Early warning systems, contingency planning and local action could bolster West Africa’s responses to increasingly frequent floods, but more investment is needed in forecasting, panelists said in a recent webinar hosted by the African Development Bank.
“We need to explore new and innovative approaches to better predict and communicate flood and early warning information,” said Anthony Nyong, the Bank’s Director of Climate Change and Green Growth, in his opening speech for the West Africa flood and early warning webinar . : Gaps, innovation and lessons learned.
In 2019 alone, extreme floods caused the displacement of up to 5.1 million people in Africa, including 3.8 million from countries experiencing food insecurity. West Africa is a hotspot for extreme weather due to its long coastline, with home-populated low-lying cities and economic hubs, from Lagos to Abidjan and Dakar.
This year, floods in eight West African countries have affected more than 750,000 people and claimed at least 100 lives. With rapid urbanization and increasing climate risks, the impact of floods in the region is likely to accelerate over the next five decades.
The November 19 webinar, hosted by the Bank’s Clim-Dev Africa Special Fund, brought together experts from Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Senegal’s national meteorological agencies to provide an update on flood forecasting and early warning systems (EWS) in West Africa.
A representative of the Nigerian Basin Authority discussed its co-operation on the prediction of flooding among its nine members. The event included a panel discussion with leading experts from the Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.
“We know that EWS for floods is an important flood management tool, consisting of key components of disaster risk knowledge, monitoring and forecasting – as well as communication and response. Yet little is being done to invest in the infrastructure needed. is to develop flood and operate forecasts and early warning systems Clim-Dev Fund
Ousmane N’diaye, director of the National Meteorological Agency of Senegal, said that better preparedness through climate information and multidisciplinary planning aimed at vulnerable populations is essential to save lives and property. He stressed the importance of early forecasting and the use of social media platforms to broadcast alerts and provide real-time weather information in local languages.
Michael Talhami of the Red Cross said acting early and anticipating the risk would reduce people’s exposure to disasters. He said local actors and humanitarian organizations all too often have to deal with weather and climate data that is dated, of poor quality or that does not exist. One example is the failure of hydrometeorological data collection in rural Mali, which had detrimental consequences for emergency preparation and response.
The Bank’s Institutional Support to African Climate Centers Project (ISACIP) has invested more than $ 35 million since 2010 to improve climate information services across Africa. As a follow-up to ISACIP, the Bank, through the Clim-Dev Fund, is investing more than $ 27 million in regional and land operations to modernize Africa’s climate and weather infrastructure and deliver reliable, high-quality data.
Flood forecast and early warning system in West Africa