Disaster Reduction and the Human Cost of Disaster

Natural disasters are happening more often, and having an ever more dramatic impact on the world in terms of both their human and economic costs. While the number of lives lost has declined in the past 20 years - 800, 000 people died from natural disasters in the 1990s, compared with 2 million in the 1970s - the number of people affected has risen. Over the past decade, the total affected by natural disasters has tripled to 2 billion. According to the UN's Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, some 75 percent of the world's population live in areas that have been affected at least once by either an earthquake, a tropical cyclone, flooding or drought between 1980 and 2000. To what extent will the lessons learnt from the recent tsunami, and the resolutions of the Kobe world conference, be implemented to reduce the pain and loss disasters cause throughout the world? Perhaps more relevantly, questions remain concerning the estimated 2 billion people affected by natural disasters in the past decade: what quality of life can they hope to recover, and will their development reduce or increase the chances of future disaster?