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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs