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World's worst natural disasters

Sep 26, 2011

More people died owing to natural disasters in 2010 than in any other year in the last decade, reveals World Disasters Report 2011 by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The report urges humanitarian agencies to find out sustainable solutions to hunger and malnutrition across the world.

World Disaster Report 2011

Published By: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Three major humanitarian crises in 2010 and 2011 – the earthquake in Haiti, flooding in Pakistan, and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan – highlight critical weaknesses in how actors prepare for and respond to disasters, says the report. The three disasters mark an "exponential change in crisis scale and impact" and foreshadow a time of increasingly complex crises and multiple, simultaneous disasters.

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While food security and nutrition have long been at the centre of relief efforts, the report stresses that much food aid is still delivered in inappropriate ways, too little and too late, and that "a full assessment of progress is overdue for the [humanitarian] sector".

The majority of the hungry are in the Asia Pacific region, especially the Indian sub­continent, and in sub-Saharan Africa . Most of the hungry live in rural areas. In a country like India, that has emerged as the world’s fifth largest economy with a growth rate of al­most 9 per cent, more than 700 million people remain food insecure.

One problem in India, according to the Deccan Development Society and others, is the neglect of small farmers – especially women – who are the main producers of local foods and traditional grains such as millet and sorghum.

Every year some 9 million children across the world die before they reach their fifth birthday, and about one-third of these untimely deaths is attributed to undernutrition (Black et al., 2008). However, contrary to popular perception, the great majority of malnutrition-related deaths (up to 90 per cent) do not occur during sudden food crises and famines, but as a result of long-term, chronic hunger that gradually depresses or destroys the immune system and leaves children especially vulnerable to diseases.

There has been progress in feeding more people than ever before even as the world’s population has grown by around 50% since the mid-1970s. Even so, the number of undernourished people in the world was higher in 2010 – 925 million according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – than in the early 1970s (FAO, 2011a). There was a record peak of more than 1 billion hungry people in 2009 following dramatic food price rises in 2007–2008. This figure sub­sequently decreased, but at the time of writing, prices are rising and the number of hungry people looks likely to increase again.

Some Key findings

Last year was the 21st century's deadliest, with 297,752 deaths caused by natural disasters. This exceeds deaths in 2004 (242,010) and 2008 (235,272).

The vast majority of deaths in 2010 (222,570) were attributable to the earthquake in Haiti – the second deadliest natural disaster of the last decade.

More than 300 million people were reportedly affected by natural disasters in 2010, second only to 2002 when 709 million people were affected.

Of those affected by natural disasters in 2010, 60% were hit by floods, with 134 million people affected by flooding in China and more than 20 million affected by flooding in the Indus river basin in Pakistan.

Compared with the last decade of the 20th century, disaster deaths rose by 39% in the 2000-10 period. The number of people affected by disasters also rose, by 10%.

The number of people killed includes those confirmed dead and those missing and presumed dead. "People affected" are those needing immediate life-saving assistance, such as food, water, shelter, sanitation and urgent medical attention.

This edition of the World Disasters Report analyses the challenges, complexities and causes of hunger and malnutrition and advocates some solutions. They range from stronger support for smallholder farmers to improving regulation of financial specula­tors in order to calm the increasing volatility of food prices around the world, from advocating sustainable agriculture to empowering rural and urban communities, and from social protection schemes to strengthening the work of international institutions. It also examines the response to food insecurity and malnutrition in crises, and the challenges and constraints to improving these responses.

Source : IFRC
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