Much more needs to be done and much greater funding made available to mitigate the devastating toll of natural disasters in an age when climate change threatens to increase both their frequency and severity, according to a United Nations report released today.
“While there is a growing recognition of the benefits of investing for disaster risk reduction, financial resources available for disaster risk reduction are still insufficient at all levels, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in the report to the General Assembly, noting that natural hazards killed more than 240,000 people and caused over $77 billion in economic damage in the 12-month period ending last June.While there is a growing recognition of the benefits of investing for disaster risk reduction, financial resources available for disaster risk reduction are still insufficient at all levels
“A major scaling-up of efforts and resources is needed,” he says, warning that despite increased commitment governments are still not on track to achieve the goals set in the Hyogo Framework for Action, the 10-year programme adopted in January 2005 which calls for investing heavily in disaster preparedness and strengthening the capacity of disaster-prone countries to address the risks.
Such measures range across the whole spectrum of natural disasters, from establishing early warning systems for those that can be anticipated, such as tsunamis and cyclones, to enforcing stringent building codes in earthquake-prone regions, especially for schools and hospitals. Hospital safety was the theme of this year’s International Disaster Reduction Day, observed earlier this week.
“If the Hyogo Framework for Action is to be effectively implemented, increased contributions to the United Nations Trust Fund for Disaster Reduction will be needed to fill, by 2009, the current gap of more than $70 million to support the work of various organizations,” Mr. Ban says, warning that “it is critical” that Member States strengthen their cooperation.
While good progress has been made in promoting, at the policy level, risk reduction knowledge, experience and mechanisms as proven measures for adapting to climate change, “apart from a few examples, this has not yet translated into concrete and effective action at the country level,” he warns.
Citing Bangladesh as an example of the effectiveness of disaster risk reduction, including response preparedness, he notes that when Cyclone Sidr hit the most heavily populated low-lying area in the world last year, 3,400 died and 1,000 others went missing.
“Although tragic, the losses were much less severe than those of a similar cyclone in 1970, which caused 300,000 deaths, and another in 1991, which killed 138,000 people,” he writes. “Analysis shows that this result is directly due to the efforts of the Government, supported by international partners.”
Stressing the “crucial role” risk reduction plays in safeguarding development gains from the threats of climate change, he calls on Member States to ensure coherence between the two agendas, including participation by all concerned entities.
He warns that natural disasters are holding back progress towards halving poverty and the achievement of other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the ambitious UN programme to reduce a host of social ills such as hunger and lack of access to medical care and education, all by 2015.
And he calls on Member States to consider setting targets for public spending on multi-year disaster risk reduction programmes at the national and local levels.
“I encourage governments, donors and funding institutions to increase their investment in disaster risk reduction substantially, as an integral component of all programmes for humanitarian action, economic and social development and environmental protection,” he writes.
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