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


  • 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

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs