What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, April 25

Tunnel Fire burning in Arizona on April 22,, 2022. (Source: Coconino National Forest via Twitter)

We know all too well that disaster can strike at any time, in any place in the world. Some disasters make headlines; others do not. Here at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP), we keep an eye on the status of disasters worldwide and compile a list of the ones we’re tracking weekly, along with relevant disaster-related media coverage.

Here’s what we’re watching for the week of April 25, 2022.

New or Emerging Disasters

Wildfire – U.S. Southwest: Wildfire is now a year-round threat in the West, and windy conditions combined with high temperatures have contributed to recent fires. Around 14 miles northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona, the Tunnel Fire has burned more than 21,000 acres and is 3% contained. Coconino County’s emergency state remains in effect, where fires damaged about 25 structures. In New Mexico, 16 of the state’s 33 counties were battling flames, with 20 active wildfires. The Hermits Peak Fire and Calf Canyon Fire in northern New Mexico have combined and burned more than 54,000 acres and are 12% contained.

For more, see the 2022 North American Wildfires disaster profile.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Flooding – South Africa: Clean-up began last week following torrential rains that triggered record floods and mudslides. At least 40,000 people have been left homeless after the KwaZulu-Natal province received the equivalent of four months of rain in 24 hours. The death toll has been revised down to 435 from 448, according to the police minister. Damages to critical agricultural infrastructure in the country are expected to contribute to a rise in food prices following the disaster. The South African Farmers Development Agency says farmers have lost millions of rands. The South African Parliament will establish an ad hoc committee to oversee the national state of disaster.

Flooding – Australia: According to PERILS, the independent Zurich-based organization that provides industry-wide catastrophe insurance data, insurance losses for eastern Australia floods from Feb. 23 to March 8 are estimated at $2.97 billion USD ($3.99 billion AUD). As cleanup and recovery continues, fewer than 10% of New South Wales small business flood grant applications have been paid. In Queensland, some areas saw drought broken after heavy rains, but producers in other areas are still struggling. As communities try to recover, they face wide-ranging health concerns, including a surge in mental health problems linked to ongoing trauma and housing insecurity.

For more, see the 2022 Australian Flooding disaster profile.

Humanitarian Crisis – Ukraine: As of April 24, more than 5.2 million refugees have left the country since Feb. 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As of April 21, United Nations (UN) agencies and humanitarian partners have reached more than 3.4 million people with life-saving assistance. Eastern and southern parts of Ukraine continue to face the strongest fighting, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

According to Candid, 724 grants worth $936,634,145 have been granted so far, with an additional 154 pledges worth $582,232,880. Funders can share their grants data with them by emailing egrants@candid.org.

For more, see the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis disaster profile and Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Recovery Fund.

Worldwide – Coronavirus: 

Key facts as of April 25:

  • Worldwide, cases have surpassed 509 million.
  • There have been more than 462 million recoveries and over 6.2 million deaths.
  • The highest number of cases are in the U.S. (82.6 million), followed by India (43 million), Brazil (30.3 million) and France (28.3 million).
  • Worldwide, 65.1% of the global population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This number drops to only 15.2% in low-income countries.

Other notable news:

  • Canada is still in its sixth wave, but a lack of PCR testing makes it difficult to determine the full impact.
  • In the U.S., a federal judge in Florida struck down the federal mask requirement for planes and public transit on April 18, which had been set to expire on May 3.

For more, see the COVID-19 Coronavirus disaster profile.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Central African Republic (CAR)

Many places worldwide are experiencing emergencies caused by conflict, climate change, drought, famine, economic challenges and other conditions that combine to create a complex humanitarian emergency (CHE). CDP maintains complete profiles on several CHEs, which can be found on our website.

Chronic violence, persistent shocks and the breakdown of essential services have significantly worsened the living conditions of Central Africans. In 2022, 3.1 million people, 63% of the population, will need humanitarian assistance and protection.

The conflict began in 2013 between the Séléka and anti-balaka armed groups in central CAR. The conflict has continued to spread, resulting in human rights abuses. In late 2020, President Faustin-Archange Touadéra promised to hold a national reconciliation dialogue, but peace talks have stalled.

Three-quarters of Central Africans are concerned about the safety of their family members, and sexual violence is considered the key security risk for women and girls. The crisis affects people’s mental health, with at least one person in most households showing symptoms of mental disorder such as insomnia, unexplained fatigue and chronic headaches.

The country has also endured several disasters. On April 7, a severe storm hit Vakaga Prefecture, damaging more than 200 homes and affecting 1,025 people. Drought and very high temperatures sparked a fire near the city of Bakala in February. The sectors with the largest number of people in need in 2022 are water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH), health care, protection and food security.

U.S. Midwest Low-Attention Disasters

The Midwest is regularly faced with low-attention disasters that affect people across the region. CDP’s Midwest Early Recovery Fund (ERF) effectively funds efforts that catalyze equitable disaster recovery.

These are some of the latest disasters the ERF team is monitoring:

  • A statewide emergency was declared in Nebraska as at least 15 fires broke out, affecting more than a dozen counties. The Road 702 Fire, the largest fire, burned at least 50,000 acres east of McCook in southwest Nebraska. The retired Cambridge Volunteer Fire Chief was killed while helping fight the Road 702 Fire Friday evening. Fire concern remains high across the state due to drought and dry, windy conditions. It has been windier in Nebraska, and scientists are trying to understand why better.
  • Storms over the weekend led to flooding along the Red River Basin in North Dakota and Minnesota. The town of Crookston, Minnesota, was particularly hit hard, where the river is predicted to reach a record level of 28.5 feet by Monday afternoon. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz authorized the Minnesota National Guard to assist with emergency flood operations in several counties. The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado in Crookston on Saturday night. However, no damages were reported.

What We’re Reading

  • Natural disasters cost the global economy $32 billion in the first quarter, with only $14 billion insured: Aon – The New Zealand Times: The first quarter of 2022 marked the sixth consecutive year to record more than $10 billion in insured losses. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for the highest percentage of economic losses in the first quarter, worth more than $15 billion.
  • Colorado River named the most endangered in the U.S. by conservation group – Colorado Public Radio: A report from American Rivers ranked the waterway the country’s most endangered, the first time the entire Colorado River made the top spot since 2013. The river and its tributaries supply drinking water to around 40 million people, and the Colorado River basin is home to 30 Native American tribes.
  • Biden Moves to Protect Old-Growth Forests From Climate Impacts Like Wildfire – Time: “President Joe Biden is taking steps to restore national forests that have been devastated by wildfires, drought and blight, using an Earth Day visit to Seattle to sign an executive order protecting some of the nation’s largest and oldest trees.”
  • Getting Answers: UC Davis Expert Discusses Climate Change’s Impact On Mental Health – CBS Sacramento: “UC Davis Health Psychiatrist Peter Yellowlees explains the changing climate is leading to PTSD, anxiety, depression and even substance abuse disorders.”
  • At the Crossroads: State of the Economy in Indian Country – Indian Country Today: Tribes are often the largest regional and rural economic drivers. In Oklahoma, a new report said tribes and tribal enterprises added $15.6 billion in direct contributions in 2019 to the state’s economy.
  • Both sides in Yemen’s war are committing war crimes, says report – The Irish Times: Human Rights Watch and Yemen’s Mwatana for Human Rights call for establishing a new international commission to pursue accountability for human rights violations and war crimes in Yemen. The United Nations estimates the death toll in the Yemeni war at 377,000.

April 22 was Earth Day, and NPR compiled a collection of their favorite books, movies and art installations to celebrate the day. Whatever mood you are in, you will find something educational, inspirational or entertaining on their list.