By Brenden Jongman, GFDRR Disaster Risk Management Specialist,
& Jocelyn West, Disaster Risk Communication Consultant
Reliable risk information is critical for resilient development planning, public policy and investments. This is especially critical in Afghanistan, where disasters caused by natural hazards have affected nine million people and inflicted more than 20,000 fatalities since 1980. However, high levels of poverty, fragility and conflict make it challenging to collect risk information and build resilience in the country.
When the World Bank’s South Asia Disaster Risk and Climate Change team started working in Afghanistan, very little information was available on hazards and risk. So the team set out to produce basic information essential to disaster risk management. They developed innovations for visualization and cost-benefit analysis on top of a standard GeoNode, which have enabled Afghanistan’s planning processes to incorporate disaster considerations.
Key challenges faced during this process were data availability and collection. Data in Afghanistan is generally difficult to access, scattered across different institutions and often both incomplete and outdated. The team spent many hours and days tracking down datasets from government, development partners, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and other providers.
With support from the Government of Japan and the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction, the team conducted a comprehensive multi-hazard risk assessment at the national level. The assessment covered flooding, drought, landslides, earthquakes and avalanches at a high level of detail for the entire country.
The team set up the online geospatial platform Afghanistan Disaster Risk Info GeoNode to store and organize all the geospatial data needed to create the Afghanistan Risk Profile, which visualizes the results. This platform is publicly available at www.disasterrisk.af.
The GeoNode is now a public platform that allows users to create, share and access geospatial data and maps for decision-making about disaster risk in Afghanistan. It contains both locally developed datasets, such as the location and typology of thousands of schools, and globally derived products such as satellite imagery and elevation models.
Innovating on top of GeoNode
The Afghanistan GeoNode platform contains multiple innovations that build upon the standard GeoNode interface. First, it holds a new ‘data extraction’ tool, which allows the user to easily select, visualize and download data based on their selected indicator type and geographical areas. This makes it easier to zoom in on specific geographic locations to assess risks and plan accordingly. Second, it has a new cost-benefit analysis tool for floods and earthquakes. This tool is pre-populated with the result of a cost-benefit analysis, allowing the user to discover the benefits of investing in risk reduction.
In addition to the GeoNode, the Afghanistan Disaster Risk Profile summarizes the results of the risk assessment for each of the hazards and provides key recommendations for risk mitigation measures to reduce losses from disasters.
Government counterparts, including staff from the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) and several line ministries, are now using these tools to mainstream disaster and climate considerations in their budget and planning processes. Both World Bank teams and government counterparts are engaging in an intensive training program on disaster risk management and the use of risk information. This training focuses on incorporating resilience into the planning, design, and implementation of investments in Afghanistan.
Over the coming months, additional efforts will be made to use the GeoNode to inform avalanche resilience along key transport corridors, and to support community-level resilience efforts. Little by little, risk information is being used to increase the resilience of communities and key economic sectors in the challenging context of Afghanistan.