Major reported disasters in 2013 caused direct economic losses of over $100 billion, according to the latest figures released on Monday by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
The UN disaster-prevention body said that some 315 disasters claimed 22,000 lives in 2013 and affected 95 million people, and direct economic losses in consequence reached $116 billion for the fourth consecutive year, exceeding the threshold of $100 billion.
UNISDR noted that out of the total death toll from disasters last year, over half occurred in the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Japan and China, with 13,700 deaths in these areas resulting from a range of natural hazards including Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan), floods, heat waves, one cold wave and an earthquake.
The UN body added that 84 million out of those affected live in China, Philippines, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Cambodia.
Margareta Wahlstrom, special representative of the secretary-general for disaster risk reduction and the head of UNISDR, said in a news statement that “the death toll from weather-related disasters is in decline thanks to better preparedness, early warnings and improved response.”
But she warned that very high numbers of people were living in exposed locations where they were in danger of losing their homes, jobs and access to health care and education because risk was accumulating fast with urbanization, population growth and extreme weather events.
“Risk creation needs to be addressed with as much urgency as saving lives because these losses act as a drag on economic development and mean less money to spend on health, education and job creation,” Wahlstrom urged.
As for the Intergovernmental Preparatory Committee meeting to be held on July 14 and 15 to facilitate the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction scheduled in early next year, she hailed it as “an opportunity to concentrate minds on the problem of economic losses from disasters.”
It was introduced that over 500 participants were expected to attend the preparatory committee meeting later this month, during which efforts would be made toward drafting a new international agreement on disaster risk reduction to replace the current Hyogo Framework for Action which was adopted by all UN member-states following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 which claimed over 200,000 lives.