What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, October 17

Victoria State Emergency Service responds to calls for emergency flood assistance on Oct. 13, 2022. (Source: Victoria State Emergency Service via Facebook)

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 Oct. 17, 2022.

New or Emerging Disasters

Flooding – Australia: Parts of Victoria, southern New South Wales (NSW) and northern regions of Tasmania were under flood warnings last week after receiving more than a month’s worth of rain. The country is enduring a third consecutive La Niña weather event, which helped fuel record rains and flooding that devastated Australia’s east coast earlier this year. More than 11,000 Victorians have applied for emergency flood payments, and 31 local government areas in NSW are eligible for payments. As of Oct. 17, thousands of homes remained at risk with flood warnings still in effect across Victoria. Bushfires are the more common natural hazard in Victoria, where floods are historically uncommon.

Tropical Storm – Mexico: Tropical Storm Karl became the 11th named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane seasonwhen it developed last week in the Bay of Campeche. Karl weakened into a tropical depression on Oct. 14 but not before bringing heavy rain that caused rivers to flood and led to the death of one person in Mexico. The Pichucalco River in Chiapas state overflowed, forcing the evacuation of more than a thousand people at a religious event. The remnants of Karl dissipated on Oct. 15 along the country’s southern Gulf coast.

Wildfire – Washington State: The Nakia Creek Fire began on Oct. 9 and is located nine miles northeast of Camas, Washington, in Clark County, about 20 miles outside Portland, Oregon. The fire grew rapidly on Oct. 16, expanding from 150 acres to 2,000 acres within a few hours. Higher than usual warm temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are helping fuel the fire, a reminder that the traditional fire season is no longer a reality. On the evening of Oct. 16, more than 2,900 homes were issued evacuation notices in Clark County.

Previous/Ongoing Disasters

Flooding – Cambodia: Between Sept. 1 and Oct. 11, floods affected more than 85,000 households across 14 provinces. The flooding resulted in at least 15 deaths, more than 33,000 houses affected and more than 376,000 acres (152,386 hectares) inundated. More rainfall is forecasted through Oct. 18. Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and provincial authorities to provide immediate support for affected people.

Flooding – Nigeria: The worst flooding in more than a decade has killed more than 600 people and displaced 1.3 million since the onset of Nigeria’s rainy season in June. The agricultural sector has been particularly affected, with 31 out of 36 states impacted. In northeast Nigeria alone, the flooding has affected nearly 170,000 people and created conditions for a rise in cholera cases. Heavy rainfall and spillage from the Lagdo dam in northern Cameroon have displaced nearly 40,000 people. Funding to support internally displaced persons affected by the floods is needed.

Monkeypox – Global: As of Oct. 14, 2022, there are 73,288 cases in 109 countries. The highest number of cases have been found in the U.S. (27,317), followed by Brazil (8,543), Spain (7,239), France (4,064) and the United Kingdom (3,654).

For more, see our Monkeypox Global Outbreak disaster profile.

In addition to the disasters listed above, we are actively monitoring the following disasters or humanitarian emergencies. For more information, see the relevant disaster profiles, which are updated regularly.

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.

This is one of the latest disasters the ERF team is monitoring:

  • The Biden administration has promised to protect and incorporate traditional ecological knowledge from tribal nations in overhauling the country’s regulatory and permitting regime. However, this promise faces tests.
  • A new comprehensive geographic information system map reveals that piles of toxic mining waste currently lie within the Tar Creek floodplain, leaving Oklahoma’s Ottawa County even more vulnerable to heavy metals contamination.
  • A new study from the University of Kansas shows newspaper images from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 that continued patterns of presenting people of color as victims and white people as rescuers bringing order back to the chaos. According to the study’s author, “It is time for news media to provide a better representation of the communities they cover, one that is more truthful of the human experience during moments of crisis.”

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies – Haiti

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, and what CDP considers Level 1 CHEs are profiled in this weekly blog post and tracked.

After three years without a cholera case, Haiti’s Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP, per its acronym in French) reported two confirmed cases in the communes of Cité Soleil and Port-au-Prince on Oct. 2. As of Oct. 13, MSPP reported 655 suspected cases, including 55 confirmed cases, 197 hospitalized suspected cases and 36 deaths. The Ouest department is most affected, but the Centre and Nippes departments also have suspected cases.

These figures do not include cases reported at the Port-au-Prince Civil Prison, which had confirmed 12 cases and 12 deaths as of Oct. 10. The country’s severely crowded prison system and limited supplies of clean water mean inmates and prison staff are at high risk. Inmates have long faced a shortage of food, water and medical care. The country’s last cholera outbreak killed nearly 10,000 people.

Creating the conditions for cholera’s resurgence are the breakdown of protection, healthcare and essential services, gang violence, fuel shortages, and a political crisis. The situation has deteriorated into what the United Nations (UN) described as a humanitarian catastrophe.

For the first time, hunger has reached Catastrophic levels, or the highest level, five on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), in Cité Soleil, a neighborhood in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Harvest losses and the 2021 earthquake are among the shocks that have worsened food security.

Given concerns about previous UN missions and efforts by the international community, the question of what outside help could or should look like is important. The U.S. and Canada have sent security equipment to the country to assist the Haitian National Police. On Oct. 14, U.S. Agency for International Development announced it was deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team to respond to humanitarian needs. The U.S. has also drafted a UN Security Council resolution encouraging “the immediate deployment of a multinational rapid action force” to Haiti. While there is recognition by some that a Haitian-led solution to the crisis is needed, meaningful progress may be lagging.

What We’re Reading

  • Hardly anybody has noticed Somalia is having its worst drought ever. Here’s why – TIME: For several months, alarm bells have been ringing about the situation in the Horn of Africa, where aid agencies believe that a declaration of famine is imminent. The lack of awareness has surprised long-time watchers of the region.
  • UN urges quick response for Pakistan flood relief – VOA: On Oct. 12, the United Nations said it had so far received $90 million, or only around 11%, of the $816 million requested in the flash appeal. Primary concerns are outbreaks of waterborne diseases, nutrition, drinking water, shelter and food security.
  • The next evolution of international philanthropy: Localization – Alliance: While U.S. foundations increased their global giving by nearly four times between 2002 and 2019, 61% went to organizations based in the U.S. Localizedand flexible funding is often more effective and also helps equalize power dynamics between funders and their partners.
  • In record numbers, Venezuelans risk a deadly trek to reach the U.S. border – The New York Times: “Two crises are converging at the perilous land bridge known as the Darién Gap: the economic and humanitarian disaster underway in South America, and the bitter fight over immigration policy in Washington.”
  • UN warns that half the world is not prepared for disasters – UNDRR: A report from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the World Meteorological Organization says that half of the countries globally are not protected by multi-hazard warning systems. The report, released to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, calls for further investment in early warning systems, which are proven to reduce harm to people and assets.
  • Life-saving landslide risk communication in Puerto Rico – Natural Hazards Center: A landslide monitoring station on the east side of Puerto Rico helped people evacuate before debris flow occurred due to Hurricane Fiona’s wind and heavy rain. This is just one example of ongoing efforts to make Puerto Rico safer from landslides.
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