Monday, April 14, 2014

New disaster risk reduction strategies needed rather than “rearranging deckchairs on Titanic”

Stella Dawson at the Thomson Reuters Foundation: Countries must develop new strategies for preventing damage from natural disasters and invest in rapid-response systems so that they can bounce back quickly after catastrophe hits, development officials and policymakers said.

The number of natural disasters has doubled in the last 30 years, economic costs have quadrupled in size, and low-income countries and small islands are at risk of having their entire economy wiped if disaster hits, according to the World Bank.

Without a new strategy, the number of lives lost and the economic costs will escalate at an even faster rate, officials said.  For instance by 2050, 1.5 billion people will live in cities exposed to major storms and earthquakes, double the number today. “We must make this part of a comprehensive policy to be prepared for tougher weather and more natural disasters that are coming out of climate change in the years ahead,” Borge Brende, foreign affairs minister for Norway, during World Bank spring meetings, which wrapped here in Washington this weekend.

“We are doing too much rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic rather than dealing with what will be hitting us,” he said.

For every $100 spent today on official development aid, only 40 cents goes to disaster prevention and preparedness, a sum that is clearly inadequate given the increasing frequency of natural disasters, according to Rachel Kyte, special envoy for climate change at the World Bank.

The damage is getting worse. The World Bank says 2011 was the costliest year on record for disasters at $380 billion, and between 1980 and 2011 over 70 percent of disaster-related losses were weather related....

A feral goat grazing in the Valley of Rocks in the UK, shot by Mark Robinson, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr,  under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license 

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