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Cardiff University researchers lead new project improving household hazard preparedness for citizens in low income countries

8 September 2023


Dr Joel C Gill, lecturer in sustainable geoscience and principal investigator of the ‘Improving Household Preparedness in Multi-Hazard Contexts’ project, has been funded by the global safety charity, Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

The‘Improving Household Preparedness in Multi-Hazard Contexts’project is one of eight that have been awarded funding from Lloyd’s Register Foundation to put the findings of its 2021 World Risk Poll into action, representing a combined investment of almost £2 million. The objectives of this project will be delivered in partnership with Dr Faith Taylor at King’s College London, with support from Geology for Global Development, UN-Habitat, UNESCO Earth, and 510 (an initiative of the Netherlands Red Cross).

With disasters disproportionately affecting the poorest in society and threatening progress towards shared global goals for sustainability, this project will focus on low-income contexts of low-income countries, intended to be scalable for wider contexts. One of the four priorities for action in the UN’s global framework for reducing disaster losses (the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction) is enhancing disaster preparedness, including promoting actions at the household level.

Dr Joel C. Gill, Lecturer in Sustainable Geoscience at Cardiff University and Principal Investigator, said: “At the recent midterm review of the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a political declaration was adopted that put a renewed focus on delivering multi-hazard, multi-risk management. The funding provided by Lloyd’s Register Foundation will enable us to respond to this call for action. We look forward to working with the Foundation, and learning from the other funded projects, to deliver our shared vision of a better, more resilient future for those affected by multiple, interrelated hazards.”

Globally, 27% of people said they had experienced a disaster caused by some type of natural hazard in the past five years. Flooding or heavy rains were the most common cause, named by 10% worldwide, followed by hurricanes or cyclones (7%) and earthquakes (5%) (World Risk Poll 2021).

In addition to feeling disempowered to take action, low income countries face additional difficulties as financial security is a central aspect of resilience; an aspect that could be swiftly lost in the face of a major disaster. To gauge people’s level of vulnerability to an event that causes the loss of their income, the World Risk Poll asked how long they could cover basic needs if they suddenly lost all income and had to survive on savings and things that could be sold. Worldwide, about a third of people (34%) said they could cover basic needs for less than a month, including about one in eight (12%) reporting they could do so for less than a week.

Many people affected by disasters live in regions that are affected by multiple, interrelated hazards. Citizens may live in a region affected by earthquakes, tropical storms, landslides, and floods, which don’t always occur alone. One hazard can trigger or increase the likelihood of another hazard happening (for example, an earthquake can trigger many landslides, some of which may block a river and trigger a flood). Different hazards can also take place at the same time or one after the other, placing significant pressure on already limited services and infrastructure. Reducing the impacts of disasters in such ‘multi-hazard’ contexts requires interventions, including household preparedness plans, to recognise these interrelationships and complexities.

This project aims to reduce disaster impacts in regions that are affected by multiple, interrelated hazards, and is formed to answer three primary objectives. Firstly, the project researchers are looking to understand and gather information on what contributes to high levels of household preparedness, such as why do certain regions of the world already have high numbers of households with preparedness plans.

The second objective for the team is to develop and test a suite of resources that households and organisations can use to help prepare for disasters in places where they are affected by multiple, interrelated hazards. Developing these tools and resources directly with citizens, the project team intends to spend time in a case study region to source input and advice in a range of ways (including interviews, focus groups, and workshops) that will maximise user-friendliness and usability.

Meeting the third objective of widening access and awareness of these plans, the team also plans to discuss and share these outputs in international summits and meetings, (including those coordinated by the United Nations) to support wider efforts to reduce disaster impacts.

Household preparedness plans are a vital part of resilient communities, but their use is not widespread. The second World Risk Poll 2021 report (‘A Resilient World’) from Lloyd’s Register Foundation found that significant differences exist in the use of household preparedness plans.   A majority of people in just 14 of the 121 countries and territories polled said they have a plan all their household members know about in case of a disaster. Regionally, people in Southeastern Asia were most likely to have prepared such plans.

Additionally, plans that do circulate are also typically focused on the actions that individuals can take to prepare for and respond to single natural hazards (i.e., earthquakes, floods, fires), whereas ‘multi-hazard’ preparedness is key to building resilience by ensuring that actions to reduce risk from one hazard do not increase risk to other relevant hazards.

While focusing on the household level, this project’s approach is shaped by recognition that governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental organisations have responsibilities to support and resource preparedness, through democratising solutions and ingraining necessity.

Increasingly, climate change, disasters and the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic have shone a light on national and international preparedness to meet complex hazard challenges, especially given the intersecting levels of income variance, vulnerability and the adaptability of different population demographics. Projects such as these led by Dr Gill give hope that we can collaborate effectively to meet challenges that society will increasingly face in the future, as we resolve to create interventions that ensure our citizens are not unfairly exposed to risk due to a lack of means.

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll is the first global study of worry about, and harm from, risks to people’s safety. The data includes places where little or no official data on safety and risk exists, and so constitutes a unique resource for defining the nature and scale of safety challenges across the world, as reported first-hand by those who experience them.

Lloyd’s Register Foundation is an independent global safety charity that supports research, innovation, and education to make the world a safer place. Its mission is to use the best evidence and insight, such as the World Risk Poll, to help the global community focus on tackling the world’s most pressing safety and risk challenges.

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