Accessibility links

UN Urges Action to Cut Deaths from Natural Disasters in Half by 2015


Participants at a major disaster risk reduction conference have urged political leaders to take action to halve the number of deaths from natural hazards by 2015. The call came at the end of a weeklong meeting attended by 1,800 people from more than 300 Governments and Organizations.

Global disaster statistics make for grim reading. Last year, the United Nations estimates 236,000 people lost their lives in over 300 natural disasters. The economic losses are equally dramatic, with damages exceeding $180 billion.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, acknowledged the call for reducing disaster-related deaths by half and significantly cutting economic losses is very ambitious.

"It is very ambitious, but it also can be achieved, I think. You cannot stop the disasters happening, but you can make an enormous difference to whether they kill people and to some extent at least how many livelihoods they destroyed," he said.

Holmes cited the classic example of Bangladesh where a powerful cyclone in the early 1970s killed about 400,000 people. Although devastating cyclones regularly hit Bangladesh, he said relatively few people have died in recent years because of the preparedness measures undertaken by the government.

The conference set some other targets as well. In their final declaration, participants urged governments to make clear financial commitments to Disaster Risk Reduction activities by 2010.

They called for firm action plans for safer schools and hospitals and for all major cities in disaster prone areas to include and enforce disaster risk reduction measures in their building and land use codes by 2015.

Holmes said certain measures, such as building embankments or storm shelters take money. But, he said national governments and local communities can do a lot of things that do not involve much money.

"If you are putting disaster risk reduction awareness and activity into school curricula, that is not a question of money. There may be very small outlays in terms of teaching materials or whatever. But this is not a question of money. It is a question of awareness", he noted. "Similarly, if you look at early warning systems, some can be expensive…But, the basic warning systems you need to go what they call the last mile, to actually reach the people on the beach or in the fields or whatever it is. That can be extremely low tech. It is people on bicycles with bullhorns. That is how they do it in Bangladesh and it is extremely effective. And, that is not something, which involves huge financial outlay," he explained.

Holmes said one of the most important conclusions of the conference is the marrying of the climate change and disaster risk reduction agendas. He said activities to reduce threats from natural disasters are a vital part of climate change adaptation policies.

Participants at a major disaster risk reduction conference have urged political leaders to take action to halve the number of deaths from natural hazards by 2015. The call came at the end of a weeklong meeting attended by 1,800 people from more than 300 Governments and Organizations.

Global disaster statistics make for grim reading. Last year, the United Nations estimates 236,000 people lost their lives in over 300 natural disasters. The economic losses are equally dramatic, with damages exceeding $180 billion.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, acknowledged the call for reducing disaster-related deaths by half and significantly cutting economic losses is very ambitious.
"It is very ambitious, but it also can be achieved, I think. You cannot stop the disasters happening, but you can make an enormous difference to whether they kill people and to some extent at least how many livelihoods they destroyed," he said.

Holmes cited the classic example of Bangladesh where a powerful cyclone in the early 1970s killed about 400,000 people. Although devastating cyclones regularly hit Bangladesh, he said relatively few people have died in recent years because of the preparedness measures undertaken by the government.

The conference set some other targets as well. In their final declaration, participants urged governments to make clear financial commitments to Disaster Risk Reduction activities by 2010.

They called for firm action plans for safer schools and hospitals and for all major cities in disaster prone areas to include and enforce disaster risk reduction measures in their building and land use codes by 2015.

Holmes said certain measures, such as building embankments or storm shelters take money. But, he said national governments and local communities can do a lot of things that do not involve much money.

"If you are putting disaster risk reduction awareness and activity into school curricula, that is not a question of money. There may be very small outlays in terms of teaching materials or whatever. But this is not a question of money. It is a question of awareness", he noted. "Similarly, if you look at early warning systems, some can be expensive…But, the basic warning systems you need to go what they call the last mile, to actually reach the people on the beach or in the fields or whatever it is. That can be extremely low tech. It is people on bicycles with bullhorns. That is how they do it in Bangladesh and it is extremely effective. And, that is not something, which involves huge financial outlay," he explained.

Holmes said one of the most important conclusions of the conference is the marrying of the climate change and disaster risk reduction agendas. He said activities to reduce threats from natural disasters are a vital part of climate change adaptation policies.

XS
SM
MD
LG