This year's edition of the biennial Risk Award focuses on innovative uses of information technology to help communities reduce the threat of disasters
By Brigitte Leoni
GENEVA, 15 February 2017 – Three cutting-edge plans to harness the power of technology and curb the threats posed by hazards such as floods and epidemics have been shortlisted for an international award that will be presented at the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.
After intense deliberations over the ten best entrants, the jury of the 2017 edition of the Risk Award made a final cut of projects in Kenya, Nepal and India. The winner will be announced at the Global Platform, the world’s top multilateral forum on disaster risk reduction, which runs from 22-26 May in Cancun, Mexico.
Issued every two years by the Munich Re Foundation, the UN office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Global Risk Forum Davos, Risk Award honours innovative plans and approaches to reducing risk and enhancing disaster management, with a 100,000-euro prize enabling the entrants to move from the drawing board to the real thing.
This edition’s theme is “Innovative concepts and technologies for information and communication”, with the entrants presenting digital projects to help communities better anticipate disasters.
“Today, more than 85% of the world's population has a mobile phone or a smartphone. This opens up new ways to transmit the information needed to reduce disaster mortality and achieve the main goal of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is to increase the resilience of nations and communities,” said Mr. Robert Glasser, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, who is one of the seven members of the Risk Award jury.
The project in Kenya focuses on warning farmers about flood risk in Busia, in the southwest of the country. It aims to create a mobile application that integrates indigenous traditional knowledge and modern climate science and issue early warning messages to some 15,000 subsistence-farmer families in flood-prone parts of Budalang’i district.
The second project proposes to equip nurses in Nepal with monitoring and surveillance tools to prevent and control infectious diseases after disasters. The “EpiNurse” project – short for “Epidemiology Nurse” – will train health workers in earthquake-prone urban areas to act as health security monitors. Information collected through the monitoring process will feed a database to further develop models for supporting risk-management decisions in disaster situations and to reduce future risks.
The third project involves developing a micro-insurance application to help communities in India recover faster from disasters linked to climate changes. It would give farmers the possibility to pay insurance premiums according to their real risks. The project targets poor farmers in flood-prone areas of North Bihar, who will be able to save money and recover faster after disasters.
“Innovative concepts and technologies for information and communication are playing an increasingly important role in disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction. The more efficiently these tools are used, the more people at risk can be reached before, during or after an emergency,” said jury member Mr. Thomas Loster, Chairman of the Munich Re Foundation, which provides the funding for the Risk Award.
The 2015 Risk Award honoured the All-India Institute of Local Self-Government for its project to encourage slum-dwelling women and children to take part in the disaster management process to better protect their communities. The project supported over 25,000 residents from more than 10 slums in the city of Pune and helped women to play a key role in protecting their communities against flooding and mudslides.
In addition to Mr. Glasser and Mr. Loster, the Risk Award jury is made up of other experts in disaster risk reduction from a range of backgrounds: Mr. Walter Ammann, the Founder and President of Global Risk Forum Davos; Dr. Susan Cutter, Distinguished Professor of Geography at the University of South Carolina; Ms. Anisya Thomas Fritz, co-founder of Fritz Institute; Ms. Maria Emily Lubega Mutagamba, Minister of Tourism of Uganda; Professor Haresh Shah, a pioneer in the fields of risk analysis, earthquake engineering, and probabilistic methods for over 35 years; and Ms. Sandra Wu, Chairperson and CEO of Kokusai Kogyo Co., Ltd.