By Catalina Jaime, Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre
Forecast-based Financing (FbF) is a system to fill gaps in the humanitarian system by using the science of weather and climate to anticipate possible impacts in risk-prone areas and mobilize resources automatically before an event.
In FbF, humanitarian responders, meteorological services and communities agree on selected actions that are worth carrying out once a forecast reaches a certain threshold of probability. Each action is allocated a budget and funds are disbursed once the threshold is reached, according to predefined standard operational procedures.
This idea is now a reality. In a ground-breaking exercise in November 2015, the Uganda Red Cross (URC) activated a humanitarian action triggered by a scientific forecast of flood risk. Nearly 400 families were given 5,000 non-food items, including jerrycans and water-purification tablets. The forecasted region in Uganda is indeed now facing the impacts of floods. Rescue operations and emergency appeals have been activated. The communities reached by Forecast-based Financing are not included in the current emergency appeal that is seeking aid to the rest of the region.
The Uganda forecast was based on the European Commission’s Global Flood Awareness System and verified by the Uganda National Meteorological Agency, the Uganda Hydrological Department, and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts.
“By using forecasts in this innovative project, we are now intervening even earlier, before receiving reports of disasters,” said URC Secretary General Robert Kwesiga. “With such timely disbursal, we hope to avoid catastrophe before it even happens, supporting people to continue working and going to school.”
The World Food Programme, meanwhile, in its own version of FbF, released funds in Guatemala and Zimbabwe through the Food Security Climate Resilience Facility in areas where drought risk was forecast to be great due to El Niño.
Other FbF pilot projects are now being implemented around the world aimed at improving cost-effectiveness. The Red Cross Red Crescent hopes to consolidate the best knowledge on climate science and disaster risk reduction and leverage it for the greatest humanitarian impact.