Viet Nam

World Bank urges Vietnam CG to focus on disaster relief lays groundwork for flood recovery

December 14, 1999- Just in time for the Vietnam Consultative Group meeting on December 14 and 15, the World Bank has drawn up plans to help the Southeast Asian nation recover from the worst flooding in a century. Already a conference of great significance, the timing of the CG meeting offers an important opportunity: it may be used as a forum to launch plans to help better address such natural disasters in the future.
Last month's series of floods caused 3.3 trillion dong in damage, and killed nearly 600 people. The rains pounded seven central provinces that are home to 7 million people. About 650,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and 570 schools and 75 hospitals and clinics were swept away, according to report by the Vietnamese Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry.
An important part of this could be support for a crisis recovery fund that would be available to finance infrastructure and livelihood rehabilitation immediately after any such event,- said World Bank Vietnam Country Director Andrew Steer

And just as recovery from the November floods was commencing, Vietnam was battered again this month with torrential rains, leaving more than 100 people dead. One million people are in need of emergency aid. Phan Ky Chuong, a provincial administrator in Quang Ngai, told the New York Times that 250,000 people in the province were still in need of emergency food. "The situation is very critical from now to next March, when he next crop is expected," he said.

After the initial series of floods, the World Bank undertook a joint mission to inspect damages in the three hardest hit provinces (Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue and Quang Nam) out of the seven affected central provinces. World Bank Vietnam Country Director Andrew Steer was joined on the mission by representatives from the Asian Development Bank, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the UN, and the State Bank of Vietnam. The team met with the provincial People's Committees of the three provinces, visited damaged schools, homes, health clinics, irrigation systems, and talked to villagers, and viewed the devastation from the air.

In response to the flooding, Andrew Steer has proposed that the upcoming CG meeting be used to help mobilize assistance to the government for such natural disasters. Steer has also outlined ways the World Bank can help finance rehabilitation from the current flooding.

Steer said it is now becoming clear from scientific evidence on climate change that Vietnam will continue to suffer such events and that their intensity is likely to become greater.

"I would propose that we seek an agreement at the CG meeting that a team of government experts and donors undertake a stocktaking exercise early in the coming year, to start planning for a major program of investments in a range of activities (flood prevention, water management, early warning, and mitigation) that would help prevent and address future such disasters," he wrote in a letter to Tran Xuan Gia, head of the Ministry of Planning and Investment. "An important part of this could be support for a crisis recovery fund that would be available to finance infrastructure and livelihood rehabilitation immediately after any such event."

Steer summarized the ways and means by which the World Bank can quickly assist in the rehabilitation and reconstruction effort. The Bank has agreed to use funds from a previously disbursed credit to assist the primary schools and children in the seven flooded provinces. The money will be used for classroom repair and reconstruction, classroom furniture, and teaching aids and textbooks.

World Bank support for damage repair to irrigation and drainage facilities can be provided from unallocated and surplus funds in the Irrigation Rehabilitation Project in the provinces of Da Nang, Quang Nam and Quang Ngai.

And to support rehabilitation of rural access roads, the central provinces are in the position to benefit from the World Bank-assisted Second Rural Transport Project, which will go to the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors for approval on December 16. The project will provide credits and grants to improve basic rural access, including local roads and bridges.

The World Bank's planned work in Vietnam will be essential for the country's recovery from the flooding. But identifying methods to mitigate the effects of future disasters may prove to be the Bank's most vital and challenging task.