Disaster risk reduction must be a priority says charity

Disaster risk reduction must be a priority says charity

By staff writers
8 Dec 2008

Money to save lives from disaster must be the priority, as climate change leads to more storms, floods and droughts, Christian relief and development agency Tearfund has said.

Today the UN climate talks in Poznan, Poland, presented a renewed opportunity to examine the relationship between disaster risk reduction and climate change.

High on the agenda was the criticism by campaigners that rich countries are not doing enough to help countries adapt to climate change.

Proposals for 70% of financial resources to be spent on insurance were discussed. However, the moral responsibility is to save lives rather than pay out for damage after a disaster, Tearfund said.

Speaking at the UN climate talks in Poznan, Nigel Timmins, Head of the Disaster Management Unit at Tearfund, said: “Disasters are not merely random acts because they can often be predicted and planned for making inaction inexcusable. Evidence shows that disasters are increasing in frequency and more predictable. Risk reduction saves lives, is less expensive than responding to a disaster, and is therefore a complete no-brainer.”

Rich nations plough major resources into relief and recovery operations once a disaster has struck, often following high-profile humanitarian action and appeals by aid agencies. Campaigners however point out that at home, they invest heavily in climate change adaptation to ensure that disasters never take place. The UK for example is increasing its investment in flood defences from £650 million in 2008 to £800 million in 2010/11.

Aid agency Tearfund is calling for similar priority to be given to poor communities bearing the brunt of climate change.

In 1970 half a million people were killed by a major cyclone hitting Bangladesh. But in November 2007, Cyclone Sidr, killed 4000 people in Bangladesh. The massive reduction in lives lost was due to good risk reduction, says Tearfund.

“Tearfund and its partner agencies and churches around the world believe that ensuring local communities are equipped to reduce the risk of disasters is a matter of justice, and critical to tackling suffering and poverty in the 21st century.” Timmins concluded.

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