Anticipatory action in urban settings
In an increasingly urban world, humanitarian disasters are occurring ever more frequently in cities. Innovative solutions are needed to alleviate people’s suffering and save lives – and anticipatory action can play a vital role.
Yet despite 55 per cent of the world’s population living in urban areas, most anticipatory action initiatives to date have targeted rural areas. With urban populations expected to increase to 68 per cent by 2050, there is likely to be a rising demand for anticipatory action initiatives tailored to urban contexts.
Applying anticipatory approaches in urban areas presents specific challenges. For example, identifying the most vulnerable people can be an intricate task, and data is often needed at a higher resolution than for rural areas.
Hazards also play out differently in urban areas. While many types of hazards are prevalent and can be anticipated, heat displays special qualities in urban centres, where the concrete used in roads and houses takes in the heat, and the natural cooling effect of vegetation is often lacking.
The impacts of hazards can also be complex in urban areas. Rich and poor neighbourhoods may only be separated by just a road or a wall, but their ability to cope with a hazard can vary greatly. During a flood, for example, a few meters of elevation or a functioning sewage system can be the difference between those who are severely affected and those who keep themselves and their possessions dry.
Producing and analysing the data required for anticipatory action in urban contexts is a challenge, but it can be achieved. A recent case study from Butuan City, Philippines, highlights the potential and the challenges of undertaking detailed analysis in urban contexts.
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Top photo: Aleppo, Syria. Life in the rubble; numerous neighbourhoods are still badly damaged and cut off from electricity. Despite this, many people return to their damaged homes. © Oana Bara, German Red Cross