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Preparing for Natural Disasters Can Save Lives and Money

  • Lisa Schlein

Wind and water from Hurricane Matthew batter downtown St. Augustine, Florida., Oct. 7, 2016.

Wind and water from Hurricane Matthew batter downtown St. Augustine, Florida., Oct. 7, 2016.

This year’s World Disasters Report warns that thousands of lives are being lost and property destroyed from natural disasters because governments and local communities are failing to prepare for these potentially calamitous events.

There is no way to stop a natural disaster from occurring. But, there are ways to prevent it from becoming a catastrophic event.

Authors of the World Disasters Report note many natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and drought are related to climate change and can be predicted. Therefore, they argue governments can lessen their impact by investing in preparedness and measures to reduce disaster risk.

FILE - Undamaged homes are seen on a hillside in the foreground as a tsunami-damaged area is seen behind in the town of Ofunato, in northeast Japan, Sept. 5, 2011.

FILE - Undamaged homes are seen on a hillside in the foreground as a tsunami-damaged area is seen behind in the town of Ofunato, in northeast Japan, Sept. 5, 2011.

Elhadj As Sy, secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, says the effort put into early warning alerts and early response can determine whether a hazard will be a disaster or not.

“It makes sense to invest in preparedness," he said. "It makes sense to invest in resilience because not only is it a moral thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do from an economic point of view. And, more importantly, it saves lives and that is the ultimate, the most important goal.”

Last year, the report says 108 million people were affected by disasters. It notes the number and scale of disasters triggered by natural hazards are increasing. Co-editor of the report, David Sanderson, says when it comes to humanitarian aid, business as usual is not an option.

“Something like $100 billion has been spent in disasters between 1991 and 2010," he said. "Two-thirds of that has gone into response…Forty cents of every hundred dollars spent is only spent on disaster risk reduction. It is only a drop in the ocean.”

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, file photo, provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, rescue crews work the site of airstrikes in the al-Sakhour neighborhood of the rebel-held part of eastern Aleppo, Syria.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, file photo, provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, rescue crews work the site of airstrikes in the al-Sakhour neighborhood of the rebel-held part of eastern Aleppo, Syria.

Forced migration is at its highest level since World War II, with over 65 million forcibly displaced people from war-torn countries such as Syria, Yemen and South Sudan. Authors of the report warn this forced migration is likely to increase in coming years as climate change kicks in and people seek refuge from environmental disasters.

They say humanitarian aid should not be given only after a disaster strikes. They argue investments must be made in finding solutions and in strengthening communities to withstand future shocks and adversity.

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