News / Africa

    Report: Natural Disasters Worsen Poverty

    A crowd of stranded villagers gather on the banks of Ethiopia's Lake Tana (the source of the Blue Nile), as sacks of emergency food supplies are unloaded. Weeks of heavy rain have left more than 630 dead and 200,000 homeless and facing the spread of water
    A crowd of stranded villagers gather on the banks of Ethiopia's Lake Tana (the source of the Blue Nile), as sacks of emergency food supplies are unloaded. Weeks of heavy rain have left more than 630 dead and 200,000 homeless and facing the spread of water

    Multimedia

    Audio
    • Listen to De Capua report on natural disasters and extreme poverty

    Joe DeCapua
    A new report says hundreds of millions of extremely poor people could be at the mercy of natural disasters in the coming years. It says unless they are better prepared to face droughts and floods, extreme poverty cannot be eliminated.


    Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than one dollar and 25 cents a day – and there are growing calls to eliminate it by 2030. It could become one of the new goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015.

    However, Britain’s Overseas Development Institute, ODI, says ending extreme poverty is unlikely until governments “come to terms with the increased risk of natural disasters in some of the poorest parts of the world.” It’s released a new report called: The Geography of Poverty, Disasters and Climate Extremes in 2030.

    Dr. Tom Mitchell, ODI’s head of Climate Change, is one of the authors. He said, “What we found is there’s a very close overlap between the countries that we expect to have very high levels of poverty still in 2030 and the countries most exposed to natural hazards. And now this shouldn’t really come as a surprise because we know that the poorest and most vulnerable people get hit hardest by extreme events. So there really is a very close link between poverty and disasters.”

    The report says there are 11 countries most at risk of disaster- induced poverty: Bangladesh, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. Ten other countries have high proportions of people in poverty, plus high hazard exposure and insufficient risk management. But the report singles out India for special mention.

    “In 2030, we expect there to still be very significant numbers of poor people living in India – possibly above a hundred million. In addition, this is a country that’s going to be extremely exposed natural hazards. It’s got very good central capacity to manage the problem. But at state level – some of which are as big as countries by themselves – the capacity is much more variable. And so earlier in the year we saw floods in Uttarakhand that killed in excess of 5,000 people, highlighting that you can get it right in one state for one hazard, but there are a whole bunch of other things that need to be dealt with,” said Mitchell.

    It’s not that the extreme poor just happen to be unlucky where they live, he said.

    “Natural hazards don’t discriminate. It’s actually people who discriminate and governments who discriminate. So what you find is that the poorest and most vulnerable people are living in the most exposed areas – whether in informal settlements on the edge of cities or in remote rural areas with poor access to early warnings or to infrastructure. And in that regard they are in an acute position in terms of their exposure, and they have very little assets to cope.”

    They have no insurance to cover the loss of their property and belongings.

    “I think we assume in many of the countries that we are researching that where there are efforts to tackle disaster risk they are focused on the poorest and most vulnerable people. But actually that’s just not he case. What you tend to find is that where there are government programs they focus predominantly on big cities or high value infrastructure that might be important to foreign business interests. Very, very rarely do they focus on the poorest and most vulnerable regions -- even though they may be also some of the most exposed to natural hazard,” he said.

    He said that countries most in need are getting very little international aid for preparedness and risk reduction --– less than two million dollars a year each. He has a message for those governments that don’t take the report’s findings seriously.

    “Look, if you’re serious in ending extreme poverty – and that you’re serious in protecting your economic growth – then disaster risk management needs to be at the heart of your policies – needs to be at the heart of your economic growth policies – and needs to be a part of your social development and poverty reduction policies. Otherwise, if you look at it completely rationally, you’re going to be losing more. More people are going to be affected. And actually not taking this seriously is going to be bad for business,” he said.

    The Overseas Development Institute report recommends making natural disaster risk management a cornerstone of efforts to reduce poverty. Those efforts, it says, should “focus on saving livelihoods as well as lives. But much more money would be needed. The report estimates that for every $100 of official development assistance only 40 cents is spent on reducing disaster risk. That’s less than one-half of one dollar.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.