Cabo Verde

Cabo Verde Emergency Preparedness and Response Diagnostic: Building a Culture of Preparedness



General Information on Cabo Verde

Cabo Verde is a small island-nation located off the coast of West Africa. The archipelago has ten islands, nine of which are inhabited, as well as some islets. The country covers an area of 4,033 square kilometers and had a population of 560,349 in 2019. The Windward Islands are Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, and Boa Vista. The leeward group comprises Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava. The islands differ in terms of geology and morphology1.

Over the past 25 years, Cabo Verde has undergone significant economic and social progress, which resulted, in 2015, in its reaching middle-income country status. The country´s main economic sectors are tourism and agriculture, whereby one third of its population depends on agriculture for livelihoods. Tourism has become the main driver of economic growth with a 4% GDP increase in 1999, to an estimation of 21% in 2014. Poverty rates have significantly dropped between 2001 and 2015.

Much like other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Cabo Verde faces several risks due to its location and geography. These risks are exacerbated by rapid ruralurban migration, continuous land degradation, and climate change. In particular, its two main economic sectors are highly vulnerable to adverse impacts of climate change and natural hazards.

First, the agricultural sector is highly dependent on water availability and management, and would be directly affected by the predicted climate change scenarios, namely 1) increased drought frequency and severity; 2) increased rainfall variability, including more frequent events of short and intense rains, causing flash-floods in several catchment areas; and 3) progressive sea level rise and salt water intrusion into freshwater reservoirs closer to coastal areas.2

Second, the tourism industry would be affected by coastal erosion, which is exacerbated by sand mining for construction3 and other extreme weather events, and a reduction would negatively affect the national economy and poverty rates. The National Adaptation Program of Action on Climate Change, drafted by the Ministry of Environment and Agriculture together with UNDP, perceives Cabo Verde as “an environment system with a high degree of fragility and vulnerability facing the occurrence of extreme natural phenomena.”4 It is expected that the poorest part of the population, who do not have the necessary coping capacities, will be most affected.

Third, Cabo Verde is exposed to a variety of natural hazards, ranking it 32nd out of 177 countries in the World Risk Report 2017 due to its susceptibility, vulnerability, and level of adaptive capacities. Cabo Verde is exposed to the following natural hazards:

  1. Extreme weather and climate-related events (such as droughts and tropical cyclones);

  2. Flash floods and landslides;

  3. Earthquakes;

  4. Volcanic eruptions; and 5. Epidemics.
    In the past ten years, the country has suffered from the following adverse natural event:

  • Hurricane Fred in 2015, causing flooding and heavy rainfall on many islands (estimated damage: US$2.5 million);

  • Volcanic Eruption on Fogo Island, lasting for 88 days in 2014-2015 (estimated damages: US$28 million);

  • Sustained low levels of precipitation in 2017 leading to severe drought. As a result, dams were depleted and harvest failed, affecting the agriculture sector and resulting in a further increase in rural-urban migration;

  • Regular floods on several islands: São Nicolau (2009), Boavista (2012), São Miguel (2013 — estimated damage: US$2.6 million), and Santo Antão (2016 — estimated damage: US$7million); and • Epidemics: in 2009-2010, the first Dengue epidemic; in October 2015 a Zika virus outbreak; and in mid2017, a Malaria outbreak with 447 cases.6

Fourth, adding to the country’s exposure to natural hazards and climate change-related events, Cabo Verde has a lack of coping capacity in terms of emergency preparedness and response (EP&R).

The 2019 INFORM index ranks Cabo Verde 136th out of 191 countries. The index, a collaborative project of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee and the European Commission, combines three dimensions — hazards and exposure, vulnerability, and lack of coping capacity. Whereas the score for hazard and exposure is heavily influenced by the probability of agricultural drought, Cabo Verde´s score is mainly due to higher scores in terms of vulnerability (aid dependency and inequality), and in a lack of coping capacity (access to health care, governance, and DRR).7