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Bridging the divide: Lessons from disaster risk reduction, development and humanitarian approaches to Cyclones Idai and Kenneth

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Key messages and recommendations

  • Extreme weather events, like Cyclone Idai, are predicted to become more frequent, more intense, and more unpredictable. We must do more; if we do not, these events will destroy the lives, assets, and livelihoods of more and more people.

  • There were important successes within the humanitarian response to the cyclones. But humanitarian responses alone are not enough. Waiting for major shocks to identify areas at risk is too late.

  • Proactive engagement in risk reduction is needed to prevent the extensive loss of life, loss of development gains, and costly humanitarian response experienced following Cyclones Idai and Kenneth. Support for disaster risk reduction (DRR) is required both in areas previously affected by extreme weather and in areas where climate change is creating new risk.

  • Development and humanitarian responses need to be climate-smart. To support affected countries and communities to ‘build back better’, humanitarian responses need to be fully funded and coupled with significant long-term investments in risk-informed, climate-smart development, particularly for poor and climate-vulnerable communities. More actively incorporating risk reduction, climate risk information, climate adaptation principles and nature-based solutions into humanitarian and development programming would help address this risk. But this requires donors to fund these activities, including through funding requests in humanitarian appeals for early recovery and resilience.

  • Investments, including early warning systems (EWS), must reach local levels and address the needs of the most vulnerable. If systems ignore the ‘last mile’ this leaves the lives and livelihoods of communities effectively unprotected. Local communities should be actively and meaningfully included in planning and designing interventions and hydrometeorological investments. All projects should include local partners in design and implementation phases to ensure policies, practices and investments are directly informed by local knowledge and lived experience.

  • DRR approaches can serve as a useful bridge between the humanitarian and development sectors and help ensure all relevant sectors incorporate longer-term thinking about risk and climate change. Governments should ensure domestic investments along the same lines, supported, as needed, by enabling legislation.

  • Common problem definitions, objectives, and funding modalities between humanitarian and development actors should be developed and followed. Joint development of objectives for climate resilient communities by humanitarian and development actors and communities can help incentivize greater coordination and planning, which is needed to avoid gaps in service delivery.