Community resilience must be strengthened to face the disastrous results of climate change

Published: 9 October 2007

With climate change fuelling a dramatic escalation in the frequency and intensity of disasters, the United Nations and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are calling on governments to significantly increase their commitment to disaster risk reduction.

This call came today at a meeting to which all member states of the United Nations were invited, where the International Federation, in partnership with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR), laid out its strategic vision for increasing Red Cross Red Crescent efforts to reduce the impact of natural hazards such as floods and hurricanes, on disaster-prone communities, by scaling up pre-emptive actions to protect life, limit damage and increase resilience.

“Disaster risk reduction is a key part of the global response to climate change,” explained John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Head of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. “Climate change is already driving an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves, floods, droughts and tropical cyclones. We believe that more needs to be done to contain these natural hazards at the outset.”

More than 250 million people a year are now affected by so-called natural catastrophes, a third more than a decade ago, and in countries of low human development, catastrophic events have doubled.

Between 2004 and 2006, the number of disasters the Red Cross and Red Crescent responded to each year increased from 278 to 482. Significantly, floods and other meteorological events influenced by climate change drove this rise. In 2004, the Red Cross and Red Crescent responded to 54 floods. By 2006 this figure had jumped to 121. Already this year, the International Federation has responded to more than 100 floods. For its part, the United Nations this year has already launched 13 Emergency Appeals, breaking the record of 10 Emergency Appeals in one year. Of the 13 appeals, 12 have been for aid in response to climatic disasters.

“Despite landmark commitments from some countries, some estimates suggest that as little as four per cent of annual humanitarian assistance goes towards proactively reducing disaster risk,” said Markku Niskala, Secretary General of the International Federation. “We maintain that this must be more than doubled if we as an international community are to take real strides towards securing the future of vulnerable people.”

The Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction represents the Red Cross and Red Crescent’s strong commitment to increasing its community-based risk reduction efforts, in line with the Hyogo Framework for Action. The Global Alliance will be rolled out over the next 12 months. The International Federation is an active partner in the ISDR which includes UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, governments and local authorities, along with institutions such as meteorological offices and the World Bank.

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