Elizabeth Ferris discusses the impacts of natural disasters in 2012 in this four-part video series based on her report. While overall humanitarian funding in 2012 was stable, funding for natural disasters dropped.
A hotter and drier climate in many parts of the world, fuelled by global warming, will lead to more favorable conditions for wildfires, while increased precipitation or desertification in other regions might actually decrease wildfire risk.
More than ever humanitarian workers are seeking timely and reliable information to help them plan and deliver humanitarian responses to disasters and crises that are happening worldwide.
2011 was the most expensive year in terms of disaster losses in history, mostly because of a spate of disasters affecting developed countries.
Examples from last-year’s disasters in the rich world show that investment in disaster risk reduction and preparedness pay off and are cheaper than postdisaster reconstruction.
Several positive trends in international humanitarian response were evident in the course of 2011, including promising developments in international disaster law, greater emphasis on disaster risk reduction and preparedness, and better communications during crises, including the use of social media in disaster response.
There are still major methodological difficulties in terms of measuring the effects of natural disasters, especially when it comes to measuring the economic costs of disasters and understanding the particular characteristics of slow-onset disasters such as drought. The interconnections between disasters (especially mega-disasters), media coverage and humanitarian funding means that humanitarian funding tends to be directed toward disasters that have higher media coverage rather than to those with disaster-affected populations in greater need of assistance. Reviewing 2011’s natural disasters, Elizabeth Ferris and Daniel Petz analyze the range of disasters and lessons to be learned from those that occurred in developed countries. Globally, the economic cost of disasters in 2011 was $380 billion, of which $210 billion were the result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
While natural disasters result in higher economic losses in rich countries, fewer people tend to be affected and loss of life is less than in developing countries. The number of disasters was almost 20 percent below the average annual figure of 384 natural disasters from 2001-2010.
Higher levels of preparedness, resilience and good governance in many cases help richer countries to recover faster from natural disasters than poorer ones. In contemporary society, one of the primary threats to human security is that of natural disasters. Authors William Donner and Havidan Rodriguez point out that policy makers appear to be hesitant when it comes to embarking on long-term strategies and initiatives to address disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery in impoverished and developing countries. As natural disasters cannot be prevented numerous programs and initiatives have been developed to reduce vulnerability by addressing construction methods and financial matters.
In conclusion, while we cannot prevent the threat of natural disasters to human security, we can manage and effectively reduce it.
Recurring disasters have severe negative effects on human development by undermining the resilience of affected individuals and communities. After several years of mega-disasters and consequent high funding for disaster response, international humanitarian disaster funding dipped to the relatively low level witnessed in 2009. While globally there are hundreds of thousands of wildfires each year, most of them are not considered “disasters” as they do not threaten human health, lives or livelihoods.


The gender dimensions of natural disasters have gained increasing recognition at the international level since the 1990s. From the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to fourteen disasters causing over a billion dollars each in damage in the United States, 2011 was particularly damaging for developed countries.
In terms of both the number of disasters and the number of people affected by them, 2011 was a below-average year in comparison with the previous decade. Post-disaster recovery and reconstruction after a major disaster are long-term processes which need much more scrutiny and attention.
Global population is aging at an unprecedented scale and yet the special needs of older people in emergencies are often neglected. With 302 disasters recorded by the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT), 2011 saw the lowest number of disasters since the beginning of the millennium.
Environmental and demographic landscapes are changing pro- gressively, while population growth and migration increase means people are more vulnerable than ever to the devastating effects of natural disasters. However, as the world has witnessed the devastating effects of various disasters, people are more determined than ever to provide much needed assistance. The propensity for communities to rely on donor aid must be reduced, however, as donor aid is only a small percentage and promises can often fall short.
With the availability of advanced technology combined with the assistance and support of global partners and programs, people have discovered ways in which to protect human security from natural disasters. In the absence of a generally accepted definition, this report defines a recurring disaster as “the recurrence of a single natural hazard in the same geographic region within a one-year period.” This report seeks to draw some lessons for humanitarian actors and policy makers from recurring disasters in 2011 and 2012. Resolving livelihood issues as well as finding durable solutions for those displaced by disasters are core components of successful disaster recovery. In comparison with the annual averages over the past decade, fatalities in 2012 were far below average and the amount of economic losses was close to the ten-year average. In most regions, governments and other actors see value in working together to prevent disasters and, to a lesser extent, to respond to disasters occurring in the region.
There were 156 wildfire disasters reported over the 2000-2011 period, making up only 3.39 percent of all natural disasters recorded during that period.
Loss of forest and forest degradation – in which wildfires play an important role – contributes as much as 17 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions each year, a quantity higher than emissions from global transport.
It is now generally recognized that women are typically at greater risk from natural hazards than men, particularly in low-income countries and among the poor, and that they often also face particular protection risks in the period following a disaster. While developed countries generally have the resources to respond to the effects of natural disasters, when a major disaster strikes they still have to deal with responding to offers of international assistance.
More work is needed to recognize the positive contributions which older people can make in reducing the risks from disasters, in disaster response and in recovery and reconstruction.
While this threat cannot be prevented, as populations are widespread and disasters occur unexpectedly, it can definitely be managed.
Natural disasters such as these, as well as volcanic eruptions and collisions of extraterrestrial bodies, have long- term consequences and global impacts as they profoundly threaten human lives, according to Canadian Environment Professor Vaclav Smil. The devastation caused by recurring disasters in 2012 also highlights the need for increased commitment and investment in disaster risk reduction.


Data on the number of disasters is mixed, with disaster databases showing both above and below average numbers for 2012. The 780 fatalities from wildfires recorded by the international disaster database make up 0.07 percent of global disaster fatalities during the period. Indeed, natural disasters and climate change often exacerbate existing inequalities and discrimination, including those that are gender-based, and can lead to new forms of discrimination. As a result, a variety of technologies have been developed to detect these disasters in order to manage and reduce the risk to human security. The authors of ‘At Risk: Natural Hazards, people’s vulnerability and disasters’ define vulnerability as “the characteristics of a person or group and their situation that influences their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural hazard”.
The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) is one assistance- based initiative, which works on knowledge and capacity enhancement in disaster prone areas by supporting information management and exchange, education and training, research, and public awareness campaigns. The implementation of sound disaster (and displacement) laws and policies can play an important role in mitigating the negative effects of recurring disasters and can contribute to the development of more resilient societies. While there are few binding regional instruments in disaster risk management, regional organizations have worked out different mechanisms for encouraging collaboration, including frameworks for disaster risk reduction, regional military protocols, joint training exercises and regional insurance schemes.
However, it is also important to recognize that women play significant roles in all stages of disaster and climate risk management; they are often at the frontline as responders and bring valuable resources to risk reduction and recovery efforts. Likewise, demographic and environmental changes also expose greater numbers of people to natural disasters.
By assisting in the construction of buildings that can withstand natural disasters as well as developing insurance pools, these initiatives can help manage and reduce the threat of natural disasters to human security.
Yet, in practice, disaster risk management policies and processes throughout the world largely exclude the important work already being done by women. As a result, programs which seek to provide financial support and teach urban planners to pursue sustainable climate resilient growth have been implemented, enabling communities to recover from disasters more quickly and efficiently. We argue that the effective and meaningful participation of women in policy-making, programming and implementation is crucial to increasing the success of disaster risk management in all phases. Furthermore, satellite imagery, as the authors of ‘Satellite Image Analysis for Disaster and Crisis-Management Support’ explain, is able to “generate fast and easy-to-read maps showing location, situation, scale, or extent of a given disaster or crisis situation”. This participation, combined with timely and adequate attention to the gendered aspects of disasters and climate change, can in turn lead to greater gender equality and strengthen the resilience of entire communities.
Unfortunately, despite these advanced technologies, limitations still exist in regards to accuracy and determining the size, trajectory and magnitude of a natural disaster.
Nonetheless, with these technologies, humans are able to determine the probability of a natural disaster occurring in the future, which countries and regions are prone to disasters and when they may occur.



Go-kit 3
Geographic response plans


Comments

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