[OPE] The increasing risk of disaster on the planet of slums

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Sun May 17 2009 - 10:52:55 EDT

Emerging economies face acute disaster risks: U.N.
Reuters Sat May 16, 2009
By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA (Reuters) - Natural disasters threaten to trigger widespread damage
and distress in emerging economies, many of which are already on the brink
because of the global recession, a United Nations body said on Sunday.
There are 1 billion people living in hazard-prone slums and shantytowns in
developing countries, many of which overlooked safety standards in recent
years of red-hot growth, according to the International Strategy for
Disaster Reduction.
The poorest communities in developing countries are at highest risk from
disasters and are rarely covered by insurance. The ISDR estimated that 1.7
million people have been killed in 23 "mega disasters" since 1975, and said
that major storms and weather-related emergencies are expected to increase
as a result of global warming. "Many urban areas will also experience stress
through water and energy shortages, heat and cold waves and more prevalent
disease vectors," it said, raising particular concern about the impact of
rising oceans on Dhaka, Mumbai and Shanghai, large parts of which are only 1
to 5 meters above sea level. The ISDR stressed it is not just geography that
makes impoverished pockets of the world most vulnerable to disasters, saying
that weak governance has made both people and economies in poorer countries
more exposed to devastation. For example, the report said while Japan and
the Philippines have virtually the same exposure to tropical cyclones, they
kill 17 times more people in the Philippines. Cyclones of the same strength
also typically damage 20 times more of Madagascar's gross domestic product
than Japan's. It accused local officials worldwide of turning a blind eye to
poorly built homes, schools and other buildings, and said governments in
Africa, Asia and Latin America routinely ignore slums in low-lying and
landslide-prone areas. (...)

UNCTAD now estimates that developing countries and transition economies will
see export declines of 7-9% in 2009, while exports from least developed
countries (LDCs) may drop from 9-16%, UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai
Panitchpakdi told the meeting. "This comes at a time when we had become
successful at raising the issue of global integration, of linking emerging
economies into the world economy," Mr. Supachai said. "This used to be a
positive factor." (...) Links to the global economy now mean the crisis is
spreading steadily to poorer nations, the Secretary-General said, and it is
important for stimulus packages in wealthy countries to help boost demand
for products on global markets. (...) Trade has been a major source of
hard-won economic progress in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The degree of
dependence of developing economies on external markets, measured by
export-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio, nearly doubled from 26% in
1995 to 51% in 2007. For least developed countries (LDC), the ratio rose
from 17% to 45% over the same period.

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