Dramatic rise in economic losses as region grows wealthier - World Bank

A tsunami in the Indian Ocean has triggered an evacuation order

Cities in the East Asia Pacific region are becoming increasingly vulnerable to disasters due to rapid growth and poor planning, according to a report from the World Bank.

As a result, economic losses are rising sharply as the region becomes richer.

The World Bank said that policy makers could make a significant difference to ensure that progress in development and poverty reduction was not lost by acting now to build resilience.

It wants them to invest in disaster preparedness, such as strengthening hazard forecast services and restoring natural ecosystems.

World Bank East Asia and Pacific Vice President Axel van Trotsenburg said: “East Asia Pacific is the region that is most affected by cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes and floods.

“To confront these disaster challenges, governments need to be prepared for the unexpected and undertake major investments in disaster risk management and resilience.

 “In doing so, they should make disaster risk management part of poverty alleviation and sustainable development because the poor are disproportionately affected by disasters.”

According to the report, entitled “Strong, Safe and Resilient – A Strategic Policy Guide for Disaster Risk Management in the East Asia and the Pacific,” more than 1.6 billion people were affected by disasters in the region since 2000.

In the past 20 years, 61% of global losses from disasters were sustained by the region. Globally, economic losses from disasters have been increasing at a quickening pace, with costs 15 times higher in the 1990s than in the 1950s, and the year 2011 was the costliest on record.

In relative terms, the Pacific Island countries are the most affected in the world, with average annualized losses estimated for Vanuatu and Tonga at 6.6% and 4.4% of GDP respectively.

Driven by rapid economic growth and urbanisation, with a greater concentration of people and assets in cities, this trend is expected to continue.