Asia Pacific conference puts spotlight on world’s most disaster-prone area

Published: 18 November 2006

The humanitarian repercussions of the Lebanon hostilities, stopping the spread of infectious diseases and providing ongoing support for vulnerable people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are just a few of the issues to be discussed by representatives of nearly 50 Red Cross and Red Crescent societies from Asia and the Pacific, as well as the Middle East, at a major conference in Singapore next week.

Since 2000, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has supported assistance for more than 100 million people in Asia and the Pacific – the most disaster-prone and populated place on Earth. In addition, millions of vulnerable people in the Middle East, including families displaced by conflicts, have received help from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, during the same period.

“As the world’s largest humanitarian organization, the International Federation has both the know-how and the network of local staff and volunteers to get help where it’s needed fast during an emergency,” says

Tadateru Konoe, the International Federation’s vice president for Asia Pacific. “Meanwhile, our National Societies ensure that basic activities, like blood donations and first aid training, are carried out on a day-to-day basis. As a learning organization, we are always striving to adapt and respond to changing environments and situations, while becoming even more rapid and efficient, and that’s what this conference is all about.”

The four-day meeting in Singapore, which starts on 20 November, will examine ways to cut down on the number of deaths and injuries from disasters and disease in Asia Pacific and the Middle East, while harnessing the power of communities to become more resilient and better prepared for the next time disaster strikes. It will also set the Red Cross Red Crescent humanitarian agenda for these two diverse regions until 2010.

“This year alone, 15 Asian nations faced severe flooding, landslides and typhoons,” says Winston Choo, Chairman of the Singapore Red Cross, which is hosting the event. “It is very timely that this conference brings together National Societies from the region to learn from our experiences during disasters, like the tsunami, and put forward a regional strategy to protect our most vulnerable citizens and improve their lives.”
Since 1995, Asia has consistently ranked as the continent most frequently hit by natural catastrophes, accounting for 60 per cent of the world’s disasters and 78 per cent of global disaster-related deaths.

It is also home to two thirds of the world’s population. Meanwhile, the conflict-riddled Middle East is also extremely prone to earthquakes and drought, leaving residents exposed to the double threat of man-made and natural disasters.

“If we want to serve humanity effectively, we must see improved mechanisms in place to mobilize cash, goods and people when disasters hit, more young volunteers involved in promoting diversity and reducing discrimination, and firm progress made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the end of the decade,” says Federation President, Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro.