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Philippines 4th most disaster-prone country in the world — UN report


The Philippines was fourth in the world among countries hit by the highest number of disasters over the past 20 years, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

A total of 274 disasters were recorded in the Philippines from 1995 to 2015, trailing the United States (472), China (441), and India (288).

The information comes from The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters report covering weather-related disasters from 1995 to 2015.

The Philippines is also among the top 10 countries with the highest absolute number of affected people, with 130 million.

The report found that 90 percent of major disasters were caused by weather-related events. A collaboration by the UNISDR and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), the study reports that 606,000 people died and 4.1 billion people were injured or left homeless because of the aforementioned disasters.

The human impact of the disasters were most felt in Asia, with 332,000 deaths and 3.7 billion people affected.

“Weather and climate are major drivers of disaster risk and this report demonstrates that the world is paying a high price in lives lost,” said Margareta Wahlström, head of UNISDR.

“Economic losses are a major development challenge for many least developed countries battling climate change and poverty.”

"Weather-related disasters are becoming increasingly frequent," the report read. An average of 335 weather-related disasters per year were recorded from 2005-2014 worldwide, 14 percent higher than the number from 1995-2004.

Floods were responsible for majority of recorded weather-related disasters at more than 40 percent, followed by storms with more than 20 percent.

The Philippines is also currently the fifth most vulnerable country in terms of disaster risk implications for development capacity, according to the UNISDR 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.

PHL the face of vulnerability

Climate Change Commissioner Emmanuel De Guzman validated the findings of the UN report.

"With these serious realities and the many recurring and lingering images of the tragic impacts of extreme weather events in our communities, the Philippines, in the eyes of the world, has inevitably become the face of climate vulnerability, and Manila a most fitting starting point for mobilizing global climate action on the road to Paris COP21 and beyond," De Guzman said when sought for comment.

De Guzman said the country's laws on climate change and disaster risk reduction, provided a "strong legal and policy framework."

"However, their full implementation entails at all levels strong political will, cooperation and coordination among agencies and stakeholders concerned, resources as well as resourcefulness of local leaders," De Guzman said.

"Convergence of actions is key to reducing effectively climate and disaster risks in our local communities," he added.

Climate change

The report noted that while there was no way to establish how much of the rise in such disasters was caused by climate change, the link between the planet's changing climate and extreme weather was clear. 

"The contents of this report underline why it is so important that a new climate change agreement emerges from the COP21 in Paris", said  Wahlström, referring to crunch climate talks starting next week.

The talks that open in the French capital on November 30 are tasked with crafting a 195-nation pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions blamed for dangerous levels of climate change.

Between 2005 and 2014, the leading database that tracks weather-linked disasters recorded 335 such incidents, a 14 percent increase compared to the previous decade and nearly double the number recorded from 1985 to 1994.

Overall, the report said, the planet has seen "a sustained rise in the numbers of floods and storms", noting that drought, heatwaves and extreme cold were also growing concerns.

According to UNISDR data, flooding accounted for 47 percent of all weather disasters over the last 20 years, affecting more than 2.3 billion people, the vast majority of whom live in Asia. 

A full 75 percent of the 4.1 billion people affected were in either China or India, underscoring the extent to which densely populated areas in those countries were disproportionately vulnerable.

Next in line in terms of the number of people affected over the reporting period were Bangladesh (131 million people) and the Philippines (130 million people), while Brazil (51 million people) led the way in the Americas and Kenya was the most affected country in Africa (47 million people).

The report also detailed the heavy damage to property and infrastructure inflicted by extreme weather.

This includes 87 million homes damaged or destroyed, with hundreds of thousands of schools, hospitals and other key facilities affected worldwide.

In total, UNISDR data counted $1.9 trillion (1.8 trillion euros) in financial losses attributable to extreme weather events.

Given the correlation between climate change and extreme weather, the planet will "witness a continued upward trend in weather-related disasters in the decades ahead," the report warned. —with a report from Jam Sisante and Agence France-Presse/JST/NB, GMA News 

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