Poverty & death: disaster and mortality 1996-2015
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.
Of the 1.35 million people killed by natural hazards over the past 20 years, more than half died in earthquakes, with the remainder due to weather- and climate-related hazards. The overwhelming majority of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The poorest nations paid the highest price in terms of the numbers killed per disaster and per 100,000 population.
The global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted by all UN member States in March 2015, sets a target for a substantial reduction in global disaster mortality; the statistics in this report point towards several major conclusions with implications for achieving this target:
- the high death tolls from earthquakes, including tsunamis, over the last 20 years is a deeply troubling trend given the pace of urbanization around the world in many seismic zones. This underlines the need to promote the mainstreaming of disaster risk assessments into land-use policy development and implementation, including urban planning, building codes and investing in earthquake-resistant infrastructure, notably housing, schools, health facilities and work places. The private sector, and the construction industry in particular, need to be partners in this endeavour
- while better data is needed on overall disaster mortality, particularly in relation to weather- and climate-related hazards in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, it is clear that there needs to be more focus on alleviating the impact of climate change on countries which contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions but which suffer disproportionate losses of life because of extreme weather events exacerbated by rising sea levels and the warming of the land and sea