Sunday, December 9, 2012

Slow-onset disasters take toll

IRIN: In southwestern Bangladesh, recent large-scale water-logging - stagnant flood water that fails to recede - threatens agriculture and public health for years to come. It is a crisis in the making, highlighting the risks slow-onset natural disasters pose to poor countries, and how ill-prepared officials are to respond - even with ample early warning.

“At first glance, one would expect that, the slower the onset of a disaster, the better prepared we should be to mitigate its impacts,” UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlström told IRIN. “What we often find, instead, is that we [are] far too late to react.”

Last year, residents in Thailand had months of flood warnings, beginning in July 2011, as flooding upcountry triggered by a tropical storm slowly wound its way south. Flooding persisted in some areas until mid-January 2012. But even with ample warning, the disaster killed at least 628 people, affected more than 13 million people and damaged 20,000sqkm of farmland.

Khurshid Alam, former head of livelihoods and disaster reduction at ActionAid’s office in Bangladesh, said slow-onset disasters receive less media attention and are less dramatic than flash floods or cyclones. “The persistent water-logging of the Satkhira region in the country’s southwest is currently the most significant slow-onset disaster plaguing the country.”…

A village in the Satkhira district, in the Sundarbans, shot by C.S. Sprung, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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