Risks from natural hazards is gradually outpacing resilience in South and South-West Asia and has the potential to reverse hard-won development gains in the subregion, according to a new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
In 2016 and 2017 alone, avalanches, snowfall and rain-related disasters have caused considerable damage in Afghanistan, while torrential monsoon rains in Bangladesh, India and Nepal have killed over 900 persons and affected almost 41 million people.
While the subregion continues to develop quickly, it is still home to a large portion of the world’s absolute poor. The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2017 shows that the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the society are disproportionately affected by these disasters, which can very quickly strip poor people of their livelihoods, pushing them back into absolute poverty or trapping them in an intergenerational transmission of poverty. Disasters also widen socio-economic disparities and exacerbate existing inequalities, according to the report.
Launching the report in the subregion, Mr. Michael Williamson, Head, a.i, Subregional Office for South and South-West Asia, ESCAP, underscored that “the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the devastating and pervasive impacts that natural disasters can have and incorporates the principles of disaster risk resilience as a central tenet of the promise to leave no one behind.”
“In South and South-West Asia, protecting livelihoods from the impact of disasters must move to the top of the policy agenda, with the recognition that even the most efficient early warning systems may not be sufficient,” added Mr. Williamson.
Beyond the human costs, research undertaken by ESCAP indicates that in the subregion, floods have cost 94 billion dollars in estimated damages within the past 15 years. By 2030, 40 per cent of global economic losses from disasters will be in the Asia-Pacific region, with the least developed countries suffering from annual losses of around 2.5 per cent of GDP.
The launch of the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2017 in Nepal was part of a two-day Workshop on Addressing Disaster Risks Specific to South and South-West Asia in Kathmandu which brought together government officials and disaster management specialists from 10 countries in the subregion.
Delivering the Keynote Address at the Workshop, Mr. Arbind Kumar Mishra, Hon. Member, National Planning Commission, Nepal stated that ‘Disasters affect everyone but impact the poor and vulnerable people the most’. “Low-income countries account for only about 9% of the world’s disaster. Yet, they experience 48% of fatalities,” Mr. Mishra said. He underscored the timeliness of the meeting after the approval by the Parliament of Nepal of a long-awaited disaster mitigation regulation act and underscored the importance of the Workshop to identify ways to convert risks into resilience. Nepal ranks as the fourth most climate-vulnerable country in the world.
The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report aims to assist policymakers, in both public and private sectors, to better understand disaster risk and resilience and take the many opportunities for action, especially in risk hotspots where a greater likelihood of change coincides with a higher concentration of poor, vulnerable and marginalized people.
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Wanphen L. Sreshthaputra, ESCAP/South and South-West Asia Office, M: (91) 11 3097 3705 / E: firstname.lastname@example.org