World Disaster Report 2009: A huge death toll.

Climate & Natural resources16 Jun 2009Thea Hilhorst

Today, I attended the launch of the World Disaster Report 2009 in Geneva during the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction. The World Disaster Report (WDR) is a thematic report that annually provides the global disaster statistics. This year’s disaster death toll amounted to 242.662. This was for 93% due to two disasters: the cyclone in Myanmar, and the earthquake in China. Few people will realize that this is only slightly less than the number of people who died in disasters in 2004, the year we all remember because of the Asian Tsunami. The attention for this Tsunami was unprecedented and it will probably remain the ultimate disaster in our collective memory for decades. After the Tsunami, a lot of governments have invested in Tsunami early warning systems. During the launch, the editor of WDR 2009 Michele McNabb said that “these investments in Early Tsunami Warning systems in the Indian ocean were a waste of money”. There have only been 4 Tsunamis in the Indian Ocean in the past century, and there are much more pressing issues to deal with when it comes to early warning and early action, which is the theme of this year’s World Disaster report. Early warning must result in early action too, the report says. Moreover, early action must be more geared to the preservation of livelihoods and not just the saving of lives. This means acting earlier and acting better than just providing food aid when people have started to starve.