World’s Spotlight Misses the True Cost of Disasters

The number of people affected by weather-related disasters has risen since 1982

People affected by weather related disasters

Weather-related disasters include those caused by heat waves or cold snaps, floods, landslides, avalanches, wildfires, hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, and winter storms. While these events are often perceived as natural, many human actions, including climate change, can have a hand in their creation.

Natural Disasters & Peacemaking

In 2006, the planet experienced more weather-related disasters than in any of the previous three years, but the economic losses associated with them fell sharply, from $219.6 billion in 2005 to $44.5 billion in 2006, thanks in part to a relatively quiet 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. With only 1 to 3 percent of households and businesses in low-and middle-income countries insured against disasters, compared with 30 percent in high-income countries, the full economic toll from disasters is often difficult to calculate, says Worldwatch Research Associate Zoe Chafe.

When floods recede or storm clouds dissipate, the real suffering begins for survivors. Nearly 5.4 million people became homeless as a result of a disaster last year, and other “secondary” disasters often follow: sexual harassment in camps, domestic violence, child labor and trafficking, poor resettlement plans, and ongoing disabilities.

While economic losses decreased, human deaths from disasters were up 24 percent in 2006. Floods, which affected 87 countries, were responsible for more deaths than any other weather-related disaster. The Horn of Africa was particularly hard hit by flooding, while Typhoon Saomai became the strongest storm to make landfall over China in 50 years, destroying 50,000 homes and forcing more than a million people to evacuate.

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