Dear friends and colleagues,

It is our pleasure to launch this newsletter, which will share updates and information on the work of the Technical Centre for Disaster Risk Management, Sustainability and Urban Resilience (DiMSUR), which delivers a range of services in disaster risk reduction (DRR), climate change adaptation and urban resilience in the Southern African region. If you are reading this newsletter, you have probably already been involved with DiMSUR, CityRAP or any number of initiatives within the urban resilience portfolio of UN-Habitat. The goal of this newsletter is to provide you with an overview of current and upcoming activities and to help forge connections and collaborations between our partner cities and institutional partners.

Our planet is currently in the midst of a disaster of epic proportions, the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. An event that will have far reaching implications on our global society and redefine how we see our countries and cities, our public spaces, our social interactions, our relationship with the environment, and our way of working. In this context, it is more important than ever to focus on addressing our vulnerabilities and protecting the weakest in our communities, building the resilience of our cities, and finding innovative and flexible ways of collaborating at all levels and across sectors. We also need better data and cutting-edge research to provide a solid evidence based for participatory, integrated, cohesive policies that reflect global, regional, national and local aspirations and needs.

Last month, our team at UN-Habitat was planning to officially launch in Nairobi a very exciting 4-year multi-country initiative, the “Building Urban Climate Resilience in South-Eastern Africa” project funded by the Adaptation Fund. Unfortunately, this event has been indefinitely postponed, but our enthusiasm has not been dampened! Our hope is that with this newsletter and other online activities we can begin to inform and engage you with our work on this project, CityRAP and other DiMSUR initiatives. We hope you enjoy reading it.

Stay safe, healthy and productive!

Issue no. 1

Welcome to the April edition of 'HOW RESILIENT IS YOUR CITY?'. In the months ahead, we will use this platform to keep our partners and stakeholders informed on the progress made and outcomes achieved within the urban resilience portfolio of DiMSUR and UN-Habitat in Africa, including updates on CityRAP and the sub-regional project on "Building Urban Climate Resilience in South-Eastern Africa". Here is what to expect in this issue:

  1. Introduction: What is CityRAP?
  2. Why should city leaders care about RESILIENCE?
  3. Adaptation Fund Project
  4. Let's take a Deep-Dive: Zomba City
  5. Stay in-the-know about CityRAP: Where are we NOW?
  6. What are we reading?
  7. UN-Habitat Response to COVID 19


DiMSUR is the sub-regional Technical Centre for Disaster Risk Management, Sustainability and Urban Resilience. It was established by the Governments of Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and the Union of Comoros and facilitated by UN-Habitat. DiMSUR’s headquarter is located in Maputo, Mozambique.

DiMSUR developed its flagship product, CityRAP, to improve local, national and sub-regional capacities for reducing vulnerability and building the resilience of communities to natural and other hazards.

What is CityRAP?

The City Resilience Action Planning Tool (CityRAP) is a step-by-step participatory resilience planning methodology that includes a set of training exercises and activities for municipal authorities, communities and local stakeholders. It guides city authorities and communities to understand and plan actions aimed at reducing risk and building resilience to develop their City Resilience Framework for Action (RFA).

The implementation of CityRAP lasts approximately two to three months which are divided into four phases:

2. Why should city leaders care about RESILIENCE?

A resilient city can adapt to a variety of changing conditions and withstand shocks while still providing essential services to its residents.

UN-Habitat defines resilience as the ability of any urban system, with its inhabitants, to maintain continuity through all shocks and stresses, while positively adapting and transforming toward sustainability. These sudden shocks or accumulating stresses could lead to infrastructure failure, economic decline, or social breakdown.

Benefits of using CityRAP Methodology

  1. INFORM: The CityRAP methodology gives local authorities a clear and complete view of their cities’ risk landscape, including where the greatest threats, weaknesses and opportunities lie.
  2. FORMULATE: CityRAP uses verifiable data and evidence based policies to formulate sound strategic and investment decisions
  3. TRANSFORM: The methodology implements strategies that will have a great impact and benefits to citizens
  4. LEVERAGE: CityRAPs deliver concrete value to opportunities & foster confidence among citizens, business, and investors

For this and more, please check out the CityRAP leaflet here or download the booklet below:


CityRAP has been conducted in 30 locations in 11 countries across Africa. Of these, four of the earliest ones were in Morondava (Madagascar), Chokwe (Mozambique), Zomba (Malawi) and Moroni (Union of Comoros). To implement the outcomes of the CityRAP in these four cities, UN-Habitat worked with them to submit a proposal to the Adaptation Fund (the "Building Urban Climate Resilience in South-Eastern Africa" project). The proposal was accepted, and the project will begin implementation in the coming months.

Financed by the Adaptation Fund the "Building Urban Climate Resilience in South-Eastern Africa" project aims to:

  1. Develop capacities and establish conditions to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change
  2. Promote inter-country experience sharing and cross- fertilisation on the adaptation to transboundary climate- related natural hazards

The project will be implemented in partnership with Oxfam, national government institutions in the four countries, DiMSUR and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Through this newsletter, you will be introduced to the project and the beneficiary cities. In this issue, we will feature Zomba City in Malawi where CityRAP was implemented in 2016, and where the Adaptation Fund project is starting now.


a. Zomba City, Malawi

Zomba City is located in the Southern Region of the Republic of Malawi. Situated at the foot of the Zomba plateau in a mountainous area, the terrain is characterised by numerous streams and two main rivers. The diverse natural resources and landscapes of the Zomba Plateau make it one of the renowned tourist attractions of the country. As of 2015, the population of Zomba was estimated at 138,583 inhabitants.

Challenges in Zomba city

Due to its geographical location, the city is exposed to strong winds, flash floods, mudflows, landslides and debris flows. During the dry season, bush fires occur especially in the Zomba Plateau and its forests. Soil erosion, gully development and rock avalanches are common and to a certain extent, are linked to deforestation. The area is also prone to earthquakes and earth tremors. In 2015, over 1800 houses were damaged by the floods which led to the displacement of 8,700 people.


Key interventions and activities

At the city level, the main interventions areas were developed based on the priorities identified by cities and communities through the CityRAP process. These include:

  • City-wide floods Early Warning System
  • Evacuation centres construction
  • City drainage capacity enhancement
  • Solid Waste Management improvement
  • River banks protection features
  • Bridges and dams reconstruction
  • Sustainable urban forest management

At the national level, engagement with the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) and the Ministry of Finance of Malawi is beginning to lay the foundations for building urban resilience and climate adaptation techniques nationally. Collaboration has also been initiated with the Malawi University of Science and Technology and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources to develop training and capacity-building materials.

c. Mayor's Take: Mr. Benson Bulla

Mr. Benson Bulla, is the current mayor of Zomba City and has lived there since 1985. Mr. Bulla hopes to see the improvement of infrastructure in the City of Zomba during his tenure in all the sectors including education, transport and recreation facilities.

In this Decade of Action, UN-Habitat is keen on working with local authorities and regional governments to achieve sustainable urban development and leave no one behind. We had a brief chat with the mayor recently, and this is what he had to say:

1. What motivated you to get involved in the city government of Zomba?

I started working as a teacher which made me interact with students and equipped me with hands on experience of the situation on the ground. Later, I got more involved with the community to help provide the services they needed such as improving their access to social services, lobbying for cash transfers from the central government, giving them clean water, asking government to provide quality education and increasing their awareness on financial independence.

2. What are the most pressing challenges related to climate change & natural disasters facing Zomba City today?

Zomba City is located 2085m above the sea level plateau, supplied with many streams and big rivers such as Mulunguzi and Likangala, which often cause heavy floods, destroying homes and crops. The city is also susceptible to negative outcomes of climate change, unpredictable rain patterns, cyclones, wild bush fires, deforestation and environmental degradation which lead to increased soil movement and continuous runoffs as slopes are exposed. Natural disasters like minor earthquakes, land slides and rock avalanches also happen every year.

3. CityRAP was implemented in Zomba in 2016. In what ways has CityRAP helped to improve the city’s capacity to plan and implement resilience solutions?

Zomba CityRAP helped articulate important areas to consider in terms of planning. Almost 50% of the settlement is informal. These informal settlements show poor housing designs, poor construction techniques, inadequate building materials and improper waste management techniques. They are often located in marginal areas exposed to disaster risks, cyclones, earthquakes, floods and poor sanitation. Through the CityRAP process, the council has managed to formulate strategies and solutions to curb the persistence of the same problem and include these strategies in our development plans

4. The Adaptation Fund project will be implemented simultaneously in four cities, one city each in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique and Comoros. What are some resilience building best practices from Zomba that can be learnt by the other cities?

The adaptation fund project aims to develop capacities and establish conditions to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and to promote inter-country experience sharing and disseminate lessons learned for building urban climate resilience. The Adaptation Fund project, through OXFAM, will implement many projects in Zomba City. Construction of a dam along Likangala River to control speed and ease pressure and storage of water is a best practice I would love to share with other cities. Establishment of community by-laws and its implementation strategies will also be in my interest to share

5. CityRAP is a highly participatory process. Has the experience of implementing CityRAP influenced planning processes within the city administration of Zomba?

CityRAP process was indeed highly participatory and has built capacity both within the city administration staff and community committees who participated in this process and were able to realise the risks they are exposed to. They now understand how to develop a plan to overcome some problems which may arise in the near future.

6. Where can you go in your city to take a break from being a mayor?

I like to go and interact with people in the community to experience what they have. For example, I go to check if the social services that they have are enough. To see if what is given to the community is sufficient in terms of social services such as cash transfers, medical issues, provision of enough school resources etc.


South Africa

Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop and academic exchange

A CityRAP Training of Trainers (TOT) was held in South Africa from 24 - 28 February for the cities of George, Port Alfred and Potchefstroom. The workshop was organised in partnership with the South Africa National Disaster Management Centre and with the participation of all of the provincial municipalities and the National Department of Human Settlements.

The Mayor of Mutare (Zimbabwe), where CityRAP was recently implemented was present at the workshop the entire week to share his city's experiences with the process. The training culminated in commitments from each city to implement CityRAP within the next 6 months, including work plans and timelines, and expressions of support to these processes from the national and provincial authorities as well as universities.

Based on this pilot, the South African national government plans to mainstream CityRAP in their new integrated district-based model of development and service delivery.

An academic exchange on urban resilience in South Africa was held in conjunction with this Training of Trainers in George, to facilitate an exchange of research ideas, curriculum development plans and training activities, and enable discussion of opportunities to enhance the academic network on urban resilience in the region. Universities from Botswana, Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania participated. These universities committed to integrating CityRAP into their curricula and agreed to scale-up cooperation within the framework of DiMSUR.


Implementation of CityRAP (Phase 3)

The Phase 3 implementation of CityRAP in Chipinge, Zimbabwe was held from 09 - 13 March and the process will be concluded in April 2020. This implementation of CityRAP is being facilitated by UN-Habitat with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)


Conclusion of CityRAP (Phase 4)

The implementation of CityRAP in Fomboni, Comoros, will conclude with Phase 4 in April 2020. Famboni is the 2nd city in Comoros where CityRAP has been conducted.


City Resilience Framework for Action

The Lusaka City administration is using the City Resilience Framework for Action (CityRFA) and the concept notes contained in it to develop a proposal for the European Commissions 2020 call for proposals on “Local Authorities: Partnerships for Sustainable Cities". We wish them luck!


City Resilience Framework for Action APPROVED!

On 6 March 2020, Dondo Municipal Assembly approved the City Resilience Framework for Action. One year ago, two cyclones accompanied by heavy rains and winds hit two parts of Mozambique leaving a trail of devastation in their wake: death, displacement of populations, destruction of livelihoods and infrastructures in urban and rural areas affecting about 2 million people in 7 of 11 provinces in the south African nation.

Through the RFA, UN-Habitat will continue to support Mozambique, at all levels, and expand its projects to other areas to ensure to Mozambican people sustainable and safe cities and communities, and access to their human rights as housing, education and health. For more information, click here.


Breaking Cycles of Risk Accumulation in African Cities

This publication focuses on how cycles of risk accumulation in African cities can be broken in ways that also enhance local and city-wide development. It contains a range of case studies about disaster risk management (DRM) themes, from community participation in the data collection process to risk mapping, and from urban waste management to hazard accumulation in urban risk traps across Anglophone and Francophone Africa. Each study aims to stimulate discussion and support best practices among city planners and risk managers. Don't miss chapter 18 "Enabling self-led resilience planning in African cities: the CityRAP tool!"

International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction

The CityRAP methodology has been featured in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. The academic article titled 'Resilience planning under information scarcity in fast growing African cities and towns: The CityRAP Approach' unpacks the decision-supporting tools that can assist urban planners who need to build-in resilience in complex, interdependent systems in developing towns and cities where there are large data gaps.

OPINION: Local governments are in the frontline of coronavirus response


Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat and Emilia Saiz, Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG)

Photo by China Daily via Thomson Reuters Foundation
Our response to COVID-19 crisis will be critical to building the cities and communities of tomorrow

"...As the economies of many cities and countries struggle to withstand the shock of COVID-19, community resilience must go beyond the response to disasters, and be built up through improved, innovative social safety nets. Cities and regions play a key role in preventing the rise of inequality, poverty and the stigmatization of population of those without a secure income or social benefits by working together for sustainable communities." To read more, click here.


One billion people live in informal settlements and slums worldwide. It is critical that they are given support to stay healthy given the challenges of practicing basic measures to protect themselves against COVID-19 such as hand-washing and physical distancing and to prepare for any outbreak.


UN Mozambique | UN-Habitat | Shutterstock