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UN: Climate Change and Poor Risk Management Increase the Risk of Natural Disasters


FILE - Alona Nacua, right, stands with her son as she looks at their damaged house due to Typhoon Rai in Cebu city, central Philippines on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2021.

The United Nations is calling for better management to reduce the risks from rapidly increasing natural disasters largely triggered by climate change. The U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has issued its 2022 Global Assessment Report, which prescribes solutions to lessen the threatened risks.

The report warns the world is set to face more frequent and extreme disasters and nations are ill-prepared to tackle the dangers.

It says the number of natural disasters experienced over the last two decades is five times higher than in the previous three decades.

Based on current trends, says Director of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction Ricardo Mena, the world will face some 560 disasters per year.

“Disasters have forced over a quarter-of-a-billion people into internal displacement," said Mena. "So, that is much more than those that have been displaced by conflict and war each year on average between 2010 and 2020.”

Over the last decade, the cost of disasters has amounted to around $170 billion a year. The U.N. report notes the Asia-Pacific region bears the greatest share of economic loss, followed by the African region.

Mena says it is the poorest countries that are most impacted by disasters, forcing the most vulnerable into a spiral of destruction.

But he says that destructive spiral can be stopped if governments adopt better risk reduction policies and management strategies.

“Governments will need to invest more in disaster resilience, strengthening national budgets to protect people, and critical infrastructure," Mena said. "But they also will have to strengthen efforts to avoid the creation of new risks as a result of risk-line decisions.”

Mena says decisions people make on how they live, build, and invest can create new risks. For example, he says, someone who builds a house in an earthquake-prone area without respecting the building codes is likely to have his house destroyed. A municipality that builds a school in a flood-prone area may see the building washed away.

Making better decisions, Mena says, can lead to fewer disasters.

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