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Asian Nations Focus On Disaster Reduction

Asian Nations Focus On Disaster Reduction At UN-Backed Meeting In Malaysia

New York, Dec 2 2008 10:10AM

Ministers from more than 80 Asian countries have gathered at a United Nations-backed meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to discuss ways to reduce the social and financial impact of natural disasters in their region.

The three-day Third Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction brings Asia-Pacific government officials together to develop partnerships and regional cooperation for disaster preparedness and early warning systems.

The Asia-Pacific region is not only one of the most populous in the world but also, by far, the most affected by disasters in terms of human and economic impacts, according to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).

“The Third Ministerial Conference is a main forum to make disaster risk reduction a priority at the local level and to mobilize more resources for implementing disaster risk reduction policies, which are vital to development and poverty reduction. This is a unique opportunity to identify gaps and bring governments and civil society together to fill them,” said Salvano Briceño, Director of the UNISDR secretariat.

The Center of Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) notes that this year alone, more than 230,000 people were killed and over 47 million affected by two major disasters, namely the earthquake in China and Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.

In a message to the conference, the head of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) emphasized the need for greater investment in disaster risk reduction in the region.

Various studies have shown that every dollar invested in disaster preparedness not only saves lives, but can also save between $4 and $7 in humanitarian relief and reconstruction costs after a disaster happens. “With this level of returns, these investments may be some of the best bargains available,” said Noeleen Heyzer.

“It has become increasingly clear that disasters are setting back efforts in development – they can cripple the economy, destroy infrastructure, and plunge more people into poverty,” she added.

The conference, which is being held with the support of the UNISDR, ESCAP and others, is expected to adopt a final declaration urging governments to commit more resources to disaster risk reduction policies and to engage more public-private partnerships to address the issue.

ENDS

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