A United Nations (UN) report christened ‘Asia-Pacific Disaster 2021’, has disclosed that the convergence of the COVID-19 pandemic with natural hazards, compounded by climate change, has reshaped and expanded the disaster “riskscape” in Asia and the Pacific.
In the report, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), described how while dealing with the pandemic, countries in the region have also been hit by multiple biological and natural disasters, such as cyclones, landslides, heatwaves and volcanic eruptions.
At the same time, as climate change has continued to warm the world it is also exacerbating many of these disasters.
The report further argued that the capacity of disaster management and public health systems to respond to the “expanded risk environment” will determine the recovery path for COVID-19 and beyond.
This is even as the UN representatives serving throughout Asia and the Pacific have been called upon to intensify efforts to prepare for and tackle the complex issues of climate change, COVID-19 and natural disasters and increase the resilience of people as well as economies.
“The string of record-breaking weather events show that we do not have the luxury of ‘waiting this out’: Action must be taken now to address these risks.
“This includes increasing international funding for disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation, especially for countries graduating from the least-developed category,” said Mami Mizutori, UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.
ESCAP Chief Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, however, said that despite progress made by many countries in devising more robust systems of early warning and responsive protection, which have led to far fewer people deaths resulting from natural disasters, “the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that almost without exception, countries around the world are still ill-prepared to deal with multiple overlapping crises, which often cascade, with one triggering another.
“Tropical cyclones, for example, can lead to floods, which lead to disease, which exacerbates poverty.”
On the economic impact of the economic impact, she said that significant economic losses have also resulted from the “triple threat” of disease, disaster and climate change.
The annual average of disaster-related losses currently stands at $780 billion, which could nearly double, to around $1.4 trillion, in a worst-case climate scenario.
At an annual cost of $270 billion, choosing a proactive strategy of adapting to natural and other biological hazards would be far more cost-effective.