Dis­as­ter loss es­ti­mates ig­nore higher cost to the poor

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Nat­u­ral dis­as­ters have a more dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on the poor than widely thought, forc­ing some 26 mil­lion peo­ple into poverty each year and set­ting back global spend­ing on goods and ser­vices by the equiv­a­lent of $520 bil­lion an­nu­ally, the World Bank said. The hu­man and eco­nomic costs of dis­as­ters, caused by ex­treme weather and earth­quakes, have been un­der­es­ti­mated by up to 60 per­cent be­cause they ig­nore the high toll on the con­sump­tion and re­lated wellbeing of the poor, the bank said in a new study. “Se­vere cli­mate shocks threaten to roll back decades of progress against poverty,” said World Bank Group Pres­i­dent Jim Yong Kim in a state­ment. “Build­ing re­silience to dis­as­ters not only makes eco­nomic sense, it is a moral im­per­a­tive.”

Stephane Hal­le­gatte, lead au­thor of the re­port, said poor peo­ple tend to suf­fer more from dis­as­ters as they of­ten live in places that are hit more of­ten, and lose a big­ger share of their in­come. They also re­ceive less sup­port from gov­ern­ments, friends and fam­ily, he added. The re­port notes that a flood or earth­quake can be dis­as­trous for poor peo­ple but have a neg­li­gi­ble im­pact on a coun­try’s over­all wealth or pro­duc­tion if it af­fects peo­ple who own al­most noth­ing and have very low in­comes.

But for them, dis­as­ters can have dam­ag­ing long-term ef­fects, such as forc­ing fam­i­lies to take a child out of school or to spend less on health­care, it adds. Among Gu­atemalan house­holds hit by trop­i­cal storm Agatha in 2010, per capita con­sump­tion fell 5.5 per­cent, hik­ing poverty by 14 per­cent, according to re­search cited by the bank.

“Deal­ing with cli­mate change and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and re­silience is an im­por­tant com­po­nent of poverty re­duc­tion pol­icy,” Hal­le­gatte told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion. If the value of as­sets threat­ened by dis­as­ters is the main fac­tor in planning how to re­duce risks, the ma­jor­ity of sup­port will go to bet­ter-off coun­tries and com­mu­ni­ties, he said.

The aim of the re­port - pro­duced in re­sponse to de­mand from gov­ern­ments is to help states bal­ance pro­tect­ing fi­nan­cial re­turns with tak­ing care of the poor. The World Bank plans to use the find­ings to steer pol­icy dis­cus­sions with coun­tries on man­ag­ing risks across the board. The re­search could also guide coun­tries on putting into prac­tice their cli­mate change ac­tion plans, sub­mit­ted for the Paris Agree­ment that took ef­fect on Nov 4, Hal­le­gatte said. “If we select pri­or­i­ties based on our mea­sure of the im­pact of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters on well-be­ing, we will be able to spend not only ef­fi­ciently but also help the poor­est,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.