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Making Asia-Pacific disaster ready

Oct 08, 2008

World Vision’s latest report Planet Prepare says that billions of dollars need to be spent on protecting lives in Asia-Pacific against climate change-induced disasters. The research document examines harmful impact of rising sea levels and frequent storms on the coastal communities of the region.

Planet Prepare: Preparing Coastal Communities in Asia for Future Catastrophes

Publisher: World Vision, 2008

The report, by author Johannes Leutz, says billions needs to be spent on strengthening community resilience in villages and cities, educating children to be disaster ready, putting in place disaster-resistant infrastructure and early warning systems, and giving people new job options.

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Disaster experts are now warning that the increasing number of natural disasters – like those that impacted Bangladesh and Myanmar – could present the “new normal” and should be seen as possible curtain raisers on the chaos that climate change will bring.

The report not only looks at the latest research around climate change but also examines how communities from Bangladesh to Papua New Guinea are being severely impacted by storms and sea level rise.

The report researchers interviewed climate migrants in the Pacific islands who are being forced from their homes by salt-water encroachment, farmers in Bangladesh whose land is collapsing into the sea and survivors of Cyclone Nargis, the deadliest storm ever to hit Myanmar, among others.

Richard Rumsey, World Vision Asia Pacific Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Director, said:  “Even the introduction of stringent carbon emission controls is not going to prevent the Asia Pacific region experiencing very severe disaster shocks.  Governments both from within and outside the region must prioritise preparedness to avert massive hardship for millions. This means finding the billions of dollars needed to ready coastal communities for disasters and adapt to the changes that are coming.“

2007 figures show that 75% of all people killed by natural disasters were in Asia. Over the past three decades the number of natural disasters in Asia has risen dramatically from below 50 to approximately 200 per year while between 1990 and 2007, some 757,000 people died in natural disasters in Asia, 3.5 billion people were cumulatively affected and US$620 billion in damage caused.

The report states:

  • Donor and affected governments must invest billions in preparedness rather than investing most emergency aid money in disaster responses. (Only 4% of the estimated US$10 billion spent yearly on humanitarian assistance goes to preparedness)
  • Poor coastal communities need to be ready to face climate change-induced weather impacts. Disaster training, improved infrastructure, early warning systems and insurance are essential.
  • Schools need disaster-proofing; curriculums need to include disaster and climate change preparedness
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