COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — For decades, environmentalists have asked global powers to pledge more resources to combat climate change. Incidents of natural disaster, they claim, are on the rise because of growing populations and climate change. Independent of whether or not humans are to blame for climate change, or whether climate change exacerbates incidents of natural disasters, more needs to be done to offset the devastations of natural shock.
Over the last 30 years, recurring crises have cost the world economy $3.8 trillion, according to PR Newswire. In that time, the regularity and cost of weather-related disasters has tripled.
While low-income countries are not the most frequently hit countries (they were hit by only nine percent of natural disasters) they accounted for 48 percent of all fatalities. This figure represents the disproportionate state of vulnerability in which millions in Africa and South and Southeast Asia live.
A 2012 report by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters found the number of victims from natural disasters in Africa increased in 2012 by 43.4 percent compared to the annual average the year prior. In the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region, 23 million people suffered food insecurity due to droughts in 2011 and 2012. By 2025, over 400 million are expected to be vulnerable to flooding in South and Southeast Asia.
The growing need to address global shocks, particularly for those most vulnerable in Africa, prompted USAID and the Rockefeller Foundation to announce a $100 million Global Resilience Partnership.
Both groups will “invest in climate preparedness, adaptation, and inclusive economic growth,” the White House said in a recent publication. The fund “will build on existing efforts in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa to improve drought cycle management and expand climate-resilient agricultural practices, helping communities build economic and environmental resilience and break the cycle of recurrent crises.”
For the impoverished in these regions, this is good news. Research in the most recent U.N. human development report indicates 800 million individuals are in danger of falling back into poverty if setbacks—such as natural disasters—occur. The Overseas Development Institute has similar findings: disasters and climate change could undermine the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030.
Significant populations in Africa and Asia require better safeguards against natural disasters. Providing these provisions requires technology and infrastructure current populations live without. Although the Global Resilience Partnership will help those in poverty in the Sahel region of Africa, as well as the Horn of Africa, the partnership will not address all areas susceptible to flooding, drought and shock.
Eradicating poverty, even just extreme poverty, requires safety nets for those in high-risk areas. The Global Resilience Partnership is a good first step, but it is not a panacea for the global problem of populations prone to natural disasters.
– Joseph McAdams