General Assembly stresses need to invest in disaster mitigation measures

With earthquakes, heat waves, floods and snowstorms affecting 208 million people, killing nearly 300,000, and costing $110 billion in losses last year alone, the General Assembly today debated mitigation steps such as building safer schools, hospitals and cities to reduce the terrible toll.

"We need to take lessons from cities and countries that have shown how to reduce risk – as well from those less fortunate, whose examples of calamity should give us all pause for thought," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in opening the session, which brought together senior United Nations officials, civil society partners and city mayors. "Experience and common sense agree: we must invest today for a better tomorrow."

Mr. Ban recited the litany of natural disasters of the past year ­– earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and China, floods in Pakistan and Europe, wildfires in Russia and the United States, cyclones and tropical storms in Asia. "Barely a day went by without lives devastated, homes demolished, people displaced, and carefully cultivated hopes destroyed," he said. "It was one of the deadliest years in more than a generation."

Noting that this year may prove to be just as costly, with severe floods in Australia and Brazil showing that no country or city, rich or poor, is immune to disaster, he stressed that all too often, poorer countries suffer disproportionately and have the biggest challenges in recovering.

Mr. Ban cited Australia as an example of the importance of investing in disaster risk reduction. The state of Queensland escaped relatively unscathed from one of the largest cyclones to hit the country in living memory, partly due to luck since the densest population areas were spared, but also thanks to the "key role" played by planning and preparedness.

He also highlighted the UN global disaster risk reduction campaign that is already focusing on safer schools, hospitals and cities, with nearly 600 towns and cities from all regions committing to a 10-point checklist for making them more resilient.

Published by: Relief Web
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