‘Response strategy to inform recovery beyond Covid-19’

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on January 17, 2021

Converging disasters claim 3.72 lakh lives in Asia-Pac

Disaster management and public health systems’ capacity to respond to new climate-health-disaster nexus will inform the recovery from Covid-19 and beyond, says Sanjay Srivastava, Chief, Disaster Risk Reduction, of the Bangkok-based UN-ESCAP.

The year that went by (2020) saw the South and South-West Asia sub-region ending up impacted worst by climate-related natural disasters, followed by South-East Asia, East and North East Asia, the Pacific, and North and Central Asia, Srivastava wrote to BusinessLine in an email.

Brainstorming on the way forward

A Special High-Level Meeting on Disaster and Climate Resilience held in December saw ministers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, and Pakistan make recommendations on the way forward to scale up regional cooperation and build back better with disaster and climate resilience in the post-Covid-19 era.

Climate extremes and Covid-19 created multi-hazards disasters with wide-ranging impacts on sectors, economies, and populations, presenting a new landscape of cascading risks. Srivastava said these call for a paradigm shift from a single hazard, single-sector perspective to a multi-hazard, multi-sectoral and systemic risk perspective.

Push to extreme poverty

The impact of Covid-19 in disaster-risk hotspots such as the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Meghna and Indus basins; typhoon tracks of South-East Asia; and the dust belts of South and South-West Asia could push populations living near the poverty line into extreme poverty.

Climate-related disasters affected over 75 million people and caused almost 6,000 deaths in the region during the year. Of these deaths, floods contributed to 68 per cent, followed by tropical cyclones (16 per cent) and landslides (15 per cent). Additionally, 21 million Covid-19 cases were reported, along with approximately 3.66 lakh deaths, Srivastava observed.

Convergence of disasters

While deaths caused by climate-related disasters were far lower than those caused by Covid-19, they impacted three times more. Together, the converging disasters resulted in at least 3.72 lakh deaths and affected more than 96 million people.

Heavy monsoon flooding in India is a prime example of this convergence. In Assam, the highest single-day spike of over 1,200 Covid-19 cases occurred during the heaviest floods and multiplied the impacts on vulnerable populations. New cascading risks will likely create additional hotspots of vulnerabilities, impoverishing people and reversing progress towards a host of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Published on January 17, 2021

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