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Natural disasters equivalent to $520 billion loss annually

Science and Technology

Marrakesh, Morocco, Nov. 15, GNA - The impact of extreme natural disasters is equivalent to a global annual consumption loss of 520 billion dollars, forcing some 26 million people into poverty, the World Bank and Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery have revealed.

Mr Jim Yong Kim, the World Bank Group President, who said this at a press conference on the side-lines of the 22nd session of the Conference of Parties in Marrakech on Monday, said the report indicates that, “severe climate shocks threaten to roll back decades of progress against poverty’’

“Storms, floods, and droughts have dire human and economic consequences with poor people often paying the heaviest price, building resilience to disasters not only makes economic sense, it is a moral imperative,” he said.

 Dubbed: “Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters,” the report warns that the combined human and economic impacts of extreme weather on poverty are far more devastating than previously understood in all of the 117 countries studied.

The effect on well-being, measured in terms of lost consumption, is found to be larger than asset losses.

Mr Kim said because disaster losses disproportionately affected poor people who had limited ability to cope with them, the impact on well-being in those countries was equivalent to consumption losses of about $520 billion a year. This outstrips all other estimates by as much as 60 per cent.

The report’s findings underscored the urgency for climate-smart policies that better protected the most vulnerable, he said.

Poor people are typically more exposed to natural hazards, losing more as a share of their wealth and are often unable to draw on support from family, friends, financial systems, or governments.

 The report also assesses, for the first time, the benefits of resilience-building interventions in the countries studied which include early warning systems, improved access to personal banking, insurance policies, and social protection systems such as cash transfers and public works programmes that could help people better respond to and recover from shocks.

It finds that these measures combined would help countries and communities save 100 billion dollars a year and reduce the overall impact of disasters on well-being by 20 per cent.

“Countries are enduring a growing number of unexpected shocks as a result of climate change,” said Stephane Hallegatte, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery lead economist, who led preparation of the report.

 “Poor people need social and financial protection from disasters that cannot be avoided. With risk policies in place that we know to be effective, we have the opportunity to prevent millions of people from falling into poverty,” she said.

Efforts to build poor people’s resilience are already gaining ground, with Kenya’s social protection system for example, providing additional resources to vulnerable farmers well before the 2015 drought and helping them to prepare for and mitigate its impacts.

 In Pakistan, after record-breaking floods in 2010, the government created a rapid-response cash grant programme that supported recovery efforts of an estimated eight million people, lifting many from near-certain poverty.

 Building resilience is key to meeting the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending global poverty and boosting shared prosperity, Ms Hallegate said.

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