Responding Quickly to Natural Disasters

ADB learned from the Asian Tsunami of 2004 to act fast when people are suffering.

ADB pursues its over-arching goal of eliminating poverty in Asia and the Pacific through projects that often take months or years to complete and benefit people for generations. But ADB can also be an important contributor to disaster relief operations.

When Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and other countries were devastated by the 2004 tsunami, ADB took a hard look at its policies toward providing immediate relief and response to disasters. Though ADB’s greatest strengths are demonstrated in the reconstruction period - when its decades of infrastructure development expertise come into play - it has since developed mechanisms to quickly come to the aid of member countries hit by disasters.

In April 2009, ADB enhanced its disaster assistance by introducing the Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, a quick-disbursing fund that provides immediate financial aid to member countries following a declared state of national emergency.

From tsunamis to typhoons

ADB's disaster relief policy is being seen in action in the aftermath to Super Typhoon Haiyan, called Yolanda in the Philippines. On November 13, days after the storm struck, ADB announced that it will provide $23 million in grants to address immediate needs in the affected areas, and has offered a $500 million emergency loan for reconstruction.

As part of its assistance to the Philippines, ADB has also formed the Typhoon Yolanda Response Team, comprising 40 senior staff members with experience in post-disaster situations, to coordinate with the government and development partners. The team will conduct a comprehensive damage and needs assessment for recovery and rehabilitation. ADB experts stand ready to mount a large relief and reconstruction program, drawing on experience from past disasters, most notably the December 2004 Asian tsunami.

The Asian tsunami killed nearly 230,000 people. More than a million people were displaced and more than $10 billion in damage was caused.

The greatest damage occurred in Indonesia, nearest the epicenter of the earthquake that caused the destructive wave. ADB responded with a $290 million grant under the Earthquake and Tsunami Emergency Support Project. Housing accounted for more of this grant than any other sector.

Initial estimates of disaster officials in the Philippines put the number of people displaced by Typhoon Yolanda at more than 580,000. The country will also need to rebuild thousands of houses and restore damaged infrastructure in the affected areas.

The need for a quick-disbursing fund

ADB faced many challenges in responding to the Asian Tsunami of 2004. It needed to respond quickly to the call for assistance in relief and emergency operations. However, though it already had a dedicated disaster policy since 1987, ADB did not have a specific vehicle for addressing the immediate financial requirements of a country after a disaster. Its emergency assistance loan was designed to support longer-term reconstruction and rehabilitation assistance.

In April 2009, ADB enhanced its disaster assistance by introducing the Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, a quick-disbursing fund that provides immediate financial aid to member countries following a declared state of national emergency. Before Super Typhoon Haiyan, ADB had extended grants under the fund to the Philippines to support emergency relief efforts in the aftermath of two tropical storms - Ondoy, also called Ketsana, in 2009 and Sendong (Washi) in 2011.

Of the $23 million in grants being provided for immediate relief efforts for affected communities of Super Typhoon Haiyan, $3 million will come from the Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, ADB’s emergency assistance vehicle, and $20 million from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, a trust fund financed by the Government of Japan.