The eco­nomic cost of disasters

The Philippine Star - - OPINION -

With the of­fi­cial start of the elec­tion sea­son, it may be dif­fi­cult to di­vert the at­ten­tion of politi­cians from their cam­paign plans. Un­less an­other ma­jor calamity strikes, re­mind­ing ev­ery­one that the Philip­pines is among the coun­tries that are most vul­ner­a­ble to nat­u­ral disasters and can never let down its guard.

In cer­tain ar­eas, disasters could even be an elec­tion is­sue for 2019. Peo­ple have lost loved ones as well as their prin­ci­pal sources of liveli­hood in the min­ing vil­lage of Ucab in Itogon, Benguet, where a land­slide fol­low­ing in­ces­sant rains at the height of Typhoon Om­pong buried small-scale gold min­ers and their rel­a­tives late last month.

Fam­i­lies are also mourn­ing the deaths of over 60 peo­ple in the city of Naga in Cebu, who were buried when large chunks of a moun­tain de­voted to quar­ry­ing came crash­ing down on two barangays on Sept. 20.

In these ar­eas, it may be eas­ier to ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of the In­ter­na­tional Day for Disas­ter Re­duc­tion. Marked on Oct. 13, the spe­cial day was de­clared by the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly, which also adopted a frame­work for disas­ter re­duc­tion. Un­der the so-called Sendai Frame­work, each year since 2016 is ded­i­cated to high­light­ing one of seven goals for at­tain­ment by 2030: a sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in global deaths from disasters and in the num­ber of peo­ple af­fected world­wide, and this year’s fo­cus – to re­duce eco­nomic losses in re­la­tion to global GDP.

For 2019, the fo­cus will be on sub­stan­tially re­duc­ing disas­ter dam­age to crit­i­cal in­fras­truc­ture and basic ser­vices in­clud­ing health and ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties. In 2020, the target is to in­crease the num­ber of coun­tries with na­tional and lo­cal risk re­duc­tion strategies. In 2021, it is the en­hance­ment of in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion and sup­port to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries in disas­ter re­duc­tion pro­grams. And in 2022, the fi­nal year of the Sendai Seven Cam­paign, the target is to in­crease the avail­abil­ity of and pub­lic ac­cess to multi-haz­ard early warn­ing sys­tems and disas­ter risk in­for­ma­tion as­sess­ments.

The UN es­ti­mates that ev­ery year, disasters cause some $520 bil­lion in eco­nomic losses world­wide, dis­plac­ing at least 18 mil­lion peo­ple in 2017 and push­ing many into poverty. Disasters de­plete pub­lic funds that could oth­er­wise be used for basic ser­vices and so­cial pro­tec­tion. With height­ened aware­ness of the risks, gov­ern­ments must make the nec­es­sary in­vest­ments in de­vel­op­ing disas­ter-re­silient com­mu­ni­ties.

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