Natural disasters have been costing Asia approximately $60 billion a year for the past two decades, and yet governments around the region have still not adequately prioritised disaster risk reduction, according to a report released by Oxfam ahead of the first anniversary of super-typhoon Haiyan.
Released today by the international humanitarian and development agency, the report, titled Can’t Afford to Wait, investigated Asian countries’ capacity to prepare and protect their citizens from natural disasters and found that despite some progress, wide-spread failings and chronic under-investment existed across the region.
In its review of the Philippines recovery one year after typhoon Haiyan, Oxfam found while the Philippine government had shown leadership in the transition from the humanitarian response, recovery and readiness for future disasters could be limited if the capacity of local authorities was not further resourced.
Oxfam Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the findings of the report were particularly alarming given Asia is already the most disaster-prone region of the world, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). In 2013, Asia accounted for 43 per cent of recorded disasters and 60 per cent of global disaster victims.
“Long before super typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc in the Philippines, Asia was recognised as the most disaster-prone region of the world, but despite this catastrophic wakeup call many Asian governments are still failing to prioritise disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation,” Dr Helen Szoke said.
“Over the past 20 years, Asia has borne almost half the estimated global economic cost of all disasters, amounting to around $60 billion annually. Over the last four decades, direct losses from disasters in the region have significantly outpaced growth in GDP over that same period.”
The report finds that while most governments in Asia have established policies around disaster and climate change preparedness, these plans have been implemented with varying success. Disaster risk reduction programs often demand significant coordination between national ministries and local governments, and Oxfam’s assessment finds that the latter are often unable to give local communities the tools to prepare, react and recover from disasters.
Oxfam’s analysis finds that regional institutions such as South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should also do more to boost financing for national climate change adaptation programs.
Dr Szoke said countries in the Asian region also needed to negotiate collectively to secure financial support desperately needed from richcountries. She called on those rich countries to step up and support Asian efforts at disaster risk reduction.
“Rich countries like Australia need to commit funds and programs to Asia’s developing countries to enable them to protect their citizens against climate-related disasters,” Dr Szoke said.
“There is a unique opportunity to learn from the devastation caused by Haiyan, and pledge to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in the lead up to the next international climate change meeting in Peru in December.”