Disasters perpetuate cycle of poverty, says UN agency

Some of the many affected by Gustav try to seek shelter

UN News Centre / 16 September 2008 – Recent devastating storms and floods have reinforced poverty in many parts of the world, the United Nations agency tasked with minimizing the threat posed by natural disasters said today.
“The extreme and repeated consequences of hurricanes in the Caribbean and the [United States] show that development levels are directly linked to the toll that natural hazards take on a country’s population,” said Sálvano Briceño, Director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) Secretariat.

He noted that it will take Haiti, one of the world’s poorest nations where over three-quarters of its population living on less than $2 a day, years to recover from the four storms which have battered the Caribbean in the past few weeks.

“Even if a developed country is highly hazard-prone, they are still far less vulnerable than a less-developed country with weak infrastructure and limited capacity for prevention and response,” said the Director of the Geneva-based agency.

Some 94 per cent of all those who lost their lives in natural hazards in the past 25 years had either low or lower-middle incomes, with half of all deaths occurring in countries low on the human development scale.

Climate change is leading to more frequent and intense natural disasters, threatening development, Mr. Briceño noted.

“The Millennium Development Goals [MDGs] will not be fully achieved if disaster risk reduction is not among the solutions used to reduce poverty,” he stressed, referring to the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.

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