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Half of the world is not prepared for natural disasters

Ready for natural disasters? Half of world are not prepared

Nearly half of the world’s countries are not protected by multi-hazard early warning systems from natural disasters such as floods, droughts, earthquakes, tropical cyclones, volcanic eruptions, health epidemics or extreme temperatures.

The stats in a new report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), were released this Thursday on the occasion of the International Day for the Reduction of Disasters.

unpredictable climate changes, early warning systems for natural disasters. Source: nurse

Humanity ‘in the danger zone

In a context of more rapid and unpredictable climate changes, early warning systems for natural disasters are a “proven and effective climate adaptation measure, saving lives and money,” said el Petteri Taalas, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in the presentation of the new report “World status of multi-hazard early warning systems”, carried out by this UN agency in conjunction with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“The world is not investing in protecting the lives and livelihoods of those on the front lines. The people who have contributed the least to the climate crisis are the ones who are paying the highest price,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video introducing the report.

world is not investing in protecting the lives and livelihoods of those on the front lines. Source: maxpixel

Least developed countries, small island developing states and African countries require the most investment, says the UN, to increase their coverage of disaster early warning.

The document concludes that only half of the countries in the world have a multi-hazard early warning system, that is, those that take into account several threats, such as floods, storms, droughts or heat waves, which can occur alone, simultaneously or cascading.

Millions of people cannot survive because they are not warned of impending disasters. Source: rawpixel

Highest price

“Survival is the most basic of all human instincts. However, millions of people cannot survive because they are not warned of impending disasters,” says Mami Mizutori, head of the UNDRR and special representative of the UN secretary-general for disaster risk reduction, in a video on the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction.

Head of the UNDRR and special representative of the UN secretary-general for disaster risk reduction Mami Mizutori adds that “Today, a third of the world’s population, mainly in the least developed countries and small island developing states, are not covered by disaster early warning systems.” “In Africa, it is even worse: 60% of people lack coverage. This is unacceptable. Early warning and early action save lives,” she notes.

The report shows that countries with limited early warning coverage have eight times higher disaster mortality than nations with substantial to comprehensive coverage of these risks.

A third of the world’s population are not covered by disaster early warning systems Source: pxhere

“The world is not investing in protecting the lives and livelihoods of those on the front lines. Those who have done the least to cause the climate crisis are paying the highest price,” according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Guterres calls on all countries in a video message to invest in early warning systems. “Extreme weather events will happen. But they do not need to become deadly disasters,” he stresses, before asking the WMO to lead new measures to ensure that all people on Earth are protected by early warning systems in the next five years.

Early warning systems

“As climate change causes more frequent, extreme and unpredictable weather events, it is more urgent than ever to invest in early warning systems that address multiple hazards. This is due to the need to warn not only about the initial impact of disasters but also about the effects of second and third order”, explained the WMO in a press release.

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“This means that one in three people globally, mainly in small island developing states and least developed countries, and six in 10 people in Africa lack access to effective early warning systems,” Loretta Hieber Girardet UNDRR’s chief of the risk knowledge, monitoring and capacity development branch said.

Early warning systems that address multiple hazards and natural disasters. Source: rawpixel

She says that a lack of early warning leads to the loss of lives and livelihoods and unnecessary damage to assets. She says the new data shows that disaster-related deaths are eight times higher in countries with limited early warning coverage than in those with comprehensive systems in place.

“And yet we know that early warnings of just 24 hours can reduce subsequent damage by 30 per cent…A weather-related hazard doesn’t have to translate into a disaster,” Girardet said. “It becomes a disaster because communities are not prepared and because the vulnerabilities and exposures of that community have not been mitigated.”

Many early warning systems cover only one type of hazards, such as floods or cyclones. However, given the many extreme and unpredictable events related to climate change, the United Nations urges countries to invest in multi-hazard early warning systems. Such systems, she points out, can address multiple weather-induced disasters that can occur simultaneously.

COP27 litmus test

In particular, it is the “least developed” countries, small island developing states and African nations that most lack this type of system. For this reason, the report recommends several elements to invest more in all elements of early warning systems, particularly in the knowledge of risk to better plan them.

The report also recommends “investing in improved data and better access to technology for more robust hazard monitoring, faster communication of warnings, and better tracking of progress.”

UN climate conference, COP27. Source: UN

In about a month, during the next UN climate conference, COP27, the World Meteorological Organization will present an action plan to ensure that all countries have an alert system against extreme weather events and global warming within five years.

Significant gaps’

Fewer than half of the world’s least developed countries and only a third of small island developing states have multi-hazard early warning systems, he said.

Mami Mizutori, head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, expressed alarm at “significant gaps in protection.”

“This is a situation that must urgently change to save lives, livelihoods and property.”

As threats increase, early warning systems have meanwhile contributed to significantly reducing disaster-related mortality.

Number of people affected by natural disasters had almost doubled. rawpixel

The UN report showed that the number of people affected by disasters had almost doubled from an average of 1,147 per 100,000 per year between 2005 and 2014, to 2,066 between 2012 and 2021.

At the same time, however, the number of people dead or missing after disasters fell annually from 1.77 per 100,000 people in the pre-disaster period to 0.84 in the post-disaster period.

Mizutori pointed to the recent catastrophic monsoon floods in Pakistan, which submerged a third of the country and left nearly 1,700 dead.

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