional risk management authority, the CCIVS, the network of municipal emergency committees of Valle de Sula, the local chapter of the Honduran Bar Association, and the Honduran Red Cross. 

Activities undertaken by this partnership have generated interest and support from other local stakeholders, which creates an opportunity to enhance capacity of and coordination between local organisations and to promote joint advocacy actions.

The baseline study of the Honduran legal framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) was prepared and completed with participation of the members of this partnership. Insights and recommendations from the study are now used to develop an advocacy strategy aimed at improving DRR related laws and policies. 

 

 

Indonesia

Rising sea levels impact thousands of villages

Indonesia has experienced around 300 natural hazard events annually over the past 30 years. 77 per cent of these were hydrological hazards, with flooding the most frequent. Rising sea levels and high tides contribute to coastal flooding which has impacted 3,000 villages between 2016-2018. Rapid land use change and river sedimentation causes frequent flooding in major cities. Floods cause economic losses and have long term effects on people’s quality of life and the environment. 

Research based influencing of policy and practice

Penjaringan Urban Village, in northern Jakarta. Photo by Mercy Corps Indonesia 

Through the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance programme Mercy Corps Indonesia seeks to address the root causes of flooding and its impacts through evidence-based policy and programme support. Mercy Corps Indonesia works closely with Pekalongan City and Regency, on the North coast of Java, to improve flood management policies in an area affected by coastal and urban flooding. 

They're also conducting a Climate Risk and Impact Assessment on the Kupang River Basin together with three leading research institutions. The basin plays a strategic role in the regional water supply system, but also poses significant risks of coastal and urban flooding. The assessment will provide evidence on the connection between upstream and downstream activities, especially on flooding impacts; while also analysing losses resulting from floods. 

Research findings change the perspective of policy makers  

90 per cent of the Pekalongan City area is predicted to be permanently inundated by 2030. 

Initial findings from our Climate Risk and Impact Assessment showed that the primary cause of flooding and inundation in the area is the high land subsidence rate which is primarily caused by massive groundwater extraction. 

This evidence has made the Pekalongan City, Regency, and Central Java Province government understand that conventional flood protection measures will not be sufficient to mitigate flood risk without considering broader land use and future climate variability. 

Our continuing research will provide the government with data which will help them address flood risk not only from a disaster management perspective, but also using a holistic water resource management lens. 

The findings from the Pekalongan research which convey the importance of adopting a landscape perspective and a trans-boundary governance approach in climate adaptation and water resource management, is also feeding into the development of national policy frameworks. Mercy Corps Indonesia has supported the Government of Indonesia to develop policies and positions for the UNFCCC process such as COP, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and the National Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation.    

Malawi

Cyclone Idai 

In early March 2019 the precursor of Cyclone Idai, Tropical Depression 11, brought torrential rains and wind to southern and central Malawi. Flooding washed out bridges and roads and destroyed numerous homes. The disaster directly affected 975,000 people, displaced or rendered homeless 125,382, killed 60 people, and injured 672. 

Our Post Event Review Capability (PERC) provides a structured process for learning why a hazard became a disaster and how to avoid future disasters. The atypical nature of the event impacting an area and population that are very familiar with floods provide a singular opportunity for resilience learning, thus motivating a PERC.  

Through the PERC we found that:

  • While flood forecasts remain a challenge, better weather forecasting accuracy have improved early warning capacity. Challenges remain in linking early warning to early action. 
  • Existing large-scale WASH programming was successful. There is, however a need to invest in protecting WASH facilities so they remain operational even in extreme events. 
  • The breakdown of critical infrastructure exacerbated the impacts of the cyclones. Maintaining infrastructure and equipment and preparing to address the consequences of infrastructure failure can reduce the severity of impacts.
  • Localised knowledge, skills, materials, and capacity are a vital aspect of resistant housing, which in turn is a critical element of maintaining a resilient population. The dissemination of resistant building techniques is one clear entry point for building resilience. 
  • The government is wrestling with questions about how and how long it takes to support rebuilding, but also if, where, and how to relocate communities living in high hazard areas.
  • Rain fed, subsistence agriculture is becoming more vulnerable due to climate change and extreme events. An approach merging disaster humanitarian response into longer-term development programming focused on market development is needed.
  • An integrated perspective – i.e. integrated livelihoods and response programming, basin-scale engagement, strengthening early warning and disaster response– would support longer-term resilience building. The need for this approach is recognised, but under-emphasised and under-funded.

 

Mexico

Tabasco’s extreme weather challenges 

In Mexico, floods caused by heavy rainfall and tropical storms have significant impacts on communities. Over the past ten years the state of Tabasco, where the Alliance works, has experienced particularly high levels of rainfall. On top of the flood risk from rains, Tabasco, which is located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, faces hurricanes of high intensity.

Mexican Red Cross work in Tabasco

The Mexican Red Cross is dedicated to preventing and alleviating human suffering and improving living conditions, fostering a culture of self-protection through voluntary action. 

One vital pathway for this is disaster risk reduction and resilience building. As part of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, the Mexican Red Cross aims to increase community flood resilience by building local capacity. This is achieved through enhancing the effectiveness of existing, and develop new, innovative, and scalable flood mitigation technologies. The Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC), along with other useful methodologies, are applied to understand and strengthen community resilience. 

The knowledge and experience gained from resilience measuring and project implementation is shared with communities, practitioners, and policy makers. The Alliance team for example collaborate with the National Coordination of Civil Protection, particularly the National Centre for Disaster Prevention and the General Direction of Linkage, Innovation and Normativity, who develop and promote Mexican official policies and regulations in the field of civil protection.

Zurich Mexico's role in resilience building 

Zurich Mexico works together with the Mexican Red Cross to promote flood resilience. Among other actions taken Zurich Mexico has signed a collaboration with the Secretary of Integral Risk Management and Civil Protection, is a member of the ARISE network in Mexico, a United Nations led community of private sector actors focused on resilience, and is part of the Mexican Alliance of Biodiversity and Business where it leads on flood risk management and co-ordinate the risk committee.  

Recognition of the role community brigades play in a resilient community 

The Alliance has been present in Tabasco since 2013. In the first phase of the programme, the Mexican Red Cross pioneered the formation of community brigades, an initiative which received the National Civil Protection Award in 2019, and has been adopted in the state’s development plan.

In 2019 one of the communities we work with experienced floods. The fact that community members were aware of their flood risk, able to self-organise the evacuation, and collaborated with local authorities to assess flood damages, illustrates the positive impact of our work.  

Montenegro

High flood risk in the Lake Skadar region

In Montenegro, heavy rainfall, rain lasting for several days in a row, and melting of snow in mountainous regions can lead to a sudden rise of water levels in rivers and lakes. Especially around Lake Skadar, numerous settlements, industrial facilities, and agricultural land are regularly affected by floods. Dramatic examples are the floods in 2010 and 2011, when half-century records of water levels in rivers and Lake Skadar were reached.

Assessing and building community flood resilience


First aid training in school. Photo by Red Cross of Montenegro. 

As a humanitarian auxiliary to the government, the Red Cross of Montenegro is an integral part of the country’s disaster management system and participates actively in disaster preparedness and response, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation activities.

As part of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance the Red Cross of Montenegro works with communities in the Lake Skadar basin to build flood resilience by facilitating assessment of risks, capacities, needs, and priorities regarding flood preparedness and inform, involve, and empower communities to develop and implement resilience building activities. 

Local activities influencing national plans 

Communities we work with have adopted local flood protection plans, which contain measures for increasing community flood resilience. Programme activities that align with these are contributing to the implementation of the National Disaster Risk Strategy, its plan of action, and the National Plan for Flood Protection. 

The expertise and experience of the Red Cross of Montenegro remains recognised and we regularly share the results of our work and activities at workshops, seminars, and conferences, often working closely with the Directorate for Emergency Situations within the Montenegrin Ministry of Interior. 

 

Mozambique 

Cyclones Idai and Kenneth

In March and April 2019, Tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth hit central and northern Mozambique. Strong winds, rainfall, and catastrophic flooding caused widespread destruction, damage, and loss of life. Cyclone Idai caused 603 deaths, displaced 400,000 people, and inundated 2,165 km2 of land. Cyclone Kenneth displaced 18,000 people and caused $100 million in damages.

Our Post Event Review Capability (PERC) provides a structured process for learning why a hazard became a disaster and how to avoid future disasters. The extent of the devastation by flash floods, landslides, riverine, and coastal flooding, and wind damage from two successive cyclones across three countries in southeastern Africa motivated us to carry out a PERC in Mozambique, as well as Malawi and Zimbabwe.  

What we found doing the PERC

  • Though flood forecasts remain a challenge, better weather forecasting has improved hurricane and tropical storm early warning capacity. Challenges remain in linking early warning to early action. 
  • Existing large-scale WASH programming was successful. There is, however, a need to invest in protecting WASH facilities so that they remain operational even in extreme events. 
  • The breakdown of critical infrastructure exacerbated the impacts of the cyclones. Maintaining infrastructure and equipment and preparing to address the consequences of infrastructure failure can reduce the severity of impacts.
  • Localised knowledge, skills, materials, and capacity are a vital aspect of resistant housing, which in turn is a critical element of maintaining a resilient population. The dissemination of resistant building techniques is one clear entry point for building resilience. 
  • The government is wrestling with questions about how and how long it takes to support rebuilding, but also if, where, and how to relocate communities living in high hazard areas.
  • Rainfed, subsistence agriculture is becoming more vulnerable due to climate change and extreme events. An approach merging disaster humanitarian response into longer-term development programming focused on market development is needed.
  • An integrated perspective – i.e. integrated livelihoods and response programming, basin-scale engagement, strengthening early warning and disaster response– would support longer-term resilience building. The need for this approach is recognised, but under-emphasised and under-funded.

Nepal

Hazard prone topography

Nepal, with its diverse geography, is susceptible to a wide range of hazards. Every year lives and livelihoods are lost, and vast physical and economic damage is done as monsoon rains result in floods and landslides. 

Current investment in, and governance of, flood resilience at the local level, where people are most affected is inadequate. 

Building resilience locally and at scale

The Alliance has been working in Nepal since 2013. Today there are three partners working in Nepal, Practical Action, Mercy Corps, and the Nepal Red Cross Society supported by the IFRC. These partners leverage their specific strengths to achieve joint objectives of increased flood resilience in communities, increased investment in flood resilience by local government, and improved policies at all levels of governance. 

By collecting learnings from Alliance partners, and aligning with the Managing Risks through Economic Development (M-RED) program, which works on disaster risk reduction through market systems, Mercy Corps Nepal conducts research and training to support systemic changes in governance systems. 

Practical Action works directly with communities building the capacity of community members to prepare for and respond to floods. They use the learning from this work to influence policy and practice that works for those most vulnerable to floods. 

Nepal Red Cross Society advocates for the nationwide scale-up of community resilience-building efforts, engage in policy change, and support the dissemination of best practices in community programming, emphasising the role of local actors in sustaining local development strategies that leave no one behind.

While working in Nepal the Alliance has carried out two Post Event Review Capabilities analysing and learning from disastrous floods in 2014 and 2017

Achieving flood resilient policy and practice

All three partners work closely with local and national governments in Nepal influencing their policy and practice. 

The Alliance has worked with a range of partners to develop a tool which will allow municipalities to self asses their disaster risk and take action for resilience building, they have provided expert advice to the National Adaptation Plan in Nepal, and influenced municipality and province level spending on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. 

 

 

Partners working in New Zealand

Knowledge from New Zealand

Keep an eye out for resources based on our work in New Zealand.

New Zealand 

Frequent, damaging, and costly floods 

Floods are New Zealand’s most frequent, damaging and disruptive natural hazard – including the flooding in Southland that cost $19.68 million; cyclone Debbie in 2017 that cost $91.4 million; and nationwide floods in 2019 that cost almost $16 million in insurance claims. 

As our climate changes, flooding caused by both increased rainfall and rising sea levels – in coastal areas and on floodplains – is expected to increase. As floods become more common and severe, the social, cultural, economic, and environmental impacts of flooding will increase. 

Culturally informed community engagement for flood resilience

New Zealand Red Cross Response Team together with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. 

New Zealand Red Cross (NZRC) is working in strong partnership with the Disaster Law Programme ofthe International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on policy analysis and community-based programmes. NZRC works as an independent auxiliary to the government and has significant experience in disaster risk reduction and management.

The team regularly meets with the Ministry for Environment, Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) and consultants from Tonkin and Taylor who are also involved in developing New Zealand's first national Climate Change Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan. Local level partnerships have been developed in Edgecumbe and Gisborne with a range of local organisations, including local government, indigenous leaders, and Civil Defense and Emergency Management. 

Under the Alliance programme, NZRC seeks to build capacity and identify new processes for effective and culturally informed community engagement, especially of Maori communities, for climate change adaptation and flood resilience practice and policy. In doing so, it is working with local iwi and hapu to build evidence and contribute to emerging research on the importance of integrating indigenous knowledge in flood resilience and climate change adaptation paradigms, policy, and practice.

Contributing to policy change in New Zealand

As part of the programme, NZRC undertook an initial scoping study of gaps in flood policy in New Zealand, which has been used by the department of internal affairs for a review for the government cabinet. 

Engagement of the New Zealand Red Cross led to the inclusion of the IFRC Community Resilience Framework in the National Disaster Resilience Strategy, which has in turn been used as a basis for the methodology of the recently released National Climate Change Risk Assessment for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Nicaragua

One of the world's most hazard prone countries

Nicaragua ranks fourth globally in terms of countries most vulnerable to flooding and other natural hazards. Floods cause severe impacts on people’s livelihoods in rural and urban communities and damage to goods and services, resulting in a decline in Nicaragua’s national economy. Plan International works in communities which over the past ten years have been seriously affected by flooding. The communities are located between 0 and 35 meters above sea level, whilst being surrounded by mountainous areas from which flood waters flow and cause destruction. The most recent flood in the area where Plan International work occurred in October 2018.

Flood resilience programme enabling strong Covid-19 response 

Plan is working in four communities in Nicaragua to increase community resilience to flooding by using the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) and tracking changes over time. The knowledge gained through this work is captured and shared to build capacity in resilience building programmes within and beyond the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, and to influence national policy and practice.

Community members Plan works with have identified the lack of organised groups as a key issue, in response Plan is establishing community, and school based, groups to coordinate preparedness and response to floods, and provide these groups with basic equipment. The outbreak of Covid-19 has demonstrated the effectiveness of these groups, which have facilitated widespread participation and well-coordinated response to the pandemic.

Access to safe water was identified as another key issue which is why Plan Nicaragua together with the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER) is conducting a study on access to water, how this is impaired during emergency situations, and possible solutions. 

How and why Plan focuses on children in floods 

Children, especially girls, are often disproportionately impacted by floods and other natural hazards. During and after a flood, schools are often used as shelters. Some children, particularly girls, may be forced to give up their education altogether as even when schools re-open they are required to support the family’s recovery. 

This is why Plan puts children, especially girls, at the centre of its work in Nicaragua, advancing children’s rights by for example strengthening capacities of school groups, supplying them with emergency kits and other equipment, jointly developing flood response plans, and installing safety and evacuation signs around the schools.

Peru

El Niño causing severe floods in Peru

Rainfall in Peru is heavily influenced by the periodic ‘El Niño’ southern oscillation affecting Pacific Ocean current temperatures along its coastline. Fifty four per cent of Peru's population lives in the coastal zone which places millions at risk of regular flooding. In 2017, unusually warm water off the Peruvian coast caused extreme rainfall which in turn generated flooding and landslides which lasted for nearly three months, affecting 1.5 million people, causing 162 deaths, and damaging hundreds of thousands of homes. Learn more about this event in our Post Event Review Capability report

Reducing vulnerability to natural hazards

Practical Action works to build the resilience of people to the negative effects of climate change such as flooding - reducing people’s vulnerability and exposure to the impact of weather related  hazards. Practical Action believes that building  community resilience is critical and to achieve this prioritises work in:

  • disaster risk reduction governance to improve investment, 
  • early warning systems to enable early preventative action,
  • strengthening ecosystems services for, and disaster risk reduction to, improve river basin health, help protect assets, and strengthen livelihoods of the poorest people living close to rivers.

In collaboration with local communities, Practical Action has built strong relationships with local authorities and technical organisations such as the National Meteorology and Hydrology Service (SENAMHI) and the National Civil Defense Institute (INDECI). In doing so policy and practice has been improved and funding for flood resilience increased, for example through Practical Action’s technical assistance to SENAMHI in their commitment to invest CHF 13.2 million in Early Warning Systems. 

Building resilience to floods and pandemics in the rural Andes   

Application of the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) approach which brings together communities and other stakeholders to analyse and strengthen resilience is central to Practical Action’s work. 

An example of an intervention generated by applying the FRMC is the establishment of a community tree nursery with the community of San Miguel de Viso. The nursery is part of the Field School for Climate Resilience - a space for theoretical and practical work that aims to strengthen knowledge and promote best practices in climate resilience. Managed by a women’s community group, the nursery  provides fresh, nutritious food that contributes to community health when market access is cut due to floods, landslides, or as in the current Covid-19 pandemic.  

 

Senegal

Sharing locally relevant and accessible knowledge to build flood resilience in West Africa

West Africa is home to some of the most flood prone countries in Africa. In 2019 eight of the continent’s worst affected countries were found in the region which was hit by significant deaths, financial loss and material damage as a result of floods. 

Increase in intense rainfalls, rampant urbanization, and shortcomings in flood risk management, combined with underlying socio-economic, environmental, and climate vulnerabilities creates significant flood risk to West African communities. 

Despite the high flood risk, and the wide range of stakeholders working on flood prevention, management, and resilience in West Africa, knowledge is not adequately shared. Academic research isn’t disseminated to practitioners, and best practice case studies are not widely shared with colleagues working in communities that could benefit from similar solutions. 

To overcome this challenge Practical Action and local partner IED Afrique have launched the West Africa Flood Resilience Portal, modeled on previous portals, to provide Francophone flood resilience practitioners in West Africa with knowledge and resources that will help build community flood resilience in a West African context. 

Partners working in The Philippines

The Philippines

High exposure to natural hazards but low investment in disaster risk reduction

The Philippines is the third most natural hazard vulnerable country on earth and especially prone to hydrometeorological events and floods which have accounted for more than 80% of events in the last half-century. The Philippines also faces rapid urbanization, socio-economic inequality, and health issues.

Despite the high exposure investments to address climate change and disaster risk are wholly inadequate. 

Alleviating suffering and building resilience 

The Philippines Red Cross (PRC) supports, and uplift the dignity of, the most vulnerable people affected by natural and human-induced hazards with an aim not only to alleviate suffering during emergencies but also to build community resilience and local capacities to prepare for and respond to hazards. The PRC also support local governments to achieve their goal in disaster preparedness and risk reduction, and to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance project is part of PRC’s work on a community and school-based disaster risk reduction framework, which pursues a community and systems-based approach and includes cross-cutting issues such as climate change adaptation, community engagement, and accountability. 

Community volunteers are the foundation of our programme


Socially distanced training session in Mangatarem. 

We have established local, community-based volunteer groups. So far a total of 283 community members have joined and received their orientation. 

The formation of these groups is the basis for future PRC led programme interventions and independent community-led activities. Once the volunteer groups are well-established, trained, and fully functional, they can be mobilised to implement different interventions such as establishing community early warning systems or provide disaster risk reduction management training to school teachers. 

These groups will also have the capacity to draw on formal and informal community networks of support to identify flood problems, needs and opportunities, establish priorities and act for the good and inclusion of all in the communities. 

 

United Kingdom

Flood risk in the UK: A major physical climate risk

As an island nation with exposed coastlines, rivers and mountains, floods have played an important role in the history of the UK. The four main types of flooding are: fluvial or riverine flooding, coastal flooding, pluvial or surface water flooding, and groundwater flooding. 

Fluvial flooding is the dominant cause of flood damage, accounting for around half of all annual flood losses. Climate change, population growth, and socio-economic developments are the main causes of rising flood risk levels in the UK. 

A holistic approach for improving urban flood resilience 

The London School of Economics and Zurich Insurance Group work in close collaboration with East Suffolk Council in the UK to support their efforts in ensuring long-term flood resilience in Lowestoft urban area. 

Using the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities tool, the Alliance helps the local authority to collect data, assess their flood resilience, and design interventions. This work encourages local stakeholders to consider a broad array of measures that enhance social, human and natural, as well as physical and financial capacities of communities to mitigate current and future flood risk. 

Supporting resilience decision-making

Our joint activities have already encouraged some local stakeholders (including Anglian Water and Groundwork East of England) to re-allocate their funding over the next two years to flood resilience interventions being recommended by the Alliance. 

The Alliance is also working with Coastal Partnership East, analysing additional co-benefits of flood resilience – such as economic, social and environmental wins – to help better align investments in flood risk management with wider development needs in the region, including tourism and urban regeneration efforts. 

Using the ‘triple dividend of resilience’ framework developed with colleagues at the Overseas Development Institute and the World Bank, this joint work focuses on improving decision-making and supporting the wider business case for flood resilience.

 

United States of America 

In Phase I of the Alliance, the Flood Resilience Measurement Tool was implemented by the National Academy of Sciences as part of the Resilient America Roundtable in Charleston, South Carolina and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In Charleston, this contributed to the launch of the Charleston Resilience Network, which has continued to gain momentum and influence. In Cedar Rapids, it furthered work begun after historic flooding in 2008.

In parallel, Zurich Insurance Group and ISET have conducted a series of post-disaster event reviews using our award winning Post Event Review Capability (PERC) methodology to review and learn from a range of disasters across the country. The PERC provides a structured process for learning why a hazard became a disaster and how to avoid future disasters. Below is a short summary of the events in the USA on which we have conducted a PERC. Information about the methodology, and all our PERC reports can be found on the Flood Resilience Portal

South Carolina Floods: What can be learned from the Columbia and Charleston floods 2015?

In October 2015 Tropical Storm Joaquin unleashed historic rainfall across North and South Carolina, resulting in flooding and flash flooding, dam failures, and bridge and road closures. In South Carolina, the rainfall intensity and volume, coupled with the very different ways the event played out in Charleston and Columbia, motivated ISET and Zurich, with support from Aon Benefield, to carry out the PERC.

Boulder Floods: Floods in Boulder: a study of resilience 

In September 2013 Boulder, Colorado, received over 17 inches of rain - nearly a year’s worth of precipitation - in one week. The historic nature of the rainfall and flooding, the widespread destruction, and the simultaneous impacts of the event across multiple counties motivated ISET to carry out a PERC. 

Hurricane Harvey: Houston and Hurricane Harvey: a call to action  

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey dropped more than 50 inches of rain over eastern Texas, causing devastating flooding. The immensity of the storm, media attention, that it caused the third ‘500-year’ flood in three years, and Houston’s position as a leading business city in the US motivated ISET and Zurich, in collaboration with the American Red Cross Global Disaster Preparedness Center, to carry out a PERC.

Additional resources: Why Small Businesses Should Invest in Preparedness and The Role of Businesses in Community Recovery 

Hurricane Florence: Building resilience for the new normal    

In September 2018, Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a Category 1 storm. It’s slow progression inland and heavy rainfall resulted in catastrophic flooding.  The slow-moving nature of the storm, the extent of both riverine and storm surge flooding, and cascading losses and failures from initial impacts motivated ISET and Zurich North America to conduct a PERC. 

California fires: Building resilience from the ashes  

Prior to 2020, the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons were the most destructive wildfire seasons on record in California; over 9,000 fires burned close to 1.2 million acres of land. The likelihood of wildfires occurring and exposure to wildfires is increasing as climate changes and development encroaches onto wildland areas. These intensifying risks and the resulting catastrophic impacts motivated ISET, Zurich North America, and DuPont to extend the application of the PERC beyond flood events.

Zimbabwe

Cyclone Idai

In March 2019, Cyclone Idai made landfall near Beira, Mozambique. As the storm moved inland, it released heavy rains across eastern Zimbabwe, resulting in catastrophic landslides and flash flooding that caused 634 deaths. Over 300 people remained missing 10 months after the event. The storm impacted an estimated 270,000 Zimbabweans.

The Post Event Review Capability (PERC) provides a structured process for learning why a hazard became a disaster and how to avoid future disasters. The extent of the devastation by flash floods and landslides in areas of Zimbabwe that are otherwise relatively disaster-free, coupled with the completely new and unanticipated nature of the impacts motivated the PERC in Zimbabwe, as well as Mozambique and Malawi.   

What we learned from the PERC: 

  • The precipitation impacts from hurricanes, particularly as they are pushed up over mountainous terrain, are extremely difficult to predict or plan for. Consequently, linking early warning to early action was highly ineffective in this event.
  • Climate change is creating completely new weather hazards, and existing early warning systems are not adapted to either handle the novel nature of the hazards and their potential impacts, nor reach populations previously not at risk.
  • Loss of transportation corridors and communications networks, coupled with a highly centralised governance system and lack of decentralised response resources severely constrained immediate response.
  • The government is wrestling with questions about how and how long it takes to support rebuilding, but also if, where, and how to relocate communities living in high hazard areas.
  • An integrated perspective – i.e. integrated livelihoods and response programming, basin-scale engagement, strengthening early warning and disaster response– would support longer-term resilience building. The need for this approach is recognised, but under-emphasised and under-funded.