"over the last two decades, there has been an increasing recognition that disasters undermine our efforts to achieve sustainable development. This can be highlighted by the following statistics:
Over the past 20 years, nearly 1.35 million people were killed by natural hazards, of which more than half died in earthquakes, with the remainder due to weather-and climate-related hazards. A disproportionately large number of these deaths occurred in low-and middle-income countries. The poorest nations paid the highest price in terms of the numbers killed per disaster and per 100,000 populations.
Even the most developed countries are not immune from the impact of disasters. The triple nuclear, earthquake and tsunami disaster which overtook Japan in 2011, also Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, and the 2003 heat waves which claimed 70,000 lives in Europe is a reminder of this fact.
Disasters cause immense economic burden often on those countries that can least afford them. Over the last two decades recurrent disasters have compromised efforts to achieve sustainable development in many low and middle-income countries.
Changing nature of disaster risk:
The world is now confronted with the reality of climate change, which is likely to increase the frequency and scale of disasters. A 50-years analysis of data on number of disasters (source: EMDAT, 2016) is presented.
Number of disasters related to three principle hazards–earthquakes, floods and storms. What is evident is that while the number of earthquake disasters over the 50 years period (1966-2015) has remained largely the same, there is a clear signal that the number of flood and storm disasters has increased. There could be multiple reasons behind this ranging from better reporting of climate related extremes to environmental degradation (e.g. same level of rainfall may be now causing greater flooding) to more people living in flood and storm prone areas.
Looking at number of deaths related to disasters emanating from all natural hazards over the 50 year period 1966-2015. It shows that in absolute numbers, the trend in mortality has remained largely flat punctuated by large scale events every few years. However, even these peaks over the last twenty years (eg. 2004, 2008, and 2010) are much lower than the peaks of 1970s and 1980s (eg. 1970, 1976, and 1981). If we normalize these figures by the total population, the mortality appears to be actually trending down. This can be attributed to improvement in early warning systems, better communication, and more responsive governments. However, this cannot be a cause for complacency, the three peaks in mortality over the last twenty years–2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, and 2010 Haiti Earthquake represent mega disasters when more than 100,000 people died in each of these events. These events indicate that low-frequency; high-impact event could cause very high levels of mortality even in the twenty first century! There is a need for the governments to reduce the risk of such mega-disasters and prepare for worst case scenarios.
The Future of Disaster Risk Management
From 2005 to 2015, global efforts on disaster risk reduction were guided by the Hyogo Framework for Action. In March 2015, the international community came together in Sendai, Japan at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) for the period 2015-2030.
The SFDRR has been informed by some of the global trends presented in the previous section. The SFDRR establishes loss reduction targets for mortality, number of people affected by disasters, economic losses and infrastructure losses. It also sets targets related to disaster risk reduction capabilities in terms of plans and strategies, international cooperation and access to early warning.
In tandem with the SFDRR, the other international policy frameworks adopted in 2015 also recognize the importance of disaster risk reduction. Out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, 10 include targets related to disaster risk management. See Box 1 for a summary of disaster risk reduction elements in the Sustainable Development Goals.
From the above it is clear that in the international policy arena, this establishes disaster risk reduction as a core development strategy as opposed to a marginal, one-of crisis management issue. There is a clear recognition that we need to move away from disaster management to disaster risk management. This requires us to pursue all development activity in a manner that it leads to reduction of disaster risk.
Box-1: Disaster Risk Reduction in Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Target 1.5, which relates to building the resilience of the poor, further strengthens the position of disaster risk reduction as a core development strategy for ending extreme poverty.
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Target 2.4 supports the immediate need to advance actions in mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation into agriculture sector planning and investments in order to promote resilient livelihoods, food production and ecosystems.
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Target 3.d, which relates to strengthening early warning and risk reduction of national and global health risks presents an opportunity to further actions to promote resilient health.
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Target 4.7 focusing on building and upgrading education facilities and promoting education for sustainable development; contribute significantly to resilience-building in the education sector.
Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Target 6.6, which relates to protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems, will significantly contribute to strengthening the resilience of communities to water-related hazards.
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Target 9.1 related to developing sustainable and resilient infrastructure development is vital not only to protect existing infrastructure but also future infrastructure investments.
Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Action targets under this goal (11.1, 11.3, 11.4, 11.5, 11.b and 11.c) focusing on upgrading urban slums, integrated urban planning, reducing social and economic impacts of disaster risk, building the resilience of the urban poor, adopting and implementing urban policies in line with the Sendai Framework and building sustainable and resilient urban infrastructure are strategic opportunities to ensure increase capacity to support cities, protect current and future development prospects and build safer, more resilient cities throughout the world.
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Target action under this focusing on strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity, capacity building and integrating climate change measures into policies and plans, awareness raising on climate adaptation and early warning (Targets 13.1 to 13.3 and 13.a to 13.b) provide opportunities to strengthen the integration between disaster and climate resilience to protect broader development paths at all levels.
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Target action 14.2 focusing on the sustainable management and protection as well as strengthening resilience of marine and coastal ecosystems, can contribute to reducing disaster risk and increase in demand for healthy marine and coastal ecosystems.
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
Target actions 15.1 to 15.4 and 15.9, focusing on managing and restoring forests, combating land degradation and desertification, conserving mountain ecosystems and their biodiversity and integrating ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies, all contribute to resilience building. These targets are also in line with the Sendai Framework’s focus on building environmental resilience through the inclusion of ecosystems in risk analysis and planning.