Poverty & Death: Disaster mortality 1996-2015

This report analyses EM-DAT data of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters regarding disaster mortality and vulnerability around the world. Of the 1.35 million people killed by natural hazards over the past 20 years, more than half died in earthquakes, with the remainder due to weather- and climate-related hazards. The overwhelming majority of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The poorest nations paid the highest price in terms of the numbers killed per disaster and per 100,000 population. 

The first target of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is to save lives. The report points towards several major conclusions with implications for achieving this target:

  • The high death tolls from earthquakes, including tsunamis, over the last 20 years underlines the need to promote the mainstreaming of disaster risk assessments into land-use policy development and implementation, including urban planning, building codes and investing in earthquake-resistant infrastructure, notably housing, schools, health facilities and work places. 
  • It is clear that there needs to be more focus on alleviating the impact of climate change on countries which contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions but which suffer disproportionate losses of life.
  • Overall, there is much higher exposure to disasters and the risk of death in low and middle-income countries, which needs to be addressed through improved early warning systems, better preparedness, weather forecasting and greater investment in resilient infrastructure.
  • The continuing loss of life in high-income countries underlines how, even in the absence of a megadisaster, countries continue to be vulnerable to new emerging risk scenarios.
  • The three megadisasters (more than 100,000 fatalities) which marked the last 20 years underline the importance of preparing for worst-case scenarios where the evidence demonstrates that such events are predictable, and require strong disaster risk governance at the local, national, regional and global levels. 
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Related Links


Health & Health Facilities, Inclusion
Earthquake, Flood, Tsunami
The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2018, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 3-6 July 2018 The Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2018, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 3-6 July 2018.
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