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Natural Disasters in the Middle East and North Africa: A Regional Overview

By: Rakhi Bhavnani, Aditi Banerjee, Catherine Burtonboy, Osama Hamad, Alejandra Linares Rivas, Sahar Safaie

The report Natural Disasters in MNA: A Regional Overview analyzes the risks the region faces and the measures and tools that the countries have adopted to enhance their preparedness. Developed by the World Bank in collaboration with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) governments, the United Nations, and regional institutions, this report also looks at the disaster risk management (DRM) experience from around the world, and proposes a path to improve the resilience of MENA countries to natural hazards.

This overview first analyzes in depth the sources of vulnerability to natural hazards in the region, such as water scarcity, increasing climate variability and a fast-growing population, which is progressively concentrating in urban areas in insecure and unplanned settlements. The urban population already accounts for 62 percent of the total population, with this figure is expected to double by 2040.

Additionally, 3 percent of the region’s surface area is home to 92 percent of the total population. Citizens in urban areas must deal with floods on a regular basis with limited structural protection, inadequate citywide drainage systems, and weak nonstructural flood mitigation measures.

The report later looks at the DRM progress in MENA countries and the progressive shift from reactive measures in response to a so-called natural disaster, toward ex-ante actions to prevent the disastrous effects of natural hazards. Governments have a better understanding of the risks their countries face; they are also raising awareness among the population and changing their policies, as seen in the creation of DRM-specific institutions and investments in programs around the region. These programs include early warning systems and national and city-level risk assessments.

While a certain level of momentum has been building on DRM in MENA, it has not yet been matched with the integrated approaches required to manage disaster risks effectively. For this reason, the last two sections of the regional overview focus on the World Bank DRM past, current, and proposed future work in MENA while looking at best practices from all over the world. Experiences like Pakistan’s institutional coordination, water scarcity alleviation in China, or micro-insurance in Malawi, could be adapted to the regional context.

The report includes in its annexes detailed risk management profiles of all the countries in the region.