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Assessing Drought Hazard and Risk - Principles and Implementation Guidance

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Droughts are among the most far-reaching natural hazards in the world. This drought risk guidance provides four guiding principles and broader implementation guidance that should be taken into account when designing the overall approach of the drought risk assessment.

Foreword

rom the Horn of Africa to Indonesia and from California to Cape Town, droughts are some of the most far-reaching hazards that affect communities around the world.

Indeed, long periods of water shortage can have high socioeconomic impacts including crop failures, high food prices, increased levels of malnutrition, and a reduction in hydropower generation. Droughts also cause shocks to the budgets of governments as they struggle to support affected regions.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has long been supporting countries around the world in strengthening their resilience to natural hazards.

This guidance document, with its underlying technical reports, provides countries and partners a new toolbox to understand and manage drought risks.

The effective preparation and response to droughts require an accurate understanding of this phenomenon. Not only do we need to understand the causes and magnitude of droughts, we also need to have a grasp of the exposure and vulnerability of the population and economic sectors affected. Drought risk assessments that capture these elements can help in the design of social safety nets, risk financing strategies, and water management solutions, and are a cornerstone of climate adaptation strategies.

Despite the importance of drought risk assessments, we are often still struggling to get it right. Whereas floods, cyclones, and earthquakes can be easily pinpointed in time and space, droughts are more elusive hazards. They tend to develop slowly and can almost unnoticeably affect large regions over multiple months or even years. Furthermore, the impacts of droughts on communities are highly dependent on water infrastructure, access to markets, and social resilience.

Forecasting and modeling droughts and their impacts has therefore been a complicated exercise.
In recent years, the toolbox available for assessing drought risk has expanded rapidly. New satellite observation techniques, hydrological datasets, and global drought models offer new opportunities to understand and forecast drought risk even in the most data-scarce countries. These tools can be used to forecast droughts, calculate their impacts, and design response mechanisms. For example, in Uganda, GFDRR and the World Bank are helping the government develop an online platform that automatically tracks vegetation coverage to inform rapid decisions about scaling up the disaster risk financing mechanism that provides early finance for drought response.

This guidance document provides direction to effective drought hazard and risk assessments. It is based on a new extensive inventory of drought models and tools, made available through www.droughtcatalogue.com, and a technical evaluation of these models on a set of case studies. The guidance note will hopefully provide the reader with a good overview of the tools and approaches to use for different applications.

I would like to personally thank the team that led the work on this, as well as the many colleagues and external collaborators who provided comments and suggestions.

We look forward to continuing to explore the challenging issue of drought risk with the broad community of experts and solution providers around the globe.

Julie Dana Manager, GFDRR