What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, May 30

Search and rescue operations following floods and landslides in Pernambuco, Brazil, May 30, 2022. (Photo credit: Corpo de Bombeiros Militar de Pernambuco Brazil)

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, 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 May 30, 2022.

New or Emerging Disasters

Floods – South Asia: Heavy rains on May 17 led to the worst flooding in years in India and Bangladesh, with more than 60 people killed and millions displaced. India’s northeast was one of the most affected regions, with more than 700,000 people impacted in the state of Assam. In Bangladesh’s Sylhet region, about 2 million people have been affected. UNICEF said more than 1.5 million children are at increased risk of waterborne diseases in Bangladesh.

For more, see the 2022 South Asian floods disaster profile.

Floods – South Africa: One month after being hit with the worst flooding in decades, heavy rains in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province have resulted in widespread flooding. The flooding forced hundreds of people to evacuate. The latest flooding round caused damage to infrastructure and buildings, complicating recovery from April’s flooding. Scientists have said the deadly April floods were made twice as likely and more intense by global heating.

Floods – Brazil: In recent days, heavy rains in Pernambuco state led to floods and landslides that have killed at least 91 people. Officials said 26 people remain missing. Landslides tore through poor neighborhoods or favelas built on hillsides prone to mudslides. At least 4,000 homes were damaged. Recife, the capital of Pernambuco, is one of the world’s most vulnerable cities to climate change.

For more, see the 2022 Northeastern Brazil Floods disaster profile.

Hurricane – Mexico: Hurricane Agatha, the first hurricane of the Eastern Pacific Hurricane season, made landfall just west of Puerto Angel on May 30. With maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour, the category two hurricane is the strongest storm to make landfall along Mexico’s Pacific coast in May. The hurricane system’s heavy rains posed a threat of flash flooding. The National Hurricane Center said there is a 60% chance of Agatha developing into the Atlantic’s first tropical system of the season later this week.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Derecho – Canada: Ten days after a devastating derecho swept across Ontario and Quebec, thousands of people are still without power. Nearly half of Canada’s population was affected by the derecho. The rare derecho event is likely to rank among the country’s top 10 costliest insured catastrophes, according to Aon PLC.

Tornado – Michigan: Repairs from the EF-3 tornado that killed two people in the town of Gaylord on May 20 are expected to cost millions. The tornado damaged dozens of homes in Gaylord’s Nottingham Forest Mobile Home Park, where residents are continuing with the cleanup. While a rare event for northern Michigan, experts say the disaster should serve as a reminder that preparedness is critical.

Monkeypox – Global: Since May 13, at least 257 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in 23 countries where the virus is not endemic. The World Health Organization said that it does not believe the current outbreak will turn into a pandemic but acknowledged there are still unknowns about the disease.

Humanitarian Crisis – Ukraine: As of May 29, more than 6.8 million refugees have left the country since Feb. 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. As of May 19, United Nations (UN) agencies and partners have reached more than 6.9 million people with life-saving assistance. Due to unsanitary conditions, local authorities and the World Health Organization warned of the potential outbreak of diseases, including cholera, in Mariupol. In addition to the human toll, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused lasting damage to the country’s natural environment.

According to Candid, 816 grants worth $1,067,328,982 have been granted so far, with an additional 163 pledges worth $683,430,680. 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 May 31:

  • Worldwide, cases have surpassed 532 million.
  • There have been more than 503 million recoveries and over 6.3 million deaths.
  • The highest number of cases are in the U.S. (85.7 million), followed by India (43.1 million), Brazil (30.9 million) and France (29.4 million).
  • Worldwide, 65.8% of the global population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This number drops to only 16.2% in low-income countries.

Other notable news:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in five adults over 18 “have a health condition that might be related to their previous COVID-19 illness.”

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

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:

  • In northwestern Minnesota, Pennington and Marshall counties are facing some of the worst flooding the area has seen since 1997. The impacts are particularly felt by residents who did not have flood insurance. Floodwaters along the vast Rainy River watershed have continued to rise. Damage assessments are ongoing, confirming damage to public infrastructure and response costs.
  • The assessments in McCook County, South Dakota, following the May 12 derecho, have tallied around $100 million in damage. In the county, expensive agricultural equipment helped the figure to add up quickly. Thankfully there were no deaths or injuries in the area.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Sudan

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.

In October 2021, Sudan’s military, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, seized power from a transitional government. In the months since the military’s takeover, humanitarian needs and inter-communal conflict continue to grow across the country.

Fighting in late April in West Darfur’s Kereneik and Ag Geneina localities led to the deaths of at least 165 people, and 136 people were injured. An estimated 98,000 people have been displaced in 16 gathering sites in Kereneik, and about 12,500 nomads were affected by the conflict. Priority needs in Kereneik include access to safe water, food, shelter and non-food items, health services, and medicines.

Volker Perthes, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), told members of the UN Security Council in May, “Time is short for the Sudanese to reach a political solution to forge a way out of this crisis.”

In addition to conflict and violence, humanitarian needs are exacerbated by an economic crisis, floods, disease outbreaks and a large refugee population hosted in the country. Food security is a growing concern, with around 15.7 million people expected to need food security and livelihood support in 2022.

What We’re Reading

  • Q&A: Why the disaster prevention agenda is growing more urgent – The New Humanitarian: The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction took place this past week in Indonesia. In an interview, Mami Mizutori, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, called for risk-informed humanitarian action and reducing risk drivers.
  • Yes, the drought really is that bad – High Country News: Across the American West, state leaders are taking actions to mitigate against the long-term impacts of aridification. Various indicators demonstrate the diverse ways in which drought is impacting the region.
  • Indian droughts and cyclones fuel trafficking fears for climate migrants – Thomson Reuters Foundation: “People fleeing extreme weather events such as drought are more vulnerable to forced labour than those migrating after floods and cyclones, report finds.”
  • UNHCR: Ukraine, other conflicts push forcibly displaced total over 100 million for first time – UNHCR: “At over 1 per cent of the global population, the overall figure is equivalent to the 14th most populous country in the world.”
  • As monkeypox panic spreads, doctors in Africa see a double standard – The Washington Post: Infectious disease experts across the African continent observe that few seemed to care about, or even notice, monkeypox until people in the West started getting sick.

This friendly public safety reminder about bear spray from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation made me chuckle.