The independent agency measuring the World Banks
effectiveness has urged the institution to revamp its response
to disasters, in the light of problems laid bare by the Haiti
earthquake and floods in Pakistan.
The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) has urged the Bank to
improve its relief efforts, making disaster prevention an
integral part of its new strategy.
While disasters cannot be prevented, disaster preparedness
can vastly mitigate the overall damage, Vinod Thomas,
Director-General of the IEG, said.
More can be done to increase disaster
preparedness, Thomas said. The trade-off is that
the costs have to be incurred today.
In Pakistan, the floods have presented an opportunity to
address problems such as the tensions between poor indebted
tenants and wealthy landlords in areas including the southern
On the principle of reliance on existing strengths, the IEG
also suggested greater use of the countrys network of
microfinance programmes to help people affected by the floods.
It called for the creation of an emergency contingency fund to
help Pakistanis buy food and shelter.
Cash for work, a program featured in Haitis
post-disaster effort, is the type of instrument that can couple
reconstruction with the revival of the local economy.
On reconstruction efforts, the IEG points out that new
funding is more effective than switching resources from
The IEG called for the World Bank to speed up emergency
loans and credits, noting that they tended to be slow to
disburse after Board approval.
Another area of concern, the IEG says, is the realism of
project designs in disaster situations. Deadlines are seriously
violated in most cases, and original targets are often modified
or altogether missed.
Thomas underscored that in many cases, a natural disaster is
not a matter of if, but when.
The World Banks appointment procedures for disaster
operations have also come under review. The World Bank has set
up a team of experts experienced in responding to disasters,
but the IEG expressed concern about whether the institution can
ensure their rapid deployment.
From the first day of an emergency, a response can have a
positive or a detrimental effect. Thomas pointed out that the
Bank is well-equipped to be a first-line responder because of
its in-country presence and cross-sector capabilities.
Particularly in light of these strengths, the agency called
for the Bank to respond to disasters with greater urgency,
arguing that the institution ought to be involved from the
Relief efforts must also focus on longer-term issues, such
as maintaining the social fabric and minimizing dislocation,
avoiding resettlement while keeping families and neighbourhoods
In two internal reports, the IEG provides detailed
prescriptions for improvements in disaster response. Thomas
said the evidence bears out a rise in the occurrence of natural
disasters, which heightens the pressure for governments to
focus more on disaster prevention.