Climate forecasts in disaster management: Red Cross flood operations in West Africa, 2008

Authors

  • Lisette Martine Braman,

    1. Program Officer at the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Netherlands, and a Staff Associate at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, United States
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  • Maarten Krispijn van Aalst,

    1. Associate Director and Lead Climate Specialist at the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Netherlands
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  • Simon J. Mason,

    1. Climate Program Leader at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, United States
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  • Pablo Suarez,

    1. Associate Director of Programs at the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, Netherlands
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  • Youcef Ait-Chellouche,

    1. Disaster Management Coordinator at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, West and Central Africa Zone, Senegal
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  • Arame Tall

    1. PhD Candidate at The Johns Hopkins University, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, United States.
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Correspondence
Lisette Martine Braman, Program Officer, Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre, PO Box 28120, 2502 KC The Hague, The Netherlands. Telephone: +31 70 44 55 886; fax: +31 70 44 55 712; e-mail: climatecentre@climatecentre.org

Abstract

In 2008, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) used a seasonal forecast for West Africa for the first time to implement an Early Warning, Early Action strategy for enhanced flood preparedness and response. Interviews with disaster managers suggest that this approach improved their capacity and response. Relief supplies reached flood victims within days, as opposed to weeks in previous years, thereby preventing further loss of life, illness, and setbacks to livelihoods, as well as augmenting the efficiency of resource use. This case demonstrates the potential benefits to be realised from the use of medium-to-long-range forecasts in disaster management, especially in the context of potential increases in extreme weather and climate-related events due to climate variability and change. However, harnessing the full potential of these forecasts will require continued effort and collaboration among disaster managers, climate service providers, and major humanitarian donors.

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