The United Nations has urged governments around the world to learn how to respond to disaster as it warns that action to better protect people from major disasters has stalled. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction said increasing numbers of people are being affected by larger, increasingly complex and costly disasters both natural and man-made as government officials fail to address dangerous risks.
The agency published an overview of how governments are implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. This 2015 global agreement aims to “prevent new and reduce existing disaster risks” by getting governments to take steps to understand disaster risk and be prepared to respond to it.
Among the disaster highlighted in the report is an 80% increase in the number of people affected by disasters since 2015 to more than 150 million – despite a pledge at the Sendai Framework for governments to introduce measures that can help “substantially reduce”. the number of people affected by a disaster worldwide”. The economic costs of disasters are also increasing.
Mami Mizutori, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of UNDRR says “One doesn’t have to look hard for examples of disasters getting worse, these disasters are preventable because they are caused by human choices”.
Measuring progress in disaster management
Seven goals adopted by 187 countries in 2015 to reduce disaster losses by 2030. These range from proposals to substantially reduce disaster deaths and the number of people affected by disasters to what governments can do to improve resilience.
These include developing national and local disaster risk reduction strategies and increasing international cooperation in disaster risk reduction, and the mid-term review found that since the adoption of the Sendai Framework in 2015, the number of countries with national disaster risk reduction strategies has increased from 55 to 125 in March 2022.
However, investment in disaster risk reduction continues to remain low. Only 42 developing countries reported receiving official development assistance support for national disaster risk reduction.
This lack of progress is also reflected in some of the other targets. Although the average annual number of people killed and missing in a disaster per 100,000 has decreased from 1.77 in the decade 2005–2014 to 0.82 in the decade 2012–2021, more people are affected – from 1,147 in the decade 2005–2014 to 2 066 in the period 2012-2021. The average annual number of people affected by a disaster in the period 2015-2021 was 150,214,597 people per year.
The impact on economic infrastructure is also growing. Between 2015 and 2021, disasters damaged or destroyed an average of 142,852 critical infrastructure units and facilities each year. In 2020 and 2021, disasters including COVID-19 disrupted the provision of more than 363,184 essential services in 44 reporting countries.
UNDRR warned that many of these disasters are climate-related and countries will face even worse disasters if global temperatures continue to rise, meaning governments will need to better understand the risk they face.
However, the report also offers examples from which countries can learn. These include an initiative in Costa Rica that allows all institutions to allocate budgets for prevention and response to emergencies, Australia’s development of the so-called Disaster Ready Fund, which invests up to A$200 million ($167 million) annually in disaster prevention and resilience, and Barbados ” disaster clauses that allow for an immediate moratorium on government debt payments in the event of disasters.