One third of world affected by weather-related disaster says report

By staff writers
December 10, 2007

The equivalent of a third of the world’s population has already been affected by weather-related disasters and this is set to soar because of climate change unless urgent international action is taken says a Christian aid agency.

Tearfund says governments must commit at least $50 billion every year to helping the world’s most vulnerable communities prepare to save their own lives and livelihoods.

A new report called Climate of Disaster, published in Bali by Tearfund, reveals that in the last 10 years, weather-related disasters have killed over 443,000 people, affected 2.5 billion people and cost an estimated US$ 600 billion in economic losses.

With climate change increasing the number and intensity of extreme events such as floods and droughts, more and more people are becoming vulnerable to a range of environmental disasters.

Without urgent action, this trend is set to rise, leading to unprecedented levels of suffering and deaths says the aid agency. Poor people will be hit hardest since they are the least able to cope, and live in the most vulnerable areas of the world.

With each new disaster, precious gains made in poverty eradication are swept away the agency warns.

As Bangladesh reels from the recent cyclone in which millions of people remain affected, it is clearer than ever before says Tearfund that the world must change the way it tackles weather-related disasters or face catastrophic consequences. The report suggests that, based on past experience, Bangladesh is going to continue to be one of the worst-hit places on the planet.

The cyclone Sidr was one of more than 1,400 global disasters in the past five years alone.

Speaking at the UN Climate Change conference in Bali, Andy Atkins, Tearfund’s Advocacy Director said: “It is time for the international community to take stronger action to support vulnerable communities’ efforts to reduce the risk of disaster.

"Airlifting stranded people from floodwaters and sending food packages to those affected by drought can no longer be our sole response to weather-related disasters. As a global community we have a moral responsibility to invest our aid money upfront in helping the planet’s poorest people prepare for predictable disaster. If we do not, then many thousands of lives will be needlessly lost and billions of pounds of aid money will not be used to best effect.”

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