Reducing the Impact of Natural Disasters
The Impact of Natural Disasters Around the World
During the last decade alone, disasters have significantly affected about 2.5 billion people. The number of people affected by disasters has doubled since the 1990s, with an average of 188 million people affected each year.
According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, natural disasters caused some 16,500 deaths and an estimated US$62.5 billion in damages and economic losses around the world in 2007.
In addition, trends suggest that the impact of natural disasters is intensifying, with an increasing effect on poor nations largely due to growing populations and a greater vulnerability to natural hazards. Factors contributing to this increase in vulnerability include rapid urbanization, poor urban and rural planning and governance, and environmental degradation.
The Government of Canada views reducing the impact of natural disasters as an integral component of poverty reduction and sustainable development. Disasters threaten livelihoods as well as international and national efforts to advance development and eradicate poverty. Even if it is not possible to prevent natural disasters, much can be done to build capacities to reduce the vulnerabilities that too often lead to a crisis situation.
As many Canadians witnessed after the 2004 tsunami in Asia, the Government of Canada has robust and well-tested mechanisms and procedures to respond to natural disasters abroad.
In addition, many initiatives and programs are executed throughout the year to ensure efficient proactive planning. The importance of prevention, mitigation and preparedness in limiting the impact of natural disasters has guided the Government of Canada in its approach to disaster reduction.
Canada works to reduce the impact of natural disasters throughout the development of policies and programming, while encouraging countries to incorporate climate change adaptation needs into their poverty reduction strategies. Governments, from the local to the national level, bear the primary responsibility for protecting their populations from natural hazards and for responding to the humanitarian needs created by natural disasters.
Through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Canada provides proactive financial support to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and other key international disaster risk reduction actors for their preparedness, mitigation, and early warning activities in support of the Hyogo Framework.
Canada also supports international and multilateral organizations, such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination system, UNESCO, and the World Meteorological Organization, to strengthen risk reduction and disaster management capacity in their work at the global, regional, national, and local levels. Support is also provided for key regional initiatives, such as the World Bank's Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance FacilityFootnote * (PDF, 405 KB, 4 pages).
For the complete list of Canada's disaster preparedness and response projects for international development, visit the Project Browser - International Humanitarian Assistance.
The Importance of Prevention, Mitigation, and Preparedness
The importance of prevention, mitigation and preparedness in limiting the impact of natural disasters has guided the Government of Canada in its approach to disaster reduction.
- Disaster prevention includes activities to avoid the adverse impact of hazards. Good planning is an example of disaster prevention (e.g. the decision not to build houses in a disaster-prone area). Depending on social, technical, and economic feasibility, investing in preventive measures is justified in areas frequently affected by disasters.
- Disaster mitigation includes measures taken in advance of a disaster aimed at decreasing its impact on society and the environment (e.g. developing building codes, reinforcing key structures such as hospitals).
- Disaster preparedness includes pre- and post-emergency measures designed to minimize the loss of life, and to organize and facilitate timely effective rescue, relief, and rehabilitation in case of disaster (e.g. developing disaster plans and organizing simulation activities to prepare for an eventual disaster relief operation).
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