Global effort to strengthen early warning systems expands

Source: World Meteorological Organization
Country: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, Fiji, France, Germany, Haiti, India, Marshall Islands, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Switzerland, Togo, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, World

The Climate Risk Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative, which has invested $42 million in projects in the most vulnerable countries, has received a new contribution of 10 million euros from Germany.
Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States benefit from better weather and climate information

A global initiative to strengthen early warning systems and climate resilience in the most vulnerable countries continues to gain momentum with a new injection of Euro 10 million contribution from Germany.

The Climate Risk Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative, set up in 2015, has invested USD 42 million in projects in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States and has mobilized an additional USD 130 million from public funds of other development partners.

Thus, Fiji now has an early warning system for flash floods. Advisories are issued for sand storms in Burkina Faso, which is also now generating seasonal forecasts and informing small scale farmers through local radio stations on when to plant their crops. Papua New Guinea issued its first seasonal forecast this year thanks to cooperation with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The latest counties that benefit from CREWS support are Afghanistan, Chad and Togo, with projects under preparation for Haiti, as well as additional financing planned for the Pacific and West Africa.

Gerd Müller, German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, said: “We must move from talk to action. The level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is higher than it has ever been. Climate change is already happening. And those suffering the most are the developing countries who, to crown it all, are the ones that have contributed the least to this situation. That is why it is important that affected countries get proper weather forecasts, so they are not caught totally unprepared when droughts or floods occur. If they know, for example, that a storm is on its way, with heavy rainfall, they have a much better chance of being able to prepare for it and can perhaps also receive timely assistance.”

The Minister said that good weather forecasts not only make it possible to respond better to crises at short notice, they also allow more long-term climate analyses to be made. If it is clear that a lengthy drought is coming, then the planning of food supplies can be better organised.

Therefore, the Minister said, “weather forecasts are the first building block in creating a foundation that countries can use to make whatever adjustments are needed to cope with a changing climate. Germany will help them, because the knowledge is already there.”

Carole Dieschbourg Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainability of Luxembourg, said the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather means that early warnings to protect lives and property are now more necessary than ever.

She said it was vital to close the capacity gap and ensure that weather forecasts and climate information from powerful supercomputers are made available to vulnerable countries and communities.

“We have made progress but we really have to do more,” she told a side event at the UN Climate Change Conference on 11 December.

Ingrid Hoven of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development highlighted the role early warnings play in building resilience to climate change. She stressed the high return from such investments, whilst and encouraging comprehensive approaches to climate risk promoted through the InsuResilience initiative, that include early warnings and insurance schemes.

Germany announced an Euro 10 million contribution to the CREWS Trust Fund, in addition to the initial Euro 3 million contributed in 2016.

In support of these efforts, a new Alliance for Hydromet Development, announced on 10 December, will align international efforts to close the capacity gap on early warnings and climate information by 2030. It brings together 12 international organizations providing assistance to developing countries, including the World Bank and World Meteorological Organization.

CREWS was launched by the French Government and four other countries at COP21 in Paris to ensure that Least Developed Countries and small island developing State are able to benefit. Two additional countries have since joined, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

“CREWS is increasingly relevant because of the growing impact of climate change especially on the most vulnerable,” said France’s Ambassador for Climate Change Brigitte Collet. “It is clear we are in a race against the clock,” she said.

She said that an assessment of CREWS showed that more than 44 countries benefit, out of a target of 76 priority LDCs and SIDS. “France will remain committed.”

CREWS allows LDCs and SIDS to draw on the expertise of three partners: the World Bank and its Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery, the World Meteorological Organization, that also hosts the CREWS Secretariat, and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

In all these countries, WMO has successful identified the most adapted and best available technical advice that is often found in more advanced meteorological agencies to address the needs.

“CREWS is really a success story and is taking real action on the ground,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. Half of national meteorological and hydrological services worldwide still lack proper multi-hazard early warning systems and impact-based forecasts, he said.

For instance, Tropical Cyclone Idai caused massive loss of life in Mozambique earlier this year because, whilst the storm was accurately forecast, there were insufficient advance warnings about the impacts of the Category 5 winds, huge storm surge and devastating flooding, said Mr Taalas.

By contrast, a major tropical cyclone which hit the Indian coastline in Odisha this year killed 38 people, compared to the 10,000 lives lost in a similar storm in the same location 20 years ago, said UN Disaster Risk Reduction chief Mami Mizutori. Better weather forecasts – and in particular better communication and education - were decisive, she said.

Pacific islands are among CREWS beneficiaries. Four out of the lowest-lying islands in the world are in the Pacific.

“The highest point in the Marshall islands is the landfill,” said Kosi Latu, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

“This puts the scale of the challenge into context. The CREWS project is so important because we are talking about the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. CREWS funding has helped local meteorological services provide weather forecasts and early warnings in simple ways which can be easily understood by local communities.

“The CREWS project enables us to raise the level of consciousness. It has helped to increase the level of understanding of early warning systems in the context of the Pacific,” said Mr Latu.

CREWS has a special gender-sensitive focus because women are often impacted differently than men by climate-related risks and are at the forefront of having action at the local level.

Reflections on the humanitarian response to Cyclone Idai

Former HLA trustee Adrian Nance played a crucial role in the Cyclone Idai response in Mozambique and offers some critical lessons from the process.

When Royal Navy veteran Adrian Nance launched his disaster response company Wings Like Eagles back in 2007 in southern Africa, he knew he would be providing vital life saving service as the area was and still is prone to natural disasters.

So, when Intense Tropical Cyclone Idai hit on the nights of 14th to 15th March 2019, he was prepared. Having received warnings of the disaster three days prior, the experienced humanitarian was able to quickly mobilize from his home in the UK, and was already on the ground in Mozambique when it struck.

Nance is a former trustee of HLA – a role he played for seven years – who was instrumental in restructuring its governance and operations that turned it into a dependable association, which brings together the various actors in the humanitarian logistics sector. As such, he is well aware of the value such networks of different individuals and agencies with varying capacities bring to the response to disasters such as Idai. The private, public, and aid sector actors were all crucial to the successes of the Idai relief efforts, and the strategic approaches adopted on the ground certainly present some valuable lessons for the future. Nance notes in particular the need to utilize the resources immediately available, in the most efficient manner. “We had to get the helicopters in as soon as possible, so it was essential to find the people who were willing to pay to make this happen, while the clusters were yet to be activated.”

                                                                                                                   Nance found that his combined military and humanitarian experience was vital, but so was the broad range of skills brought in by various individuals and organizations, which included coordination efforts from the UN lead humanitarian agency OCHA and the World Food Programme. Additionally, reliable communication was fundamental to mobilizing resources and OCHA’s liaison efforts ensured that news of the disaster and what was being done, got out really quickly which helped to obtain even more help. Nance reflects that media coverage was outstanding in those early days, and it was remarkable that the Mozambican President Felipe Nyusi himself, visited the area almost immediately, and that the government was willing to provide the money that was needed to rent the first helicopters.

The aircraft used by Nance’s team was jointly leased by Wings Like Eagles and Mercy Air. With this in place, they were in Beira on the Saturday following the disaster. In addition to mobilizing resources,clearly outlining the necessary processes was also instrumental to the relief efforts, and Nance notes that it helped that they were immediately able to determine what aircraft had been made available, and what each operator was in fact able and willing to do, and to then divvy up the tasks accordingly.

As such, his team got going on distributing food, in particular the high-energy bars that are supplied to keep survivors alive, as most of them had been stranded in the water for three days at this point. However, efforts were hampered by the fact that it was still raining and so the distribution of aid turned into a life-saving mission with rescue attempts. A remarkable achievement of the Idai response is that an estimated 400 people in total are believed to have been rescued from the water, using these helicopters (Rescue South Africa was one of those early responders) over the course of the four to five days.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         HLA Chief Executive George Fenton who was also part of the response operation in Mozambique in April reiterated the value that Nance and the other operators brought especially as ground access to Beira remained difficult for several weeks after. He notes that as supplies were mostly transported by air, airport facilities and personnel were stretched and overwhelmed. However, the fact that the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) was not activated because emergency response operations were mainly related to cargo transport needs (as commercial options were available for passenger transport) did not exacerbate the situation further. Additionally, unsolicited bilateral donations (GIK) were stopped by the UN in order toreduce airport congestion, while WFP’s aviation unit was deployed to contract and manage UN helicopter operations and coordinate private sector air logistics. All these decisions and actions ensured that the operations were managed to the extent possible.

A number of countries who deployed military assets, including Mozambique, Angola, Botswana, Brazil, France, India, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Tanzania, Turkey, UKand USA need to also be commended for the vital contributions they made, he said.

“Prior to the arrival of UN teams, which was several days after the cyclone hit, air assets were coordinated by the chiefexecutive of the local non-profit Wing Like Eagles. Due to the success of this approach, coordination plans developed during this period were later adopted by the UN team (which would normally tend to focus only on asset tasking)” – George Fenton

Key takeaways

For the Idai response to get underway, it was important to solve the chief problem that often plagues such rescue operations, which is the inability to find funds to pay for helicopters to transport vital aid in time, and of course attempt rescue of survivors. In the case of Idai, the funds came fairly quickly, mostly from the Mozambican government itself and the UN.

Secondly, it is vital to have aircraft that are available to be leased. The southern Africa region had a number of charities and private sector actors who could provide this resource, so it was easy to secure the necessary number of aircrafts soon after the disaster struck. However, with various different agencies (including humanitarian frontrunners IFRC and MSF) arriving fairly quickly, it was of equal importance that they were able to determine how best to coordinate efforts such that the overall plan of the UN in this regard was executed. Nance believes that good planning should however have been activated much earlier (by the UN).

Thirdly, private sector involvement needs to be continually factored in, and as such having the right people who can coordinate thisis critical, in order to build alliances with different actors to put together a strategic proposition for the movement of cargo. This included in particular helicopter operators (tour companies, former Zimbabwean farmers, big businesses like oil and gas companies). In the case of the Idai response operation, it was actually the private sector that helped to keep the ports and airports open. Studying and learning from operations like Mozambique is therefore extremely valuable – particularly as the future of effective emergency response is increasingly about improved engagement of the private sector.

Despite all the successes, one thing however remained a major challenge. This was the inability to survey the situation critically to determine where people were and what their particular needs are at that time – whether it was to be rescued, offered food, or medication etc. A key task therefore for the humanitarian community going forward, is to develop ways by which such a determination could be made inareas such as Beira, where this could prove difficult. Fenton believes that needs identification and the sharing of information around technical requirements is key to effective private sector engagement in order to better build their contributions into the system to ensure that the help goes where it is needed. “The international aidsystem cannot cope and so there is a need to build knowledge and capacity among potential local humanitarian actors and aviation service providers”, he concludes.



Role of HLA

The Idai response underscores the necessity of the humanitarian logistics community, and the role that networks such as the HLA continue to play. Over the years, the HLA, through transforming itself into a well-regarded charity, ensures that it is then able to deliver on its core mandate in support of global relief efforts. This includes professionalization of the sector through knowledge exchange, facilitating access to training and common practice guidelines. Documenting lessons learned and using these to effect the necessary changes is integral to this core mandate. As such, this exercise – of reflecting on the response to Idai and making the findings available to the wider community – could help improve the organized response to the next disaster. Adrian notes in conclusion, “As important as it is to do the necessary things in those early days of the response, it is equally essential to take time after the process to reflect on what happened – which is, what do we learn and how do we apply these.”



Photo credit: Reuters

Mozambique update from HLA members

This is a round-up of activities undertaken by HLA members in Mozambique recently, following the devastation caused by floods and Cyclone Idai.

HLA's George Fenton visits for Airlink

George Fenton, CEO of HLA, spent a week in Beira and its surrounds, partly in his role as a Board member for US NGO, Airlink.  Airlink provided transportation to World Central Kitchen staffers supporting their operation in Mozambique. With need persisting, the group is providing 20,000 meals a day to sites, including schools, throughout Beira. WCK was founded by US celebrity chef José Andrés.

Liz Bloomfield, Airlink's Director of Humanitarian Programs, stated that aid was making a massive difference. For example, while the number of registered cholera cases continues to rise, 97% of the 3,577 reported cases have now been treated and recovered. Furthermore, in recent days the number of people receiving the cholera vaccine has risen to 82% of the target, with almost 745,609 people now vaccinated. This example demonstrates why it is so essential for the medical professionals and other qualified experts Airlink transports to get on the ground quickly in the aftermath of a disaster.

Second mobile poll from Geopoll shows progress

A month following Cyclone Idai's landfall, GeoPoll has released results from a second survey conducted in the region in the weeks following the storm. This survey focused on ongoing impacts of Cyclone Idai, including food security, job and income loss, and concern over cholera and other medical needs. The full report and interactive dashboard can be found for free here: On-the-Ground Data from Mozambique.

Key findings include:

  • In Beira city, 53.1% say they have access to clean water, up from only 14.7% who had access to clean water a week after the cyclone.
  • Many are relying on less expensive or preferred foods; 72.57% overall and 80.1% in Sofala report eating less preferred foods on 4 or more days in the past 7 day.
  • Only 32.5% in Beira say aid organizations are in their area. Just 28.8% in Beira have received aid in the past 7 days.
  • 85.9% say they are very concerned about contracting cholera, and only 1.8% are not worried at all about the disease.
  • 41.6% in all regions and 57.1% in Sofala say they know someone who has contracted cholera since the cyclone.

Volga-Dnepr report on further possible storms

Within a month of Cyclone Idai, Volga-Dnepr has been tracking the possibility of significant impact again with Cyclone Kenneth moving across Comoros & Northern Mozambique. Volga-Dnepr are tracking airport access and give this overview of local provision.

Comoros Islands

Moroni - Prince Saeeid International Airport (IATA: HAH)
International airport & customs – Runway suitable for large freighter ops
Main Deck Loader (MDL) available for download large freighters

Nacala Airport (IATA: MNC)
International airport and customs services advised 0400z-1500z
Runway 3100m asphalt – suitable for aircraft types ramp such as IL76-TD-90VD/AN124
No Main Deck loader , forklift and manpower available for offloading
Pemba Airport (IATA: POL)
Small international airport & customs available
Runway 1800 m – short RWY for larger aircraft types, too short for IL76 with realistic payload vs temperatures (smaller aircraft likely)

Mtwara Airport (IATA: MYW)
Not international airport but customs & immigration advised available
No Main Deck Loader for offloading large aircraft / only forklift (max capability 7T)

Former HLA Trustee organises helicopter airlifts to Mozambique

Adrian Nance, the former Treasurer and Trustee of HLA and founder of charity, Wings Like Eagles, has been mentioned in various BBC reports, as he is coordinating airlifts in Mozambique following Cyclone Idai, though his charity.

Wings Like Eagles (WLE) has been retained by the Mozambican government disaster team. Adrian points out that the charitable business model of WLE enables them to provide very economical emergency helicopter services in the region. WLE also have a lot of operational experience to help with helicopter relief projects.

Two members of the WLE team – pilot Andrew Shipton and operations manager Clive Langmead – are in Mozambique.

Adrian is also pleased to be transferring skills and helicopter relief experience to a local team. He says: “We also have two Mozambicans who are actively helping us – Sergio and Nelson – with lots more ‘in the wings’ if we need them. They include Dave LePoidevin of MAF Mozambique and the Casa Koinonia guest house, a local hangar for repairs and Christian import agents if we need them, alongside Matthias Reuter of Mercy Air, insurance agents and engineers and many more from South Africa. All their contributions will come out as things progress. This is a team game!”

For more information, contact Adrian Nance or visit their website.

Mozambique update from HLA members

We have been coordinating responses from various HLA members on the current emergency situation in Mozambique following Cyclin Idai.

Club of Mozambique - emergency update

Club of Mozambique, the online gateway to Mozambique, reported that on 18 March the first international airlift arrived in Beira, Mozambique from UNHRD in Dubai. WFP are handling the distribution of supplies. For more information, read here.

Aero Africa - capacity

Reporting on 21 March, Jamie AndersonDirector -  African Solutions, said: "Remarkably I have not seen any humanitarian aid requests freely on the market for air cargo into Mozambique as of yet. It appears that the international call to help has yet to gather pace. I spoke to a few forwarders who handle NGO’s yesterday and they said the same. There are relief convoys en route ex South Africa. Day by day the world is starting to see the big picture therefore I expect a lot more activity in the coming days."

In terms of carrier availability, he added: "We would welcome any enquiries as we are very in touch with aircraft availability along the entire eastern coastline of Africa. Astral Aviation has the 727F based in NBO. There are also ample AN26F and also a C310 in MGQ that could also be called into play, as the operators do have spare hours".

Volga-Dnepr - capacity

Reporting on 21 March, Stuart Smith, Director Global Humanitarian, said of Volga-Dnepr's capacity: "1 x VDA IL76 is now ready in Maputo and will operate flights in coming days for BEW/Beira International Airport. We may consider ops also to Chimoio/VPY inside Mozambique. We may also look to offer B737F of Atran Cargo (Volga-Dnepr Group) ex EU and UAE origins, in case of smaller loads requirement. BEW, as we understand it, is not able to download larger freighters due lack of MDL but smaller freighters (forklift/low loader etc) as yes OR ramp". - shelter

John Vasila of Sheltereach said: “Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Minangagwa, of town Chmanimani Government wants to ensure that houses are built back with stronger materials. Sheltereach designs can be summed up with the word Simple. Simple for the end users, simple in terms of logistics and simple in procurement.

This leads to safe, affordable housing with access to services. We can also help local people to understand the building principles and materials used in our shelter/housing systems. We can partner with Government and NGOs to ensure appropriate disaster relief and reconstruction methods are used, increasing the strength by up to 30 times of  the original structure, usually without increasing the minimal budget cost".

See attached for typical shelter options and a diagram of a Disaster Cycle, in terms of shelter.