Pre-positioning Disaster Data in Vietnam

BY Jenty Kirsch-Wood | December 6, 2018|Comments 0

Typhoons and droughts have one thing in common: they are both the result of hot temperatures. Hot air over land sucks the moisture out of the ground (drought). Hot air above the sea, in combination with warm surface water, causes evaporation. And above the Pacific Ocean, this situation turns into a typhoon.

In Vietnam, an average of 6-10 typhoons hit the country between June and November each year. They cause significant damages and losses. In the dry season, from mid November to April, drought and saltwater intrusion regularly causes serious damages to agriculture-based livelihoods for Central and Highland regions.

Between 2015- 2016, El Nino caused severe drought and saltwater intrusion in the Central Highlands and Mekong River Delta, which affected more than 2 million people and damaged more than 660,000 hectares of crops. In 2017, typhoon Damrey made landfall in the south central provinces, which caused 300 deaths and left approximately 400,000 people in immediate need of humanitarian assistance.

Pre-positioning humanitarian supplies is common practice. Why not pre-position some of the data needed to make assessments? This is the question we asked as part of our efforts with national partners to get better data to respond faster to disasters in the country.

The trouble with disaster data

The Government of Vietnam and its development partners understand that a speedy and effective response can save lives and help communities bounce back after disasters. We have been proactive in collecting data and information to prepare better for relief and response activities. The problem is ensuring that disaster data is used to support timely relief and response planning.

If you wait until a typhoon hits, data problems usually follow. First, you need data to understand the damages from the typhoon. Second, you also need to understand what are the early recovery needs, and this normally take 2-3 weeks to collect. Third, the government and partners have to verify the data sources from the commune and district level to ensure their accuracy before using it to inform relief and response activities. After a disaster, the pressure to move quickly often means that data collection is uneven. This makes it much more difficult to focus on data cleaning and analysis with disaster response data.

Last but not least, quantitative data on the number of people affected by typhoons is not always available. Or it can be either under and over estimated, which makes for inaccurate estimations of the humanitarian assistance that is needed. Data on vulnerable groups, such as people living with disabilities is even harder to come by.

From 3 weeks to 36 hours: prepositioning disaster assessment data before the typhoon

We are developing tools and maps that can link baseline data on vulnerability and potential risks to improve preparedness, response and recovery activities. We are working with a local IT firm to make use of different layers of data in order to visualize disaster effects caused by typhoons/floods. The tool will be a web-based application, which will then be accompanied by a relief and recovery tracking tool – an app for mobile phones so it can be used on the go.

As part of design, we talked to sectoral experts and partners including the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority and the Disaster Management Working Group about what baseline data is needed. Together with a UN team, we collected the key baseline data for eight sectors: health, food security, water and sanitation, nutrition, shelter, protection, education and early recovery. This helped us develop a working prototype of how baseline and disaster data can help speed up disaster response.

We are now developing an approach to be able to show where storm tracks will go, and how this will impact the total population. The tools and maps that we are working on will also help predict the most likely scenario of disaster impacts on the communities. With this information, we would be able to calculate the costs of likely humanitarian and recovery needs.

These advanced tools will generate an assessment report within 36 hours of disaster. We did this by pre-positioning the baseline data to automatically generate an estimated calculation for impacts and recovery needs for specific areas affected by a disaster. Having the data on hand will provide a contextualized picture of the disaster that the government, UN agencies and development partners can use to plan for relief, response and recovery activities. These tools and maps are part of a comprehensive solution to prepare quicker and better for disasters.

Improving quality and delivery of social and projection services post disasters

UNDP is the leading agency and is working with UN partners including UN Women, WHO, FAO, UNICEF, IOM on the project, and to identify available baseline data for relevant sectors such as health, education, shelter, etc., and associated key immediate needs.

Each agency is responsible for its sectoral baseline data collection and contributes to the development of tools within consultation meetings. We also talked with relevant governmental agencies and members of Disaster Management Working Groups to ensure than the solutions promote gender equity and highlight the needs of the most vulnerable groups such as children, people with disability, elderly, and people with HIV/AIDS. It also improves quality and delivery of social and projection services after disasters through partnership building.

Our team is the final stages of developing a simple tool that turns the baseline data into a rapidly usable reporting format for humanitarian assistance. The tool will undergo the final testing phase this month. We hope to test the tools within this disaster season, and keep learning from our work to date to support more speedy and effective disaster response and recovery in the near future.

Photo: Markus Spiske via Unsplash

Authors


Jenty Kirsch-Wood Jenny is Technical Specialist in Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change at UNDP Vietnam. You can follow her on LinkedIn.

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