World Wildlife Fund, Inc.

Saving Nature to Save Lives in Marginalized Latin American Communities Highly Ranked

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

In Latin America, disasters are five times more likely than 40 years ago, affecting millions. Research shows a healthy environment can reduce disaster impacts. Unfortunately, marginalized communities often live in areas where nature has been lost. WWF, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, and CARE will work with vulnerable communities in Belize, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras to reduce risk to increasing extreme events, a driver of displacement and instability. We will restore wetlands to absorb floods, forests to reduce landslides and drought impacts, and mangroves to buffer storm surge. We will train local disaster managers and volunteers using the WWF-Red Cross Green Recovery and Training Toolkit, the industry standard for environmentally responsible disaster management. We will advocate greener disaster management policies and secure financing to replicate these efforts. Over ten million people will benefit from enhanced resilience that, if disaster strikes, will reduce loss and damages and maintain well-being.

Problem Statement

Climate change is amplifying disaster risk for already vulnerable communities. Between 2008 and 2017, over 20 million people in the five target countries were impacted by storms, drought, floods and landslides. A single extreme event can erase a community’s ability to create a better future. Multiple hazards perpetuate a vicious cycle of suffering, lost assets, compromised livelihoods, displacement and migration. Vulnerable people often live in degraded areas that have lost forests, mangroves and wetlands that once buffered the impacts of extreme events, increasing human vulnerability to disasters. Reconstruction following a disaster can inadvertently further damage these protective natural features, as land is cleared for resettlement, trees are felled to rebuild homes, and sand is mined to replace infrastructure, causing erosion to coastlines and riverbeds. Despite the evidence, many still view environmental protection and humanitarian outcomes as unrelated. Furthermore, promoting environmental outcomes is sometimes perceived as a distraction from life-saving operations. Disaster recovery can negatively impact the natural environment because emergency managers and volunteers lack the knowledge and skills needed to implement environmentally responsible practices, while outdated management plans can reinforce existing practices.We will leverage thousands of humanitarian staff and volunteers to change disaster management by demonstrating the value of nature in reducing disaster risk and sharing skills and knowledge to protect nature in the context of increasingly frequent natural hazards. Integrating nature into disaster management policy and practice will ensure these improved, tested practices become standard procedure. Demonstrating success can unlock newly available multilateral finance opportunities.

Solution Overview

We will break the cycle of environmental degradation and increased disaster risk by restoring degraded natural areas to help protect people from extreme events. Based on expressed local needs and environmental assessments, we will restore forests to reduce landslides and water scarcity, wetlands to absorb floods, and mangroves to buffer storm surge. We will supplement restoration with other risk reduction activities, including early warning systems, rainwater harvesting and climate-smart agriculture. To ensure the protective services of restored areas are maintained following a disaster, we will train thousands of local humanitarian professionals and volunteers to apply environmentally responsible practices in their work. Learning and better practices will be disseminated through an online knowledge hub across Latin America, with round-the-clock access to green disaster management experts. We will integrate environmental considerations into disaster management policies and procedures to ensure they are operationalized and applied in future emergencies.We will monitor progress by measuring hectares of restored nature; the number of updated disaster management plans; number of people trained; and additional financing secured to scale interventions. We will also train humanitarian agencies to conduct post-disaster assessments integrating environmental parameters into damage, loss, and needs assessments to measure the effectiveness of risk reduction measures.We estimate our solution will benefit 10.2 million people – the average number of people affected by climate-related disasters in target countries over a 5-year period – through improved disaster management policies and practices. At least 1.5 million at selected sites will benefit directly through investments in their communities.

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Project Funders

  • American Red Cross 2005 - 2010
  • Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance 2013 - 2018
  • The Coca-Cola Company 2012 - 2020

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