In parallel to World Bank supporting the Colombian government through a comprehensive Analysis of Disaster Risk Management in Colombia in 2012, the OpenDRI team engaged directly with civil society and other international organizations to better understand their challenges and their potential to improve resilience to disasters.
Understanding Colombia’s Risk
Over the last 40 years, natural disasters in the country have produced losses that amount to US$7.1 billion. Over the last three decades close to 10,000 people have died and more than 14 million people have been affected from recurrent small scale disasters like flooding and landslides. The La Niña floods of 2010-2011 affected 3.5 million people. The vast majority of these people were from the lowest income quintiles. Damages and losses from the wide scale flooding amounted to 25 percent of the previous decade’s totals, one-third of reported deaths and affected persons, and approximately 50 percent of houses damaged.
A notable rise in the number of reported disasters in Colombia is to a large extent due to an increase in vulnerability due to insufficiently planned urban growth, inadequate environmental management and land use planning, and lax application of building codes, and possibly in part due to climatic trends.
The most common causes of disaster events include: floods (40%), landslides (26%), earthquakes (15%), volcanic eruptions (7%) and others (9%).
In response to nationwide flooding from 2010-2011, self-organized Colombian civil society shared datasets among volunteers via social media and online communication platforms and supported a mapping effort during the crisis by identifying the most affected places and the flood extent.
In parallel to World Bank supporting the Colombian government through a comprehensive Analysis of Disaster Risk Management in Colombia in 2012, the OpenDRI team engaged directly with civil society and other international organizations to better understand their challenges and their potential to improve resilience to disasters. This initiative is aligned with Colombia’s recently ratified Disaster Risk Management Law of April 2012, which ascertains that the country’s citizens share responsibility in promoting effective risk management. In practice, however, there is a lack of data access which could be used by civil society to strengthen public action in this area.
In June 2011, a GeoNode deployment for flood response was launched for the volunteer community in partnership with the OpenStreetMap Colombia project and the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The platform is being used to digitize imagery and identify buildings and other assets in flood affected areas. In addition, it also facilitates ground truthing to improve the accuracy of the flood extent maps by permitting the comparison of information gathered by volunteers with GPS devices against flood maps produced by the Disaster Charter.
Furthermore, the platform is also proving invaluable to other important spatial data collection and use related efforts. For example, OCHA sponsors a vibrant multi-institutional community of practice, the Sala de Situación Humanitaria (SIDIH 2.0), which discusses top humanitarian issues in Colombia and utilizes the GeoNode as a fundamental data-sharing and collaborative platform. The platform is being actively used to collect and host common operational datasets for preparedness and other activities like GPS track uploads for tracing primary and secondary roads.