Supporting disaster preparedness, relief, and long-term recovery.

Responding to the new normal

According to Zurich-based reinsurance company Swiss Re, cumulative losses from disasters, both natural and manmade, in 2018 reached $155 billion globally. Unfortunately, these serious economic losses are accompanied by many stories of lives disrupted—and experts fear that this increased frequency and intensity of disasters has become the new normal.

This past year, the Foundation responded to a number of these intense natural disasters, including the Camp and Woolsey wildfires in California and the earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Additionally, we continued to support responses to man-made disasters, including the refugee crises caused by civil conflict and strife in Bangladesh and Yemen. Our approach includes a focus on investing in local community-based organizations, including community organizations and local foundations, and committing funds for the medium- and longer-term.

Disasters of increasing complexity and duration

Complex crises, which are the result of both human and natural causes, are increasingly common and longer lasting, often characterized by extensive violence and displacement and widespread damage to societies and economies. These can be an event or series of events that represent a critical threat to the health, safety, security, or well-being of a community or other large group of people, usually over a wide area. It is estimated that 135 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection each year. This as motivated the Foundation to adapt our grantmaking to respond to growing trend.

We work to help alleviate the immediate suffering caused by crises as well as invest in approaches that address longer-term issues. In 2018, the Foundation provided follow-on funding for continued support for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh; civilians impacted by the civil war in Yemen, and the ongoing recovery efforts in Puerto Rico resulting from Hurricane Maria. More locally, as part of our comprehensive and forward-thinking response to the California wildfires, we partnered with 100 Resilient Cities to develop the Southern California Resilience Initiative, which aims to pilot new and more sustainable solutions for wildfire mitigation and urban heat reduction in the Greater Los Angeles region. Looking toward the future, the Foundation has invested in innovative approaches globally, such as cash transfer pilots supporting refugees and internally displaced people in Rwanda and Syria.

Strengthening the sector

The Foundation continues to support initiatives that strengthen the global community’s ability to respond to disasters through institutions, partnerships, and emerging technology. This includes the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, an institution that serves as the central repository for information and learning for disaster grantmakers. The Connecting Business Initiative (CBi) is another approach, a partnership between United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the private sector. CBi seeks to improve the resiliency of community by supporting small- and medium-sized businesses and connecting them to resources at the government and international level. The Foundation also invests in solution-oriented technology, like KoBo Toolbox, a free and open-source data collection tool for humanitarian workers.