Data collection is essential for disaster mitigation

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On December 16, 2021, the supertyphoon “Odette” (international name: Rai) made landfall as a Category 5 typhoon in the Philippines, causing more than 400 deaths and approximately half a billion dollars in infrastructure and production damage. agricultural. This is not an unprecedented disaster for the Philippines. A study by the Asian Development Bank puts the cost of successive typhoons at $ 20 billion for the country between 1990 and 2020.

In response, the government of the Philippines and its partners have stepped up to reduce the risks and costs of disasters through better disaster preparedness and rapid response mechanisms. The country has made significant progress in structuring its disaster management system at all levels of government. Public spending on disaster risk reduction amounted to more than $ 3 billion in 2019.

In comparison, the recent announcement by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of an investment of 7.5 million dollars in anticipation actions in the country appears almost inconsequential from a budgetary point of view. . But it has the potential to fundamentally change the way the Philippines effectively mitigates disasters. Anticipation Action provides support to vulnerable families after the identification of a threatening typhoon and before they make landfall, so that they can take action to prevent the disastrous impacts of storms on their lives. It enables people to take action before disaster strikes.

With Odette, anticipatory action was not triggered by the UN, even though non-governmental organizations have deployed similar mechanisms. The reasons for not triggering anticipatory action upstream of Odette must be analyzed and better understood in order to improve the future response. It is likely that the rapid development of the typhoon itself, the novelty of the initiative, and limited funding all played a role.

Effective anticipatory action, however, also requires information on the level of preparedness of individuals and communities for typhoons. Currently, the triggering of anticipatory action is based solely on environmental factors (intensity and trajectory of the typhoon). Risks to individuals and communities are not sufficiently taken into account in part because such data is not readily available. Indeed, anticipatory action at this stage remains blind to the degree of preparedness, vulnerability and resilience of the population along the trajectories of typhoons. A national study conducted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) in 2017 showed that most Filipinos do not feel prepared for typhoons and that many are unaware of important mitigation measures. But this study is four years old, and recent efforts are not reflected in this data. New, granular data is needed to ensure that anticipatory action can be triggered based on reliable and timely information on the ‘human ground’.

To improve anticipatory action, disaster-related data on preparedness and resilience at individual and community levels should be systematically collected and made public, in the same way that the government should ensure regular collection of data on indicators. demographic, health and economic to guide public investments. This is a necessary step to ensure that strong data and evidence helps drive investment and public policy, and ultimately save lives in the face of recurring disasters, especially in the Philippines.

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Lea Ivy Manzanero, MA, is a project manager at HHI implementing HHI’s Resilient Communities program research in the Philippines. Mark Toldo is HHI’s Resilient Communities Program Communications Specialist. Vincenzo Bollettino, Ph.D., is the director of the Resilient Communities program at HHI. Patrick Vinck, Ph.D., Research Director of HHI, is Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

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