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.
Knowledge from 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) has used 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.
Knowledge From Bangladesh
- The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance in Bangladesh: country briefing
- Assessing and addressing climate-induced loss and damage in Bangladesh
- Using Community Resilience Vision Statements to Engage Communities in Bangladesh
- Monsoon, floods and COVID-19: building community resilience in Bangladesh
- Update: Impact of COVID-19 and monsoon rains in flood vulnerable communities of Bangladesh
- Community Resilience Action Groups build flood resilience in Bangladesh
- Understanding Natural Capital and Flood Resilience in 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.
Knowledge from Bolivia
Beni river basin floods
The communities Practical Action works with are located in the Beni river basin. Every year during the rainy season (November to March) the rivers in the basin overflow. These floods affect plantations, livestock, and fish farming – the main livelihoods of riverine communities. Flood conditions also favour disease.
Working in new communities and expanding existing projects
Practical Action’s work in Bolivia implements the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) in 11 locations around the municipalities of San Buenaventura, Ixiamas, Rurrenabaque, and Mecapaca. The application of post-flood studies will help better understand the recurrent nature of floods in the region. In addition, Practical Action will apply the FRMC in 4 communities together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UNICEF, and Action Against Hunger in the area of Colquencha and Collana, through an on-going, ECHO-funded, project.
Targeting an integrated and collaborative disaster risk reduction approach
To date, the focus on floods and other hazards in the region is largely reactive, with response operations being the predominant action. Knowledge about vulnerability and risk among communities and municipalities is still insufficient.
Practical Action works with communities and with municipal risk management units to develop multi-sectorial plans and implement interventions based on the results of the FRMC. We will be working in partnership with national technical institutions and NGOs associated with the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies of Bolivia (CAHB) and the Bolivia Humanitarian Team (EHP) and will seek collaboration with other actors working on Disaster Risk Reduction in the area.
Knowledge from Costa Rica
Multiple vulnerabilities leading to high flood risk
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.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.
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”.
Knowledge from El Salvador
- The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance in El Salvador: country briefing
- Virtual visit to communities in Nicaragua and El Salvador
- Building resilience through young women: Christina’s story
- Impactos del cambio climático diferenciados por género en niñas, niños y adolescentes de 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.
Knowledge from Germany
- Building flood resilience in a changing climate: Flood risk management in Germany
- Flash floods: a grim reminder that adaptation is as important as reducing emissions
- Hochwasser Resilienz Messung auf lokaler Ebene (Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities in German)
- Flash Floods: The underestimated natural hazard
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.
Knowledge from 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
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.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.
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.
Knowledge from Indonesia
- Integrated urban water resource management for climate resilience: lessons from Indonesia
- Climate Risk And Impact Assessment Pekalongan
- Strengthening resilience of flood vulnerable communities in Indonesia during the COVID-19 crisis
- Inclusive transboundary governance at Asia-Pacific Urban Forum
- Good Governance and Transboundary Collaboration for Climate Change Resilience
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
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.
Increasing climate stress on Jordan’s populationJordan is increasingly seeing effects of climate change in the form of changing weather patterns and devastating flash floods. Two “100-year return period” floods took place in late 2018. Parts of the kingdom were ravaged with devastating outcomes. These floods killed dozens of school children in a canyon near the Dead Sea and tourists in Petra, the country’s most important tourist attraction, where also key infrastructure was damaged. This event made the case for strengthened flood risk management, communication, and early warning systems. Floods are, in addition to causing fatalities, also resulting in loss of infrastructure and income to households, farmers, and businesses, exacerbating extreme poverty and deprivation.
Focusing on flash flood impacted communitiesMercy Corps Jordan is working in 10 communities that face challenges due to frequently occurring flash floods. These communities are located in urban, heavily populated areas where action to manage flood risks is currently inadequate, and where social tensions create a challenging environment. Mercy Corps has a strong relationship with the UK Department for International Development (DfID), now the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which has supported initial analysis using the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC). FRMC results will support action and help implement interventions that enhance community flood resilience. The learning from applying the FRMC will also help to advance discussions with humanitarian organizations like the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) to ensure flood resilience is considered in relevant humanitarian operations, and in national and regional climate change conversations in the Middle East. Mercy Corps’ work will also include collaborations with UN HABITAT and will continue to highlight the benefits of the FRMC with the FCDO.
Knowledge from Kenya
Working in rural areas with pastoral communities
Concern Worldwide Kenya is working in the coastal area of Tana River with 13 communities predominantly made up of rural farmers. In addition to being one of the poorest counties in Kenya, the area is also badly affected, often twice a year, by fluvial flooding. The floods are caused by excessive rains during the short rainy season (October to December) and the long rainy season (March to May). These effects are exacerbated by the release of excessive water from a dam system.
The issues facing people in the Tana River area are examples of increasing climate change related pressure, which also makes flooding increasingly unpredictable. With agriculture accounting for 67 percent of employment in Kenya, the floods have a seriously destructive effect on people’s lives and livelihoods. During the floods of 2018, 70% of the county was submerged with two thirds impassable by road.
Implementing locally sources solutions to improve flood resilience
Concern works within existing flood resilience structures and partnerships in Kenya. At the community level, Concern partners with communities to develop ways to prevent or mitigate flood impacts and adapt to and prepare for floods in a changing climate using local knowledge systems, materials, and methods.
Concern will also work through various community level structures that can be leveraged to reinforce pre-event community resilience, for example early warning systems. The Concern programme team collaborates with existing partners in the area, including CARE Kenya, Wetlands International, and CordAid. These partner organisations are already working closely with communities at grassroots level to strengthen disaster resilience.
At the national level, Concern aims to engage with key stakeholders during the development of the Kenya National Policy for Disaster Management and will build on existing relationships with stakeholders in Disaster Risk Reduction including the Kenya Red Cross, the National Drought Management Authority, and with agencies tasked with flood mitigation such as the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation (NWCPC), the main agency in implementation of flood mitigation projects in Kenya.
Knowledge from Malawi
Flooding as a main driver of challenges to achieving poverty reduction
Malawi has made progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals but still faces significant challenges to achieving poverty reduction. Flooding in Malawi is primarily as a result of seasonal monsoonal rains. Since more than 90 percent of the food production in Malawi relies on a single rain-fed crop-season, the country is highly vulnerable to meteorological hazards and disproportionately affected by climate change.
Understanding the effects of Cyclone Idai
When Cyclone Idai hit Malawi in March 2019 the country experienced its worst floods in 50 years, which destroyed crops and increased the number of households facing food insecurity by 30%. The whole economy suffered a loss valued at US$ 35 million, and the Malawian Government estimated that the cyclone, and associated floods, affected over 975,600 people. 60 people were killed and more than 125,000 rendered homeless or displaced.
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 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 study carried out by ISET-International, Zurich Insurance Group and Practical Action. The findings and recommendations from this study can be found to your left or on the page hosting all Post Event Review Capability reports.
Working with communities in the southern district of Nsanje
Malawi’s southern district of Nsanje is located in the Lower Shire livelihoods zone, one of the poorest areas of the country and a priority district for flood prevention in the National Resilience Strategy. Concern will implement the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) in the 15 most-flood prone communities in seven traditional authority areas in the north, centre and south of Nsanje. The project works across multiple layers to implement local resilience building actions that will be developed based on analysis of the FRMC results.
At the national level, Concern is a key member of the National Disasters and Relief technical committee. This high-level, government-led, committee discusses and approves approaches to disaster resilience and to Disaster Risk Reduction activities. Through this mechanism, Concern will share examples of good practice from the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance. Concern is also a key member of the National Technical Committee on Early Warning Systems where experiences of programming with the FRMC will be shared.
Knowledge from Mexico
- The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance in Mexico: country briefing
- Community brigades were put to the test during floods in Tabasco, Mexico
- Using the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities in Tabasco
- Flood Resilience Alliance 2013-2017: A final review in Indonesia, Mexico and Nepal.
- Community testimonials: Flood resilience in Nepal, Indonesia and Mexico
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 as well as hurricanes.
In Tamaulipas, we work in the northern and southern border area, both highly vulnerable to floods. The northern region borders the state of Texas (USA) and is located in the Rio Bravo basin, with high climate variability causing extreme droughts and heavy flooding. The Rio Bravo runs along the border between Mexico and the United States, creating interesting opportunities for cross-border collaboration. The southern region of Tamaulipas borders the state of Veracruz (Mexico) and is located in the basins of the Tamesí and Pánuco rivers. The municipality of Tampico is located between these two basins and regularly experiences floods.
Leveraging successes in Tabasco to build flood resilience in Tamaulipas
The Mexican Red Cross has been a member of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance since 2013. In 2021 the Mexican Red Cross is extending the existing programme to 10 additional communities. These include communities neighbouring ones where the Red Cross is already working in Tabasco, as well as flood-prone urban communities in the state of Tamaulipas.
The Mexican Red Cross aims to increase community flood resilience by building local capacity; 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.
To navigate the complexity of the urban context and address the high social fragmentation of the project communities in Tamaulipas, the Mexican Red Cross uses its experience from building community resilience in Tabasco and adapt it to the new context. In doing so, we seek to increasingly work closely with and through public health and education institutions as well as specialised local organisations.
The knowledge and experience gained from resilience measuring and project implementation is shared with communities, practitioners, and policy makers. The 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.
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
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.
Knowledge from Mozambique
- When the unprecedented becomes precedented: Learning from Cyclones Idai and Kenneth
- Learning from Cyclones Idai and Kenneth: Executive Summary
- Learning from Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth to Inform Long-term Disaster Risk Reduction Programming in Mozambique
- Bridging the divide
- Reflections on disaster events on the one-year anniversary of Cyclone Idai
Recent events highlight the need to build flood resilience in Mozambique
The impacts of Cyclone Idai and Kenneth in 2019 – both severe storms the likes of which are predicted to become more extreme and frequent with climate change – demonstrated that Mozambique is not sufficiently adapted to the high flood risks it faces. Cyclone Idai was the deadliest storm ever to hit Africa and the largest humanitarian disaster of 2019, causing 1,300 deaths across south-eastern Africa. Cyclone Kenneth, which made landfall a month later with wind gusts of 220 km/h was the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in Africa.
The Mozambique Red Cross is working in six highly flood-affected communities in peri-urban (Beira) and rural areas surrounding the Pungwe river in Sofala Province. Floods, cyclones, erosion, and sea-level rise are recurrent and serious issues facing these communities which were heavily impacted by, and still recovering from, Cyclone Idai. Flood impacts are further exacerbated by challenges of high poverty and interrelated socio-economic stressors.
Findings from post-event on Cyclones Idai and Kenneth support implementation
The programme takes forward the key recommendations of the Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) study from Idai and Kenneth by implementing actions including:
- Strengthening and tailoring existing early warning systems and incorporating emergency planning in EWS;
- Supporting the localisation of knowledge, skills, capacities and equipment;
- Investing in participatory and accessible build back safer infrastructure, and;
- Promoting the investment in ecosystem restoration as a key component of risk reduction.
A full account of the findings and recommendations from the PERC study conducted by ISET-International, Zurich Insurance Group, and the IFRC can be found to your left or on our dedicated PERC page.
Additionally, programme activities are aligned with the Mozambique Red Cross’ Disaster Risk Reduction strategy which integrates and coordinates DRR related activities of Red Cross partners in the country. For example, we collaborate with the German Red Cross’ Forecast-based Financing (FbF) programme, which helps strengthen preparedness and early action capacities.
The Mozambique Red Cross is leveraging existing partnerships with key national and local stakeholders established when carrying out research for the PERC and other Red Cross country programmes, including with the National Meteorology Institute, National Institute for Disaster Management, Institute for Water Resources Management, local disaster committees, and with local municipalities. We will also make the most of cross-country opportunities and will collaborate regionally with Alliance partners working in Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Knowledge from Nepal
- The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance in Nepal: country briefing
- Avoiding a perfect storm: COVID-19 and floods in Nepal
- Missing Voices: Experiences of floods and early warning from marginalized women in Nepal and Peru
- Flood preparedness during Covid-19
- Gender and Early Warning Systems: Lessons from Nepal and Peru
- Budget governance for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation under Nepal’s new federal system
- Assessing and addressing-climate induced loss and damage in Nepal
- Pre-monsoon preparedness – Coordinated actions during flood
Hazard prone topography
Building resilience locally and at scale
Achieving flood resilient policy and practice
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
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.
New Zealand Red Cross (NZRC) is working in strong partnership with the Disaster Law Programme of the 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.
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.
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.
Knowledge from Peru
- Community Resilience, the Power of People: a video from Practical Action’s work in Peru in Phase 1
- Gender Transformative Early Warning Systems: Peru
- Peru 2017: Risks, Disasters, and Reconstruction
- Learning from El Niño Costero 2017: Opportunities for Building Resilience in Peru
- Rainfall and Citizen Science: an infographic
- Women building resilience: a blog about the San Miguel de Viso plant nursery
- Building flood resilience: one woman’s passion for helping her community
- How can participatory monitoring help us better understand rainfall?
El Niño causing severe floods in Peru
Rainfall in Peru is heavily influenced by the periodic ‘El Niño’ phenomenon which places particularly people in the coastal zone at risk of regular flooding. In 2021 Practical Action is expanding its work in the country in three watersheds, the Rimac, Chillón (department of Cusco), and Vilcanota-Urubamba (department of Peru’s capital Lima) rivers, working with 16 communities. All face rapid-onset floods and are subject to intense rainfall and associated hazards, including so called huaicos; flash floods filled with debris.
On the socio-economic side, rapid rural to urban migration continues and basic needs and risks facing new arrivals are a challenge, leading to a vicious circle of poverty and risk. In addition to this, differentiated disaster impacts by gender are evident, as women are expected to carry the extra burden that flood risks generate on these communities.
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 as result of the Covid-19 pandemic and related lockdown.
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
Since 2019 the Flood Resilience Programme has been working with four flood prone communities in Mangatarem in the province of Pangasinan. The programme 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.
The PRC also support local governments to achieve their goal in disaster preparedness and risk reduction, and to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2021 the Philippines Red Cross is extending its flood resilience work to reach 24 additional communities in highly flood-prone areas in Marikina and Pasig of Metro Manila. Here, environmental, and ecological vulnerability of communities along the river interact with the social vulnerability of residents in poor households, exacerbating the effects of climate change.
This expansion builds on relationships with a wide range of existing Red Cross projects and initiatives, including Forecast-Based Financing (FbF) and the Communities Advancing and Delivering on Community-based Adaptation Plans for Transformational Impact Programme (ADAPT), to share technical expertise and collaborate on advocacy and knowledge management. LSE is supporting the urban resilience work.
Community volunteers are the foundation of our programme
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.
Partners working in Senegal
Working in the urban areas of Thies facing flood challenges
The Practical Action team in Senegal is working with eight communities in Thies Nord which are particularly exposed to flood hazards as they receive substantial surface flows from the High Plateau located to the east of Thies, the origin of many floods of the Fandane catchment.
Collaborating with long term, locally embedded partners
The team also works closely with implementing partner IED Afrique. At community level, IED Afrique staff serve as technical advisors to the project team, bringing their experience in research, development planning, participatory monitoring, evaluation and learning, and knowledge publication and dissemination.
Providing flood resilience knowledge to practitioners across West Africa
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.
Knowledge from South Sudan
Despite massive flood challenges, resilience remains underprioritised
Despite an urgent need to enhance resilience to flooding, funding remains low in South Sudan. However, the formation of the new unity government in 2020 brings a new focus for resilience-related interventions and the prospect of a changing funding environment, if peace prevails.
With this shifting focus in mind, the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) offers a timely opportunity to inform a more systematic and evidence-based resilience approach.
Floods destroy lives and livelihoods in Northern Bahr el Ghazal
Concern Worldwide is using the FRMC in 12 communities in Northern Bahr el Ghazal (NBeG) state, Aweil North, and Aweil West counties. Flooding in NBeG state is an annual occurrence and affects villages situated in lowlands and flood plains. As excessive rains occur, flooding is sometimes exacerbated by the overflow of the Lol River causing deleterious impact on community members’ lives, livelihoods, and assets. The communities Concern is working with are in low-lying agricultural areas clustered along the Lol River. They are significantly affected by a combination of riverine and pluvial flooding which destroys crops, homes, and contaminates water sources.
Actions informed by system and evidence-based resilience measurement
Having already started applying the FRMC in these communities and developing resilience actions for the context, Concern is in the process of extending the initial analysis to interventions. Concern has received co-funding for the interventions from Welthungerhilfe, through the provision of technical engineering support.
Though flooding is one of the major causes of recurrent disaster events in different parts of the country, system and evidence-based resilience measurements have been very limited in this complex humanitarian context. The introduction of the FRMC work will address this gap and Concern is well positioned in Aweil to support this objective by presenting the findings and subsequent recommendations from application of the FRMC to inform actions to enhance flood resilience, reduce impacts, and the value of funding such actions.
Knowledge from the United Kingdom
- Building flood resilience in a changing climate: Flood risk management in England
- Flood risk is rising and so must our resilience to it
- After the storm: how the UK’s flood defences performed during the surge following Xaver
- Flooding after Storm Desmond
- How can the UK build flood resilience in a changing climate?
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.
Knowledge from USA
- What can be learned from the Columbia and Charleston floods 2015?
- Floods in Boulder: a study of resilience
- Houston and Hurricane Harvey: a call to action
- The role of businesses in community recovery
- Why small businesses should invest on preparedness
- Hurricane Florence: Building resilience for the new normal
- California fires: Building resilience from the ashes
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
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.
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.
Working in diverse contexts across Vietnam
ISET-International is implementing the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) in 10 urban and peri-urban communities in Binh Dinh and Thua Thien Hue provinces in Central Vietnam, and 2 communities in Can Tho in the Mekong Delta.
Flooding in Can Tho is strongly influenced by local rainfall, rising river levels caused by upstream flooding, and high tides. Living conditions and livelihoods in the Delta were historically well adapted to the regular pattern of seasonal flooding thanks to their “living-with-floods” strategy. During the last decade, flooding has become less predictable and more damaging due to a multitude of factors including climate change, sea level rise, land subsidence, and urbanisation.
In Binh Dinh and Thua Thien Hue provinces pluvial and riverine flooding occur frequently. Extreme floods are typically associated with typhoons and tropical depressions and are being exacerbated by both development and climate change.
Plan International is applying the FRMC in 18 rural and peri-urban communities in Quảng Tri province in Central Vietnam, neighbouring the Central Vietnam area ISET is working in. Quảng Tri province is characterised by tropical climate, high exposure to hazards, particularly flash floods, and a high level of poverty making the region not only physically but also socially vulnerable to the impact of flooding.
Opportunities for influencing national policy
ISET and Plan International are both standing members of the Vietnam Climate Change and Disaster Management Working Groups.
The Climate Change Working Group (CCWG), established in 2008, brings together INGOs, Vietnamese NGOs, development agencies, institutions, and professionals to exchange ideas and to discuss ‘lessons learned and best practices’ on how to improve work addressing climate change.
The network’s mission is to contribute to reducing the vulnerability of disadvantaged people in Vietnam to the impacts of climate change by advocating for environmentally and economically sustainable as well as socially just responses to this threat.
The Disaster Management Working Group (DMWG) was set up in 1999 to support information sharing and coordination of relief activities. It meets monthly, with the objective of supporting hazard reduction and disaster risk management in Vietnam through improved information sharing and coordination of interventions among relevant agencies.
Using Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities learning to build community resilience
The FRMC results analysis will be used to enhance community and commune Disaster Risk Management and Disaster Risk Reduction efforts, and to discuss opportunities for enhancing resilience with provincial and national government.
Plan International and ISET are applying the FRMC to support the implementation of the national Community-Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) programme in the selected communities. They support the technical working groups set up at all administrative levels through this programme, including on gender-sensitive, resilient systems thinking.
Knowledge from Zimbabwe
Dual challenge of seasonal and cyclone-induced flooding in a changing climate
Practical Action is working with 12 communities in the Chimanimani district located in the south eastern part of the country, bordering Mozambique in the east. Climate change has significantly increased the risk of hydro-meteorological hazards, and Chimanimani is one of the most vulnerable districts, lying in the path of cyclones from the Indian Ocean.
The heavy rains from Cyclone Idai in 2019 resulted in catastrophic landslides and flash flooding and impacted an estimated 270,000 Zimbabweans. The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance conducted a Post Event Review Capability (PERC) study of the event, of which the findings and recommendation can be found to your left or on our dedicated PERC page.
By building resilience into the lives of people threatened by hazards and reducing the risk to lives and livelihoods, the Flood Resilience Measurement for Communities (FRMC) process will complement efforts being done by Practical Action in the country to help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change.
Working in partnership to implement learnings from Cyclone Idai
Practical Action Zimbabwe’s Flood Resilience Programme is implemented together with partners such as AGRITEX, and will leverage opportunities as highlighted in the recent PERC Idai to work with the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies and the local Zimbabwean chapter of the Red Cross.