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Chances Of Dying In Natural Disaster Decreasing, Economic Costs Increasing Worldwide, U.N. Report Says

The risk of dying in a natural disaster is decreasing worldwide, but the economic toll weather-related catastrophes inflict is rising “often due to a lack of investment,” according to a new U.N. report released in Geneva on Tuesday, Reuters reports. According to the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, “[d]amage to infrastructure – schools, health centers, roads, bridges – is soaring in many low- and middle-income countries despite improvements in many early warning systems,” the news agency writes (Nebehay, 5/10).

The report, released in conjunction with a four-day biennial U.N. conference on disaster risk, “estimated that the amount of global GDP exposed to harm by disasters had nearly tripled from $525.7 billion 40 years ago to $1.58 trillion,” according to Agence France-Presse. “The report also reiterated warnings about growing pattern of extreme weather events that has been linked to climate change,” AFP adds.

Though nations have made improvements in early warning systems and disaster response, many governments said in the survey they were having difficulties implementing disaster reduction measures, including land planning, safe building codes, or slope stabilization, the news agency reports (5/10).

“One of the reasons why countries aren’t investing enough in disaster risk management is probably, to put it in simple terms, human nature. All of us as individuals and governments in particular do tend to heavily discount very low probability future events,” Andrew Maskrey, coordinator of the report, said, adding, “It is very clear from the economic evidence that prevention is better than cure,” according to Reuters (5/10).

“This Global Assessment Report shows us, without a doubt, that risks are accumulating in all economies. We ignore it, literally, at our peril. This report only confirms what we already suspected and I think we’re beginning to realize that it is time to band together and take the action necessary to stem the widespread economic and developmental losses we are witnessing,” Maskrey said in a press release from the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat (5/10). 

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