World Disasters Report 2009 - Focus on early warning, early action

“ Timely, preventive response to disaster risk requires effective early warning systems that are technically sound, politically viable and communally acceptable. To curb increasing disaster risks and climate change impacts, as highlighted in this year’s World Disasters Report, it is high time to unite and to take concrete concerted actions, for securing human life and livelihoods and protecting socio-economic gains and opportunities."
–Loren B. Legarda Senator of the Republic of the Philippines UNISDR Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia Pacific and UNEP Laureate


While natural hazards cannot be prevented, they only become disasters because affected communities are vulnerable and unprepared. Early warning systems have been proved beyond doubt to save lives and reduce economic losses at all levels, as this report explains, but they are still not an integral part of disaster management and risk reduction globally. Nor is early action – the culture of prevention as the Hyogo Framework for Action called it – an effective and timely response to early
warning, across different timescales. This report argues that early warning without early action is not enough; early action can do more to reduce loss of life and protect livelihoods than can be achieved through emergency response alone. National governments, donors and all stakeholders must take up this challenge.

The report by chapters


Early warning and early action – an introduction
Modern early-warning systems emerged in the 1970s and 1980s in response to drought-induced famine in Africa. Now, other hazard-specific early-warning systems have emerged, especially in developed countries, for frequent hazards. Tornado-warning systems in the US, for example, and early-warning systems for volcanoes.Read chapter 1

Early warning – a people-centred approach and the last mile
The people-centred approach to early warning focuses on how communities can understand threats and avoid them. Disasters are partly caused by external hazards, but they also stem simply from vulnerability: people being in the wrong place without adequate protection. Read chapter 2

Early warning, early action – bridging timescales
Faced with rising risks associated with climate change, early action is more important than ever, but it works best when it spans a range of timescales – anticipating disaster by days, months, even decades. Read chapter 3

Climate change – the early warning
Climate change is offering us the ultimate early warning. There is a vast amount of scientific evidence uniting experts the world over, which points to a highly changeable climate for the coming decades and beyond. We have an opportunity for early action and we must seize it right now. Read chapter 4

Food insecurity – what actions should follow early warning?
There has been good progress in preventing the mass starvation last witnessed in the 1980s. But a similar pattern of food crises – though not as catastrophic – has continued more or less unabated since. In the Greater Horn of Africa, 20 million people face hunger, while transitory hunger and malnutrition, as a consequence of natural hazards or man-made crises, remain a major global challenge. Read chapter 5

Focus on early warning, early action
You can download the full version of the report here.


Opinion piece - Press release

Climate change: the ultimate early warning

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Humanitarians must adopt a new mindset and respond to the global economic crisis by fostering a cost-effective culture of prevention

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Hard copies

A few copies of the 2009 WDR are still available. Please contact wdr@ifrc.org if you require a copy.