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Save the Children issue report on preparing for climate disasters

30 Jun 2008

Anticipating that natural disasters will soon pose even greater threats to children and their families due to global climate change, Save the Children issued a new report today urging the international community to invest now in projects that will reduce the devastating impact of future disasters.

The agency's latest report, In the Face of Disaster, recommends that governments, international organizations and aid agencies change their tactics and do more to prepare for natural disasters rather than just respond to them.

"The consensus on climate change is clear," the report noted. "It is already happening and is likely to lead to an increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. It will be people in the poorest countries, especially children in those countries, who will bear the brunt of these disasters, despite having played no role in causing them."

Recent estimates in several U.N. reports on disaster risk reduction indicate that in recent years the number of natural disasters worldwide is three to four times higher than 30 years ago. In the next decade, according to the report, 175 million children every year are likely to be affected by the kinds of natural disasters brought about by climate change.

"In the face of this evidence, the international community has an obligation to help communities in developing countries prepare for these disasters so they will have less impact," said Ian Rodgers, an expert in emergency preparedness for Save the Children. "Clearly no one can predict exactly when the next disaster may strike, but we can do a lot to access vulnerable communities and strengthen their capacity to respond, especially in areas that have experience disasters in the past."

The report noted a dramatic recent example of how advance preparations can save lives. In Bangladesh last November, thousands of trained volunteers -- part of the nation's cyclone preparedness program - mobilized the successful evacuation of tens of thousands of families living in the path of Cyclone Sidr. The rapid response helped save many lives. In fact, fewer than 4,000 people died in 2007, compared to 140,000 in a similar scale cyclone in the same coastal area of Bangladesh in 1991.

How can communities better prepare for disaster? According to the report, a number of projects can mitigate impacts of natural events, including planting mangrove trees along coastal areas, building disaster-resistant public buildings, setting up early warning systems and making sure members of communities know evacuation routes. These disaster risk-reduction projects should involve everyone, including families living in disaster-prone villages, community leaders, local and national governments and international organizations, according to the report.

While 168 countries in 2005 signed the Hyogo Framework for Action -- an agreement on the need for disaster risk reduction to take place at local, national, regional and international levels -- many nations have yet to deliver on their commitments, the report said.

Read the complete report

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