The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is no stranger to severe weather, floods, and earthquakes. The number of natural disasters around the world has almost doubled since the 1980s, in MENA it has almost tripled. Over the past decade, governments in the region have developed a better understanding of the risks posed by natural disasters and the measures needed to prepare for them. In support of their efforts, the World Bank has prepared a report, Natural Disasters in the Middle East and North Africa: A Regional Overview,which aims to highlight the natural hazards facing the region and the progress made in tackling these challenges.
There is an Arabic proverb that says it is better to prevent than to cure.
This is exactly the premise of disaster risk management.
Why is it important for people and governments in the Arab world?
As Franck Bousquet, Sector Manager of Urban, Social and Disaster Risk Management explains: While the number of disasters worldwide has doubled, in the Middle East and North Africa region it has tripled.
The Middle East and North Africa region is on the front lines of climate change. According to the World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 ͦ C Warmer World Must be Avoided (WB, 2012), the region is steadily getting hotter and drier. Of the 19 countries that set new national temperature highs in 2010, the warmest year globally since records were first kept in the 1800s, five were Arab states.
Disaster Risk Management has become a critical component of national policy and planning. In the Middle East and North Africa region, the interplay of natural disasters, together with the impacts of climate change, water scarcity, and urbanization, have emerged as serious challenges for policymaker. While the number of natural disasters around the world has almost doubled since the 1980s, in MENA, the number has almost tripled.
Twice a year, we put together an economic outlook for Middle East and North Africa as part of the economic analysis we do at the World Bank. Over the last two years, a series of political and financial shocks have made the regional economic trends and turning points that we are looking for in these reports difficult to identify.
Blood pressures are rising in the Middle East and North Africa and they show little sign of cooling down. They began simmering over shishas in el kahawi (coffeehouses) in Tahrir Square, Eqypt; steaming over fried malsouka snacks in Habib Bourguiba Street, Tunisia; and bubbling over smoke filled debates at Pearl Roundabout, Bahrain. People from all classes and walks of life are equally affected.
A ground-breaking study released last month shows how the Middle East is losing its fresh water reserves. Prepared jointly by NASA and the University of California Irvine, and published by Water Resources Research, the report offers a range of alarming statistics on both the amount and rate of the region’s water loss.
In view of the challenge Yemen faces from climate change, Yemen was selected as one of nine single-pilot countries around the world to participate in the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience. Supported by the Climate Investment Funds, the program aims to help countries manage the risks and opportunities posed by climate variability and change, particularly taking into account those most vulnerable to such risks.
I recall the first time I visited Nakheel Palestine for Agricultural Investments Company fields at Jericho two years ago, when MIGA was still at the early stages of underwriting the project constituting planting date trees. The land was empty and, at the first glance, the first thought that came to mind was “how can this be developed into arable land?”