World Disasters Report 2010 - Urban Risk

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Chapter 1 - Avoiding the urbanization of disaster risk

What can be termed “the vulnerability gap” in urban areas brings with it a need to consider why more disaster risk is in urban areas and what this implies for development and for disaster risk reduction. The vulnerability gap is produced by two factors: the lack of knowledge and financial capacity (and sometimes willingness) of urban authorities to reduce risks and vulnerabilities; and a high proportion of urban households and communities limited in their capacity to reduce risk by inadequate incomes and limited political influence.

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Chapter 2 - Urban disaster trends

Of all large disasters, seismic events have killed the greatest number of people in recent years, averaging 50,184 people per year from 2000 to 2008. Flood events have affected the largest numbers of people, averaging 99 million people per year between 2000 and 2008. While we do not know how many people affected by floods live in urban areas, we can understand that it must be a significant proportion. One of the key elements to reduce disaster risk is to better understand how urban areas are at risk and how these patterns of risk differ from rural areas.

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Chapter 3: Starting over: community rights and post-disaster response

Unless disaster aid quickly learns to work with the untitled, the unregistered, the unlisted and the undocumented, it can support and even reinforce the inequalities that existed prior to the disaster. Fine words about ‘rebuilding a new, safe city’ and ‘decentralizing’ to avoid the previous high concentration of informal settlements, usually translate into distant camps and reconstruction sites where no one wants to live. Post-disaster responses have to strengthen and support the survivors’ own organizations.

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Chapter 4 - Urban violence

Two sets of factors in particular are linked to higher levels of urban violence: Socio-economic factors which entrench poverty, exclusion and inequality, and Political-institutional factors which can produce a crisis of governance. Deprivation of human needs is an important underlying source of social conflict. In the context of rapid urbanization, government failure to provide security and basic social services like clean water, sanitation, health and education, may fuel tensions between groups competing for scarce resources.

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Chapter 5 - Urban risk to health

People in well-organized urban environments can generally expect to live longer as they will also be well informed about the health benefits of not smoking, hygiene, good diet and exercise. The other end of the urban health spectrum can be found in low and middle income countries where most of the world’s impoverished urban dwellers live. In households lacking basic shelter services – water supply and sanitation in particular – the prevalence rate of diarrhea among urban children soars.

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Chapter 6 – Urbanization and climate change risk

The links between urban poverty and disaster risk will be increased by climate change. Tens of millions of urban dwellers face, or will soon face, life-threatening risks from the increased intensity of storms, flooding and heat waves that climate change is bringing, with associated threats to their livelihoods, their asset bases (including housing), environmental quality and future prosperity. Here, it is largely those people and nations that have contributed least to global warming that face the largest risks.

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Chapter 7 – Urban governance and disaster risk reduction

The quality and capacity of local government in a city greatly influence the level of risk that its population faces from disasters and whether risk-reducing infrastructure serves everyone including those living in low-income areas. Local government also has great influence on the levels of risk from everyday hazards such as vector-borne diseases and traffic accidents. These risks are not an inherent characteristic of cities but the result of the limitations of their governments in meeting their responsibilities.

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