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Disasters cost the world 300 bln USD per year: UN

UNITED NATIONS, March 4 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon said on Wednesday disasters cost globally more than 300 billion U.S. dollars in losses every year, urging the world to act on disaster risk reduction.

"This staggering price tag affects the ability of governments to provide basic services," said Ban when he launched a report entitled the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.

"It diverts funds from critical infrastructure. Businesses suffer. There are fewer jobs and less income," he added, referring to the possible impacts of natural disasters on countries if they don't have risk reduction measures adopted in advance.

The report, prepared by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), which focuses on "Making Development Sustainable," states that economic losses from disasters are now reaching an average of 250 billion to 300 billion dollars annually.

"If we do not address risk reduction, future losses from disaster will increase and this will impact countries' capacity to invest money in other areas such as health and education," the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlstrom, said in a press release.

According to the report, an annual global investment of 6 billion dollars in disaster risk management strategies would generate total benefits in terms of risk reduction of 360 billion dollars, equivalent to a 20 percent reduction of new and additional annual economic losses.

It also pointed out that the majority of governments are too focused on managing disasters rather than tackling the underlying drivers of disaster risk such as poverty, climate change, the decline of protective eco-systems.

By charting a path toward a more disaster-resilient future, the report shows how investing in risk prevention pays high dividends while saving lives, while highlighting several areas of disaster risk reduction, including development and implementation of early warning system.

"Improvements in risk monitoring and forecasting, satellite data quality and increasing computer power and connectivity have resulted in a transformation of early warning across the globe," said the report.

However, there are still major gaps in hazard monitoring, particularly in low-income countries, noted the report, saying that some low-income countries lack the institutional and technical capacities to develop a multi-hazard, multi-sector and multi-level approach to early warning.

In this regard, the report proposed to develop early warning systems that are people-centered, in particular systems whose warnings are timely and understandable to those at risk, and also to establish, periodically review, and maintain information systems as part of early warning systems.

The report was launched just a few days before the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which will kick off on March 14 in Sendai, Japan.

The meeting in Sendai is considered to be the beginning of a series of global conferences on sustainable development, a major agenda issue of the UN for this year, followed by the conference on financing for development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July, the summit of the UN on post-2015 development in New York in September, as well as a conference on climate change in Paris in December.

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