GRDRR and the Overseas Development Institute report on disaster risk spending history
This summer the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the ODI will share a report on what has been spent on disaster risk over the past 20-years. These organizations are a part of a partnership of 41 countries and 8 international groups who are working with developing countries to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters. These are thought-leaders who are attempting to lay a foundation for better disaster risk management.
Disaster Reconstruction & Rehabilitation
The report indicates that in 20 years we have spent $23 billion in an effort to rebuild following damaging earthquakes like those in Marmara, Gujarat, Kashmir and Haiti. We have used billions in reconstruction money to rebuild in Pakistan and the Indian Ocean region following a tsunami and flooding.
The question that must be asked is whether this money actually produced rehabilitation toward disaster risk reduction? If we didn’t improve the resiliency of the structures, then are we just expediting work projects and contributing to a future risk in these developing nations?
We have also spent $13.5 Billion in disaster prevention from 1991 to 2010 with the hope that we will not need the billions of dollars needed for emergency response in the future.
To restore damaged structures to a safe condition, fully operation, and with better risk capacity, our reconstruction spending should be directed toward stronger buildings, not structures that are built as poorly as before . Unfortunately much of the reconstruction money is spent using the same failed construction practices and materials that were in place before the rehabilitation began.
Spend 1% on the construction supply system and save…
We must consider a slight deviation from the reconstruction and rehabilitation budget illustrated in the GRDRR / ODI report… If we had diverted 1% ($233 Million) of the R&R budget to improvements in the concrete supply system during the 20-years prior to the Haiti quake, would we have saved billions of dollars in emergency response from crumbling concrete? If we had targeted Haiti, Bangladesh, and Kashmir with investments in their concrete supply systems, could we have saved hundreds of thousands of lives from falling concrete buildings?
Are we confident that 20-years of work and $23,000,000,000 in reconstruction spending has made concrete construction practices any safer in the poorest regions of the world?
The evidence of misdirected funding may be found in a recent study of Nigerian building blocks…. The random testing of some of the 200,000 block producers in that country found that 100% of the blocks failed to meet standards for building structural walls. It appears that there is a failure in this portion of the concrete supply system in this developing nation. Have improvements in the concrete block supply system been a part of the $13.5 Billion disaster prevention budget during the past 20-years?. The sad fact is that concrete block is used to build 90% of the structures in Nigeria, so there is a very high level of concrete failure for this country. Note: Thousands died in Haiti from these same type of blocks.
In Haiti, many are rebuilding using the same poor materials and practices that where in play before the quake of 2010. Three-years downstream from hundreds of thousands of people crushed under concrete, and most are ignoring the important work of developing a functioning concrete supply chain in that region. Today in Haiti there are major charities expediting work projects without any thought of improving the failed construction supply system. Are we willing to waste billions of dollars not preparing for the next emergency in Haiti? The probability is high that we will spend billions more in another major rescue effort in the next 20-years.
Thought-Leaders and 3000 PSI Concrete
The thought-leaders of disaster risk management might consider what would happen if all international organizations agreed that they would never allow reconstruction spending without proof that concrete met a 3000 PSI benchmark (In Haiti the concrete tests at 1300 PSI). This one requirement would force the investment in a supply system with good raw materials, consistent production practices, improved testing resources and much more. Just emphasizing the development of a quality concrete supply chain would encourage better engineering, appropriate structural reinforcements and many steps beyond. The responsibility for leadership for better supply systems rests with those who raise the money and do the disaster risk management planning in developing nations.
If we don’t demand building resiliency from stronger concrete then we will spend another 20-years wasting money and lives in developing countries. We invite all thought-leaders to work on the foundation of a strong concrete supply system in the nations that depend on our good works.