Prevent Catastrophe in a Hazardous Environment

Cyclone Freddy hit Malawi, a vulnerable developing country, twice in March. The unprecedented and prolonged extreme weather event claimed hundreds of lives, displaced over half a million people, and washed away thousands of hectares of crops. The violent storm also put additional pressure on an already strained health system, which was grappling with its worst cholera outbreak in two decades. The disaster prompted an independent United Nations group of rights experts to call for Malawi to commit to minimizing disaster displacement through climate adaptation, preparedness, and disaster risk reduction.

Complex and devastating disasters like Freddy’s impact are becoming more common and affecting more people worldwide. The International Agreement on Disaster Risk Reduction, signed by 187 countries in 2015, aims to significantly reduce disaster deaths, damage to infrastructure, and improve early warning systems by 2030. However, little progress has been made, with the number of people affected by disasters increasing by 80% since 2015. The growing impacts of climate change since 2015 and the brutally unequal impacts, particularly to developing countries, are a significant challenge and point to a course for a safer world.

A mid-term review of the implementation of the framework will be presented at a high-level meeting at UN Headquarters in New York on 18-19 May. This report highlights the magnitude of the challenge and the growing impacts of climate change. Disasters are becoming worse and spreading more quickly, as evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report reveals that funding for disaster risk reduction has not increased at nearly the rate needed to deal with disasters, and less than half of the least developed countries have multiple hazard early warning systems.

To date, 125 countries have established disaster preparedness plans aimed at preventing and responding to disasters, but many countries still have room to improve. The disaster-related mortality rate has declined by more than half over the past decade, despite the increasing number of people affected by disasters.

UNDRR plays a vital role in helping to reduce disaster risk and build resilience. Their experts work in five regional offices globally to collect, organize, and share the latest high-quality technical information and data to mitigate risk effectively. Developing and deploying comprehensive multi-hazard early warning systems is a key part of their work, as these systems have been shown to save lives. When disaster strikes, the mortality rate in countries without systems is on average eight times higher than in countries with systems.

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