$1.15 trillion: Counting the cost of disaster for Asia-Pacific

New UN Report tracks natural disasters over past 45 years

88 per cent of the people affected by natural disasters worldwide in the past 45 years live in the Asia and Pacific region. Within the same span, the region has lost two million lives and US $1.15 trillion, accounting for 56.6 and 41 per cent of global disaster impacts respectively.

A new report issued this week by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) at the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, illustrates how floods, storms, earthquakes and tsunamis have been the most violent natural disasters in the region, claiming 92 per cent of lives lost and 76 per cent of economic losses.

The Overview of Natural Disasters and their Impacts in Asia and the Pacific, 1970 – 2014 shows a decline in the average number of fatalities per event, despite a rise in the number of natural disasters. However, the economic losses in the region have surged significantly from US$ 5 billion per year in the 1970s to around US$ 75 billion per year in recent years.

“Our review of the natural disaster effects of the last 45 years proves that disasters reverse socio-economic gains, disrupt long term growth paths and pose phenomenal challenges to government and the private sector. The region needs to build resilience to disaster in order to protect its growth prospects. Economic losses have increased by almost 15 times in the last 45 years,” said Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Executive Secretary of ESCAP who is in Sendai raising the issue that building resilience to disasters is crucial for protecting sustainable development gains.

Highlights of the new research include the insights that:

  • Six billion people from the region were affected by disasters over the same period, or 87.6 per cent of people affected globally.
  • Between 1970 and 2014 the world saw 11,985 natural hazard events affecting six billion people. Of these, 5,139 natural disasters took place in Asia and the Pacific region, 1,652 in South and South-West Asia (the highest number cases) followed by a total of 1,000 for South East Asia and East and North-East Asia combined.
  • The report finds that the least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States are highly exposed to disaster risk. LDCs lost on average US$ 592 million per year on average, a significant part of their GDP
  • Download a copy of Overview of Natural Disasters and their Impacts in Asia and the Pacific, 1970 – 2014