World Bank helps Sri Lanka resolve data gap to improve disaster response

ECONOMYNEXT – The World Bank is helping Sri Lanka improve data gathering on victims of natural disasters to speed up and better target relief and response to events that risk people’s lives and retard growth, its Country Director Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough said.

Information systems are playing an increasingly pivotal role worldwide in directing and coordinating governments’ responses to those in need, she told a conference on adaptive social protection.

“With support from the World Bank, Sri Lanka is developing a social registry, which is a database containing details on the needs and conditions of citizens,” Pswarayi-Riddihough said.

“Currently there are 35 programs implemented by 11 ministries, each with its own rules and processes and no coordination, reducing their impact and efficiency.

“A social registry can help various programs to determine who needs the most help in a systematic and objective way.”

Pswarayi-Riddihough said the social registry can play a key role in responding to disasters, too, by helping the government and other agencies to identify who is affected, what their needs are, and what programs they already receive.

She said Sri Lanka is the envy of many countries in its income and development bracket, having reduced extreme poverty to below 1%, and poverty at the present national poverty line now down to 4.1%. 

“The key concerns for Sri Lanka are less about extreme poverty; and more about vulnerability to an array of risks.   Depending on the level of vulnerability, progress can be undone.”

Pswarayi-Riddihough said Sri Lanka is visited annually by natural disasters with severe floods and droughts in 2016 and 2017.

An assessment done after the floods noted that a lack of data on households in affected areas made it difficult to ascertain their needs, and identified a need for improved inter-ministerial coordination on disasters.





According to a recent World Bank report launched last week in Colombo, rising temperatures and changing monsoon rainfall patterns from climate change could cost Sri Lanka 7.0 percent of GDP and depress the living standards of nearly half the country’s population by 2050.

“We estimate that 5.7% of the population is at risk of falling into poverty if a shock reduced their income by 20%,” Pswarayi-Riddihough said.

“By taking lives, destroying assets and interrupting business activities, disasters are quite capable of adding measurably to the number of poor.”

While the government and development partners are now increasingly able to forecast disasters and provide immediate assistance to those affected, more can be done to coordinate these efforts and ensure that disaster-affected households are supported until they fully recover.

This is where adaptive social protection can play a role, Pswarayi-Riddihough said.

“Adaptive social protection comprises a series of measures to protect the poor and the vulnerable from disasters.

“These are measures to become more resilient as communities. Adaptive social protection is not just about money it is also about social assistance and services, such as cash transfers, social insurance, like pensions and disability benefits; and active labor market programs,” she said.

“If they are designed and run well, these programs can cushion the blow of unexpected losses such as those brought about by disasters.”
(COLOMBO, 25 September, 2018)


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