The pandemic demonstrates that disasters are triggered by multidimensional risks and hazards, and that a country’s approach to urban resilience needs to be multifaceted.
Tropical Cyclone Harold in the Pacific reminds us of the impact of dual emergencies, such as cyclones and Covid-19, can cause. It was a category 5 cyclone with winds of up to 215 kilometers per hour. How do countries address emergency situations caused by natural hazards during a public health pandemic?
|When natural hazards, such as severe storms, strike Pacific islands during a pandemic, a dual threat is created that challenges leaders and planners. Photo: Trevor McKinnon|
Across the Pacific, we have seen national governments taking action to deal with Covid-19, including social distancing, handwashing, and port of entry restrictions. They have taken proactive measures by restricting travel from a fast-growing list of affected countries; declaring states of emergency; requiring a 14-day quarantine and the completion of health declaration forms and/or medical checks on arrival; and banning the entry of cruise ships.
– Expand the concept of disaster resilience: Development partners, like the Asian Development Bank, are in a position to provide immediate national budget support for disaster response and recovery through contingent disaster financing. By broadening the definition of ‘disaster resilience’ to include health emergencies, governments would be able to access such financing insurance schemes.
– Use climate change financing to innovate: Climate change and disaster financing for risk management can help countries leverage their funds for research and/or innovative solutions on dual emergencies to help respond to the future spread of infectious diseases. For instance, the design of emergency shelters could be modified to provide a multipurpose function—a temporary living space that meets social distancing guidelines and includes enhanced health screening and triage.
– Include dual emergencies into preparedness and operational plans: Utilities and municipalities ensure the continuity of basic services to communities during and after disasters. They have a role to play in preventing adverse impacts on people’s health and on the environment. In the Pacific, some wastewater utilities have emergency response plans; additional measures might be included to improve regular surveillance of wastewater influent. Researchers in the Netherlands, United States and Sweden have found that regular monitoring of wastewater could help detect new Covid-19 infections early.
– Define ‘livable’ cities to focus on quality of life: At the heart of ‘livability’ lies the emphasis on quality of life and community well-being, supported by strong governance systems. A focus on the dual benefits of engineering systems and structures in city design—resilience and livability, is more likely to result in public spaces that connect and enable a smooth flow of people or buildings designed with greater air circulation. A sense of community, especially in times of disasters, is especially important. Digital infrastructure has supported a safety net through social media and chat groups. Anupma Jain is Senior Urban Development Specialist, Pacific Department, ADB.