Asia economic losses from calamities estimated at $675B

drought El Nino 082319 - Asia economic losses from calamities estimated at $675B

A UNITED NATIONS (UN) agency estimated the annual economic losses in Asia and the Pacific from disasters at more than half a trillion dollars, and urged countries to invest in prevention and resiliency measures to manage the risk because disasters are getting worse.

In the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2019 launched Thursday, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) reported that recent disasters in Asia and the Pacific have been stronger than usual, leaving countries unprepared for the impact. The disasters include earthquakes, tropical cyclones, floods, tsunamis, and drought.

“The annual economic loss for Asia and the Pacific is now $675 billion, or around 2.4% of the region’s GDP, of which $405 billion or 60% are drought-related agricultural losses, impacting the rural poor disproportionately,” UN ESCAP said in a statement Thursday.

The report said losses have been rising since there are more physical assets at risk, noting that disaster risks are outpacing economic growth in Asia and the Pacific. The increase in the number of disasters is attributed to climate change, to which 96% of people living in the region are exposed.

Risks are also becoming more “complex” than before, making it hard for countries in the region to determine what kind of preparation is needed.

The Philippines’ multi-hazard average annual loss (AAL) was estimated at $20 billion. The total proportion of the Philippine population living in high-risk areas is 75.8%.

ESCAP also noted that disasters worsen inequality and poverty in the region. The report also encouraged countries to invest in disaster resilience and enact the needed social policies in order to keep poverty from worsening due to disasters.

“With disaster risk, 119 million people are projected to be living in extreme poverty in these countries in 2030. However, investing in line with global averages in education, health and social protection will bring this number down, to 80 million, 69 million and 53 million, respectively,” the report said.

The Philippines needs to invest an additional $10 billion per year in order to get ahead of the disaster risk.

ESCAP said additional investments will be more beneficial for society if policy makers are capable of assessing disaster risks on individual sectors. UNESCAP added, “the benefits of increased investment can only be amplified when governments are more risk-informed in their decision-making. This requires a comprehensive portfolio of sectoral investments combined with interventions for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.” — Gillian M. Cortez

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