EXTREME WEATHER AND DISASTERS COST BUSINESSES HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS
Disaster-proofing small and medium enterprises
Vietnam is rocked each year by eight to 10 extreme weather events and natural disasters; since 1990, disasters have cost the country an annual $3.85 billion, or 1.3 percent of GDP. Community resilience depends greatly on the ability of the private sector to bounce back, re-establish production, and continue to provide employment to local workers in the aftermath of disasters—small- and medium-sized businesses employ around 80 percent of the country's workforce and produce more than 40 percent of its gross domestic product. But our surveys revealed business owners are ill-prepared and vulnerable. If the country is to maintain its stunning growth record, this sector must be equipped to deal with increasingly frequent, more intense events. In response, we launched a first-of-its-kind program: more than 500 individuals from over 300 businesses in five coastal provinces participated in hands-on training to assess risk and potential losses, disaster-proof facilities, and prepare their staffs. In October 2012, USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance presented The Asia Foundation with an award for "Excellence for Innovation and Learning in Disaster Risk Reduction," at its annual conference in Washington, DC. We now want the program to reach a greater number of Vietnam's estimated 400,000 small businesses and integrate preparedness principles into business associations and training centers.