Mon, May 18, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Ban urges countries to better prepare for natural disasters


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday urged the 168 countries of the Hyogo Framework for Action to improve preparations for natural disasters to minimize risks.

“I call on heads of governments and political leaders around the world to invest more in disaster-risk reduction,” Ban said during the launch of the first Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction in the Bahraini capital. “This is crucial if we are to achieve the goals outlined in the Hyogo Framework, as well as the Millennium Development Goals. It is critical to saving lives and livelihoods.”

The new report said many countries recorded advances in early warning systems and disaster-preparedness since the governments adopted the 2005 framework, but most lag far behind in integrating the measures with social, economic, urban, environmental and infrastructure planning and development.

“Last year alone, 236,000 people lost their lives in over 300 disasters. More than 200 million were directly affected. Damages totaled over US$180 billion,” Ban said. “Asia was hit especially hard. Nine of the top 10 countries with the highest number of disaster-related deaths were in Asia.”

He said the risk-assessment report was the most comprehensive international effort to identify disaster risk, analyze causes and chart out ways to reduce it.

“We cannot prevent events such as earthquakes or cyclones, but we can limit their potential for disaster,” Ban said, noting that poor people and developing nations suffer the most.

“Seventy-five percent of those who die from floods live in just three countries — Bangladesh, China and India,” he said. “Seventeen times more people perish due to tropical cyclones in the Philippines than in Japan, even though the two countries’ exposure to cyclones is the same.”

The report said unplanned urban development, vulnerable rural livelihoods and the decline of ecosystems are the three main underlying drivers of disaster risk.

The impact of disasters on people can be limited by upgrading squatter settlements, providing land and infrastructure for the urban poor, strengthening rural livelihoods and protecting ecosystems, and by using micro finance, micro insurance and index-based insurance, it said.

“Reducing disaster risk can help countries decrease poverty, safeguard development and adapt to climate change. This, in turn, can promote global security, stability and sustainability,” Ban said.

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