Will unprepared countries be able to survive the forthcoming tragedies?

By Email author - Sat, 19 Jul 2014 04:01:00 GMT
Will unprepared countries be able to survive the forthcoming tragedies?

The October 2010 floods in Thailand were the worst on record, with thousands of hectares covered, up to the doors of Bangkok, and destroying much of the area's rice crop; Thai image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Extreme weather and other natural calamities do not have to claim tens of thousands of lives and millions in damages. The extent of damage does not only depend on the magnitude or frequency of disasters but also on a population's vulnerability. The - 2014 Global Climate Risk Index by Germanwatch showed that poor and developing countries are generally more at risk with Haiti and the Philippines topping the list. Last November, Typhoon Haiyan - the strongest typhoon to make landfall in history battered some 40 provinces and claimed more than 6,000 lives.

Climate change is only going to make things worse. The world has become more vulnerable than ever and disaster risk reduction and having a solid emergency plan should already be rather common by now. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In most developing and underdeveloped countries, survival in the face of disasters is a luxury.

How bad is it?

Disasters can strike at any time, in any place. Climate experts including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predict extreme weather events will occur more frequently and with enhanced intensity from now on. Scientists of the IPCC are 99-100% certain the world will experience an increase in warm daily temperatures as well as a decrease in cold temperatures throughout the 21st century. In short, when it is hot, it is super hot and when it is cold, it is extremely cold.

The report also claims that it is “very likely” that the average sea level will rise and will add to upward trends in extreme coastal high water levels. It is also “likely” that the average maximum wind speed of typhoons and hurricanes will rise and economic losses due to disasters are also expected to rise with developing countries taking much of the toll.

Rich or poor: Does it matter?

A study by the European Parliamentary Technology Assessment revealed that 95% of deaths from rapid onset disasters like floods and earthquakes take place in developing countries. The study shows that the impact of a calamity is closely linked to the level of a country's development. For example, the earthquake in Haiti caused 230,000 deaths while a stronger quake in Chile only claimed over 800 lives.

Nature also had a lot of people on the run in 2012. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center reported that 32 million people were forced to flee their homes due to natural disasters. That is twice as many as data from 2011. In the last five years, more than 80% of global displacement occurred in Asia, often in India due to frequent floods. Africa saw a record number of newly displaced people with 8.2 million.

This does not mean that rich countries should not be calamity-ready. A recent report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that the world's richest countries had their fair share of more intense disasters over the past decade and warned that disasters will be more frequent in the coming years. The economic loss from calamities is becoming more expensive over time and disasters have cost hundreds of billions over the past decade. This blow is likely to impact the rest of the world as OECD countries account for 59% of the world's total gross domestic product (GDP) and 95% of world development assistance. The World Bank estimates that economic losses caused by extreme weather currently stand at £120 billion a year.

The cost of natural disasters have seen dramatic increase that even the world's most advanced economies are feeling the effect. Some of the representatives from the wealthiest countries threatened to walk out of the UN Climate Summit in Warsaw if developing countries will force them to foot the bill once disaster strikes.

Are you ready?

Let’s take America, for example. It is a nation with an advanced economy, but are Americans ready when disaster strikes? According to a study by Kelton Research for National Geographic, nine out of ten Americans expect a world disaster to happen in the next quarter century or in their lifetime. However, half or 56% admit they don’t have an emergency plan.

A similar survey conducted by the Ad Council in 2013 found that most families do not have a preparedness guide to stick to. The survey reveals that six out of 10 American families would not know who to call, where to go, what to bring, and what to do. Only 19% are confident they are "very prepared" for a disaster.

In fact, even the very basic type of preparation which is maintaining emergency survival kits seems like a lot of work for most Americans. A - national poll by the Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation reveals that 44% of Americans do not have first aid kits, 48% do not have emergency and food supplies, 52% have not prepared documents, and 52% do not have a designated meeting place.

Too Much Prepping?

When it comes to preparation, preppers have a mouthful to say. They are regular people with regular lives, who, just like all of us, would do anything to protect their homes and families. A 2012 article by the Daily Mail estimated the number of preppers at three million in the U.S. alone. In September 2012, a poll by National Geographic indicated that 28% of Americans knew at least one prepper. You could be living next to a prepper and may not know it.

Prepping and getting ready for the end of the world is not a new concept and not strictly American either. - This growing community does not only have food supplies and survival kits, they have a stockpile of food and strive to be nutritionally self-sufficient. They are trained with survival skills, build a fortress, and have an escape plan.

To most people, preppers are over the top doomsters, mad, and crazy. For preppers, all that matters is that they survive.

Prepper or not, all of us should be prepared. Whether we live in a rich or poor country does not matter. Disasters do not discriminate and by all indications, they will be more ruthless. They will keep getting stronger but the extent of damage largely depends on whether the population can handle it.