Team members carrying out elevation surveys
Blog

Putting Flood Risk on the Map: Fieldwork Reflections from the Philippines

Carigara is a municipality located in the province of Leyte in the Philippines, home to a population of more than 50,000. It is a lively and vibrant town surrounded by green paddy fields and under beautiful mountains. Like many places in the Philippines however, flooding has been a persistent issue, hampering local development efforts. Our thesis research aims to model local flooding in Carigara and propose appropriate mitigation measures. This past June, our team travelled to Carigara for a 3-week fieldwork trip to collect data required for our modelling and analysis. Our time in Carigara started with a warm welcoming

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Women huddle around paper to draw house design
Blog

Opening the Door to Safe and Sustainable Housing Reconstruction

When a disaster occurs, what is the typical response? Sadness, sympathy, compassion? Social media? People tend to use Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to raise awareness and express concerns in the wake of a disaster. Yet, with today’s ever-revolving news cycle, people often move on to new stories and neglect consideration for long-term disaster recovery and the degree of effort it requires. In humanitarian engineering, immediate attention is placed on providing aid promptly and saving lives. Organisations tend to pour resources into immediate solutions. However, a significant stage of the disaster cycle involves long-term recovery. Recovery is commonly referred to as

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Timber roof truss under construction
Blog

What’s in a Message? Unpacking Post-Disaster Housing Guidance

Rising population and urbanization continue to be two main drivers of disaster risk. In the last five decades the number of disasters has more than quadrupled and this trend is continuing. While mortality rates continue to decline from disasters, the mounting pressure of disasters on global poverty is more urgent than ever. Global losses from disasters have grown from $50 billion per year in the 1980s to more than $330 per annum in 2017. From 2000 to 2010, more than 980,000 people were killed and over 2.2 billion were affected by disasters. The economic and social cost of disasters are

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Timber framing of house walls and roof
Blog

Reflections as a Summer Research Scholar

My interest in humanitarian engineering, combined with my aspiration to pursue postgraduate research, became my main motivators when first applying for the Summer Research Program. Fortunately, my acceptance into the program paved way to a valuable learning opportunity where I was able to undertake a project that not only provided me with a small insight into the world of research, but also into the developing field of humanitarian engineering. Furthermore, my research project, which will be discussed in detail below, was also a rewarding experience as it allowed me to contribute, even in a small way, to a cause close

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Injured person being carried on board during training exercise
Blog

Lessons on Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction in the Education Sector from the Philippines

In July of this year, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck inland municipalities in the province of Leyte, located in the central Philippines. The quake resulted in 4 deaths, more than 100 injuries, and at least ₱271 million of damage ($5.3 million USD). While disasters of this magnitude rarely make international media headlines or research, there remains plentiful lessons we can learn from such events. The Municipality of Carigara was one of several local government units impacted by the recent earthquake. While damages from the earthquake were minimal, it was strong enough to bring attention to significant disaster preparedness gaps in

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Poorly constructed houses sit next to ocean
Blog

Urban Sheltering: Evidence on Rental Subsidies and Hosting

Shelter is more than just four walls and a roof. Ask a family what a shelter provides and their first responses likely won’t be protection from the elements. Instead, you will generally hear about its value in supporting their storefront and livelihood or its function as a social gathering place. While we typically think about shelter as a physical asset, to families, it’s really an economic and social asset. If we reframe what shelter means to families, we can start to better understand how to provide shelter assistance that can support those using it. Following a disaster, there is a range of options available

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Row of colorful houses with gardens in front
Blog

Re-envisioning Evacuation: Reducing Mortality through Social Development and Community Sheltering

As Typhoon Hagupit (locally known as Ruby) approached the central Philippines in December 2014, over half a million people were evacuated. Still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan a year earlier, the country prepared for the worst. Despite the unprecedented number of evacuations, thousands of households chose not to flee and 18 people were killed during the typhoon, a number that could have been far higher had Hagupit maintained its intensity on landfall. In surveys conducted with 336 homeowners across the affected provinces of Cebu, Leyte, and Eastern Samar following Hagupit, several lessons emerged that provide new insights for future disaster risk

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List of disaster journals plotted by bubbles representing impact
Blog

The Landscape of Hazard and Disaster Journals

As many researchers find, navigating the mass of academic journals can be overwhelming. The field of hazard and disaster research is particularly challenging given its inherently inter-disciplinary nature. I set out to compile a list of relevant hazard and disaster journals, as well as metrics that might characterize their relative importance in the field. The results were highly insightful, and something I wish I had access to from the start of my PhD program. I’m sharing here for other postgraduate students and researchers interested in identifying potential publication outlets or seeking the best of hazard and disaster literature. I started

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Rows of blue resettlement housing with worn paint
Blog

Can We Draw a Line Between Humanitarian and Development Work?

Humanitarian workers have been busy recently. Conflicts in the Middle East and Eastern Europe continued to drive an unprecedented number of migrants and refugees seeking asylum to Europe. Conflicts in Africa, such as the ongoing civil war in South Sudan,  continue to exacerbate already dire conditions. News headlines of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa have been replaced with the Zika epidemic in the Americas. The recent April earthquake in Ecuador reminded us disaster can strike at any moment, anywhere in the world. Without doubt, the global humanitarian system is being stressed to its limits. In the midst of all these disasters, there is also an unprecedented level

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Damaged masonry wall with coast in background
Blog

Co-creating Knowledge of Resilience Principles through Local Stories

Resilience – it’s a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot, but what does it actually mean? How would you explain it to disaster victim? How would they explain it to you? This November will mark the second anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda that smashed into the Philippines, making landfall as the strongest storm in recorded history. In its wake it damaged over 1.1 million homes, displaced over 4 million people and took the lives of over 6,200 individuals. The mainstream media stories may have dried up, but for Filipinos impacted by this mega-storm, recovery is still an ongoing endeavor. The

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