Poverty & Death: Disaster Mortality 1995-2015, o novo relatório da ONU (UNISDR)


O Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) e o Escritório das Nações Unidas para a Redução do Risco de Desastres (UNISDR) lançaram em 13 de outubro de 2016 um novo relatório – “Poverty & Death: Disaster Mortality 1995-2015” –, alertando para a muito maior vulnerabilidade dos países pobres  em face dos 7.056 desastres naturais registrados entre 1996 e 2015, nos quais perderam a vida cerca de 1.350.000 pessoas, 90% das quais habitantes de países de baixa ou média renda. Essa brutal desproporção, de que o furacão que devastou o Haiti em outubro de 2016 é outra recente evidência, foi qualificada por Ban-ki Moon, como uma “acusação condenatória de desigualdade” (“a damning indictment of inequality”).

O relatório ressalta também a constante elevação  de eventos desastrosos ligados às mudanças climáticas, sobretudo inundações, furacões, ondas de calor extremo e secas mais severas. “No total, o número de desastres relacionados à metereologia e ao clima mais que dobrou nos últimos 40 anos”, afirma o relatório. De fato, tais desastres ligados a fatores preponderantemente antropogênicos aumentaram de 3.017 eventos no vintênio 1976-1995 para 6.392 eventos no vintênio 1996-2015. “Tempestades tornaram-se o segundo tipo de desastre natural mais letal na década passada, após os terremotos” (Storms became the second most deadly type of natural disaster in the past decade after earthquakes). Além disso, em 2015, o ano em que as temperaturas médias globais foram as mais elevadas dos registros históricos (e elas devem ser superadas por 2016), quase tantas pessoas morreram em ondas de calor extremo quanto no terrível terremoto de abril de 2015 no Nepal.  Apenas em 2015, contabilizam-se 32 secas graves (major droughts) no planeta, o dobro da média anual (16) durante a década passada (2006-2015). Veja-se abaixo o link desse relatório e algumas passagens de seu sumário:


The period 1996 to 2015 saw 7,056 disasters recorded worldwide by EM-DAT, the Emergency Events Database. The frequency of geophysical disasters (primarily earthquakes, including tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions) remained broadly constant throughout this period but there was a sustained rise in climate- and weather-related events (floods, storms and heatwaves in particular) which accounted for the majority of disaster deaths in most years. In total, the number of weather- and climate-related disasters more than doubled over the past forty years, accounting for 6,392 events in the 20-year period 1996-2015, up from 3,017 in 1976-1995. In 2015, the hottest year on record, almost as many people died in heatwaves as were killed in the Nepalese earthquake. There was also a doubling of major reported droughts (32) by comparison with the annual average of 16 over the decade 2006-2015. In terms of disaster mortality, EM-DAT recorded 749,000 earthquake deaths in the past 20 years, with 357,000 lives lost between 2006 and 2015, the majority in the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. In the previous decade (1996- 2005) earthquakes claimed 392,000 lives, a figure inflated by another megadisaster, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Analysis of EM-DAT data shows that tsunamis were 16 times more deadly than ground movements in terms of the proportion of victims killed. That makes tsunamis (a sub-type of earthquake) the most deadly major hazard on the planet.

BOX 1 – The Hyogo Years

The last decade saw a concerted worldwide effort to reduce disaster losses following the adoption of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. UNISDR’s assessment of progress during that decade is that advances have been made in strengthening disaster preparedness, response and early warning capacities but there is ample room for improvement.

Progress has been limited in most countries when it comes to managing the underlying risks such as poverty, environmental degradation, shortcomings in disaster risk governance, rapid urbanization, climate change and population growth in hazard-exposed areas. From 2006 to 2015, there was further evidence of the rising human cost of weather- and climate-related disasters, with 48.7% of all lives lost to natural hazards in that period due to storms, extreme temperatures, flood, drought, landslides and wildfires, up from 39.6% between 1996 and 2005. Storms became the second most deadly type of natural disaster in the past decade after earthquakes, due mainly to 138,000 deaths in Cyclone Nargis which struck a largely unprepared Myanmar in 2008.

In total, storms killed 174,000 people between 2006 and 2015. This was nearly one quarter of all deaths from natural hazards during that decade and far higher than the 65,000 storm deaths recorded in 1996- 2005. However, Cyclone Nargis obscured an underlying downward trend in storm deaths across most countries despite population growth in hazard-exposed areas. Record-breaking heatwaves made extreme temperatures the third most lethal type of disaster in the past decade. In 2006-2015, a sharp increase in mortality in Russia was offset by declines in heatwave deaths in Western Europe, resulting in a fall in reported global fatalities in this category from 87,000 (1996-2005) to 79,000 (2006- 2015). However, heatwave deaths are widely underestimated so the true figures for both decades were doubtlessly much higher.

Floods remained the most common type of disaster during the Hyogo decade, accounting for 47% of all disasters in 2006-2015, up from 40% in 1996-2005. Flood mortality fell to 57,000 lives lost between 2006 and 2015 from 93,000 in the previous decade. This fall reflected a sharp drop in flood deaths in Venezuela, where a single catastrophe – the Vargas landslides and floods – cost more than 30,000 lives in 1999. Flood mortality has also declined in China. Further progress on reducing flood mortality continues to be a challenge.

Overall, natural hazards were both more frequent and more deadly decade-on-decade. Earthquakes caused increasing numbers of deaths per disaster. With the exception of Cyclone Nargis, the average numbers dying in storms declined decade-on-decade and the average number of deaths per flood also fell markedly. If Cyclone Nargis is excluded then the average numbers of deaths from both storms and floods declined. In 2009, UNISDR published its first biennial Global Assessment Report: on Disaster Risk Reduction: Risk and poverty in a changing climate. One of its conclusions was that data limitations combined with the unpredictable and unique nature of hazards mean that much uncertainty remains in the understanding of disaster risk. Nonetheless, it found that “relative mortality risk is approximately 200 times higher in low-income countries than in OECD countries and approximately 30 times greater in low human development countries than in high human development countries.” This present report provides further evidence of this stark inequality between rich and poor.

Overall, there is much higher exposure to disasters and the risk of death in low and middle-income countries which needs to be addressed through improved early warning systems, better preparedness, weather forecasting and greater investment in resilient infrastructure; • The continuing loss of life in high-income countries underlines how, even in the absence of a megadisaster, countries continue to be vulnerable to new emerging risk scenarios as evidenced by the triple nuclear, earthquake and tsunami disaster which overtook Japan in 2011, also Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, and the 2003 heatwaves which claimed 70,000 lives in Europe. Policies and practices for disaster risk management should be based on an understanding of disaster risk in all its dimensions and must be factored into both public and private sector investment decisions. Particular attention must be paid to vulnerable groups. A disproportionately high number of older people died in Hurricane Katrina and the 2003 heatwaves, for example; • The three megadisasters (more than 100,000 fatalities) which marked the last 20 years demonstrate the truth of the statement that the worst disasters which could happen have not happened yet. The Indian Ocean Tsunami, Cyclone Nargis and the Haitian earthquake all underline the importance of preparing for worst-case scenarios where the evidence demonstrates that such events are predictable, and require strong disaster risk governance at the local, national, regional and global levels.

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