BANGKOK: Disasters, especially those triggered by climate change and environmental degradation, have deviated from their usual tracks and are growing in intensity, frequency and complexity.
For last year, the report said almost half of the 281 natural disaster events worldwide occurred in the region, including eight out of the 10 deadliest.
“An average of 142 million people in the region have been affected annually since 1970, well above the global average of 38 million.
“Disasters also caused large-scale economic damage. Between 1970 and 2018, the region lost US$1.5 trillion (RM6.28 trillion), mostly as a result of floods, storms and droughts, and earthquakes including tsunamis. The cost of damage has been rising,” the report said.
The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report for the first time included the costs of slow-onset disasters, notably drought which results in a quadrupling of annual economic losses as compared to previous estimates.
It said the annual economic loss for Asia and the Pacific is now US$675 billion (RM2.83 trillion), or around 2.4% of the region’s GDP, of which US$405 billion (RM1.7 trillion) or 60% are drought-related agricultural losses, impacting the rural poor disproportionately.
Meanwhile, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap), Armida Alisjahbana (pix), said vulnerable and marginalised communities are among the hardest hit by disasters in the region.
She said almost 40% of disaster impacts are on the social sectors resulting in deeper inequalities of opportunity that are transmitted over generations.
She added that disasters are also set to slow down poverty reduction.
“The number of people living in extreme poverty, classified as having an income of under US$1.90 (RM7.96) a day, is projected to be 56 million by 2030. However, with unmitigated disaster risk, the number more than doubles to 123 million.
“However, this is not inevitable. Governments can break this vicious cycle by investing to outpace disaster risk and the report shows that investments will be far smaller than the damage and losses from unmitigated disasters.
“Moreover, these same investments will deliver co-benefits — in the form of better education, health, social and infrastructure services, and higher agricultural production and incomes,” she said.
The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2019, a bi-annual flagship publication of Escap, was launched in Bangkok today.
The report aims to assist policymakers in both the public and private sectors to better understand disaster risk and resilience and take the many opportunities for action. — Bernama