The UN is out with a new report showing that natural disasters cost about $109 billion in economic damage in 2010. That’s compared to about $35 billion in 2009.
Surprisingly, the two mega disasters of 2010–the Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods–were not the costliest disasters in terms of overall economic damage. According to data from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters the Haiti quake inflicted about $8 billion of damage; the Pakistan floods, about $9.5 billion.
That’s bad. But not as bad as the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile in February–(causing some $30 billion of damage) and flooding and landslides in China (about $18 billion of damage).
$109 billion is a tremendous amount of wasted money. It is roughly the equivalent of the the entire GDP of Bangladesh. If even a fraction of that money was invested in disaster mitigation, the costs could have greatly contained.
Citing torrential rains that have severely flooded parts of north-eastern Australia with damage potentially reaching $1 billion, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlström today called for an urgent reappraisal of the human factor in so-called natural disasters, with particular focus on risk assessment.
“At the UN, our interest is to change the view that disasters are ‘natural’ and to cause people to accept that disasters are ‘man-made’ and must be planned for,” she said. “With planning, it will be possible to lessen the blow when storms or other hazards hit. If we carry on treating disasters as events disconnected to our actions, nothing will change. And we remain vulnerable to ever more costly damage.”
Ms. Wahlström heads the secretariat for the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), a framework adopted by Member States in 2000 comprising numerous organizations, States, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), financial institutions, technical bodies and civil society.