Asia-Pa­cific faces more dam­ag­ing disas­ter threat, UN warms

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - BEH LIH YI news­room@mm­times.com

NAT­U­RAL dis­as­ters could be­come more de­struc­tive in Asia-Pa­cific, where a per­son is al­ready five times more likely to be af­fected than in other re­gions, the United Na­tions warned on Tues­day, urg­ing coun­tries to in­vest in re­silience plans.

Home to 60 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, Asia-Pa­cific is the planet’s most disas­ter-prone re­gion.

Last year, floods, storms and ex­treme tem­per­a­tures killed 4,987 peo­ple – far fewer than the an­nual av­er­age since 1970 – and af­fected some 34.5 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Asia-Pa­cific Disas­ter Re­port 2017.

Poor and lower mid­dle-in­come coun­tries, which are typ­i­cally least able to pre­pare for and re­spond to weather haz­ards, suf­fered about 15 times more deaths from dis­as­ters than richer Asian na­tions, said the re­port re­leased by the United Na­tions Eco­nomic and So­cial Com­mis­sion for Asia and the Pa­cific (ESCAP).

Dis­as­ters can have “deeply dis­rup­tive ef­fects on liveli­hoods” and fur­ther dis­ad­van­tage al­ready vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, many in ru­ral ar­eas, push­ing more into poverty, it said.

In ad­di­tion to the hu­man costs, the ESCAP re­search in­di­cated that be­tween 2015 and 2030, 40 per­cent of global eco­nomic losses from dis­as­ters would oc­cur in Asia-Pa­cific.

“It also shows that fu­ture nat­u­ral dis­as­ters may have greater de­struc­tive po­ten­tial,” ESCAP said in a state­ment.

The com­mis­sion said disas­ter risks ex­ac­er­bated by cli­mate change were likely to in­crease in the re­gion.

They in­clude more life-threat­en­ing heat­waves, wors­en­ing floods and droughts, more fre­quent and pow­er­ful trop­i­cal cy­clones, and heav­ier mon­soon rains in East Asia and In­dia.

ESCAP head Shamshad Akhtar urged coun­tries to fill gaps in their plans for deal­ing with dis­as­ters.

“The ab­sence of an in­sti­tu­tion­alised in­surance cul­ture and ad­e­quate post-disas­ter fi­nanc­ing threaten our ex­tra­or­di­nary eco­nomic and de­vel­op­men­tal achieve­ments,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the coun­tries fac­ing the great­est eco­nomic losses from dis­as­ters are the re­gion’s largest economies like Ja­pan and China.

But its least-de­vel­oped and small is­land na­tions could be hit hard­est, los­ing be­tween 2.5pc and 4pc of their gross do­mes­tic prod­uct an­nu­ally.

ESCAP called for ac­tions to mit­i­gate disas­ter risk linked to cli­mate change, in­clud­ing set­ting up a re­gional early warn­ing sys­tem and in­vest­ing in disas­ter risk ed­u­ca­tion.

It said build­ing disas­ter re­silience into agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment plans was im­por­tant, as stud­ies showed most poor peo­ple in Asia-Pa­cific are farm­ers in ru­ral ar­eas.

“It is... crit­i­cal for im­prov­ing liveli­hoods and re­duc­ing poverty,” the re­port said.

– Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion

Beh Lih Yi writes for Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion, the char­i­ta­ble arm of Thom­son Reuters that cov­ers hu­man­i­tar­ian news, women’s rights, traf­fick­ing, prop­erty rights, cli­mate change and re­silience.

Photo: An­tara Foto/Reuters

A disas­ter man­age­ment of­fi­cer walks to­ward a brush fire as other fire­fight­ers (not pic­tured) try to ex­tin­guish it, near Palem­bang, South Su­ma­tra, In­done­sia, on Septem­ber 21.

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