Broadcast: February 23, 2004
This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.
A United Nations report says better planning could help developing countries reduce deaths from natural disasters. One-million-five-hundred-thousand people died in natural disasters between nineteen-eighty and two-thousand. These included earthquakes, volcanoes, storms and severe dry periods. On an average day, one-hundred-eighty-four people die in natural disasters.
These are the findings of a new study by the U-N Development Program. An international team of experts examined information collected over twenty years. They found that disasters put development at risk. And they also found that the choices that individuals, communities and nations make can create new risks.
Researchers found that earthquakes killed more people by comparison in countries with high growth rates in cities. They say this is mainly because of poor quality housing and crowded conditions. Flooding caused more deaths in countries with widely spread populations. Rescue workers have a hard time reaching victims.
Things like armed conflicts can turn dry weather into situations where people starve. Droughts and floods can also increase the spread of disease.
The researchers created a special measure to show that poverty and the risk of dying in a disaster are linked. They call it a Disaster Risk Index. They gathered the number of people exposed to disasters in more than two-hundred nations. Then they compared those numbers to the populations of the countries.
The researchers found that only eleven percent of people exposed to natural disasters live in developing nations. However, these people represent more than fifty-three percent of the deaths recorded.
The study urges governments to develop better city planning. It also urges them to improve methods to rescue disaster victims. More importantly, the researchers say a strong government structure is needed. They say this can reduce disaster risks and improve development.
The U-N researchers say they hope the study will improve understanding of the relationship between disaster risk and development. Their report is called “Reducing Disaster Risk: A Challenge for Development.”
This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.