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Unbreakable: Building Resilience of the poor in the Face of Natural Disasters

Compared to their wealthier counterparts, poor people are more likely to live in fragile housing in disaster-prone areas, and work in sectors dangerously susceptible to extreme weather events, like farming and agriculture. They also receive much less government and community support for recovery. The result: the impact of a storm, flood, drought or earthquake is more than twice as significant for poor people than anyone else.

For example, when unprecedented floods affected Mumbai in 2005, poor people lost 60 percent more than their richer neighbors—and when poor people lose the little they have, there are immediate and sometimes irreversible consequences for their health.

The report proposes a “resilience policy” package that would help poor people cope with the consequences of adverse weather and other extreme natural events. This includes early warning systems, improved access to personal banking, insurance policies, and social protection systems (like cash transfers and public works programs) that could help people better respond to and recover from shocks. Unbreakable also calls on governments to make critical investments in infrastructure, dikes, and other means of controlling water levels, and develop appropriate land-use policies and building regulations. These efforts must be specifically targeted to protect the poorest and most vulnerable citizens, not just those with higher-value assets.

Unbreakable is a roadmap to help countries better adapt to climate change, and boost the resilience and prosperity of their most vulnerable citizens. By equipping the most vulnerable with the means to cope, rebuild and rebound we can increase the chance for millions to stay out of extreme poverty. This is part of Climate Change and Development Series.