From Colombia Reports

The World Bank approved a $250 million loan to Colombia Tuesday for disaster management initiatives in the country.

“Natural disasters have devastated millions of people in Colombia. Through these efforts, the country is improving its protection against disasters, placing itself at the global forefront in risk prevention,” said Gloria M. Grandolini, the World Bank Director for Colombia and Mexico.

The loan “will serve to create 300 risk management plans in municipalities with a high incidence of vulnerable populations,” read a World Bank press release. Colombia suffers from the highest rate of recurring natural disasters in Latin America, causing $7.1 billion in damages in the last 40 years, according to the statement.

There has been repeated criticism of the country’s failure to put contingency plans and infrastructure in place to deal with seasonal rains, at a regional and national level.

The Colombian government has made disaster management a priority since President Juan Manuel Santos was elected in 2010, but there has been repeated criticism of the regional and national governments’ failure to put adequate contingency plans and infrastructure in place to deal with seasonal rains. The World Bank promised the loan would be “aligned with the central government strategy of preventing damage, reducing losses and controlling the fiscal volatility derived from adverse natural phenomena.”

Heavy rains were of particular concern for Colombia in 2011, with an estimated 440,000 homes destroyed by floods and landslides, according to a report by humanitarian organization, Refugees International. Natural disasters tend to affect Colombia’s most vulnerable populations, so the loan is also aimed at supporting government policies related to combating poverty.

The World Bank’s assessment stressed the importance of “incorporating disaster risk management in public policies, planning and investment.”

Santos passed the Disaster Risk Management Act in April, which promised to improve federal disaster prevention and response by asking governors and mayors to help in identifying areas potentially susceptible to extreme weather and natural disasters. The act also included the formation of the National Council for Risk Management, dedicated to creating effective disaster management policies focusing on risk awareness and reduction.

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