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Climate change risks overwhelming current global humanitarian capacity

News and Press Release
Originally published
(Poznan, 3 December 2008): Today, for the first time in climate change negotiations, the humanitarian agencies of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee have teamed up with disaster risk reduction staff of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) system to issue a joint call for scaled-up global action to reduce disaster risk and to strengthen preparedness for effective response.

The current negotiations on risk management and risk reduction in Poznan are a unique opportunity to make sure that adaptation action is able to prevent global humanitarian catastrophe.

"Climate change is not some futuristic scenario. It's happening today, and millions of people are already suffering the consequences. From the devastating series of floods that swept over large swathes of sub- Saharan Africa and China last year, to heat waves in south-eastern Europe, prolonged droughts in the Horn and Southern Africa, and devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean, what we have witnessed recently is a curtain raiser on the future," said United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes.

Climate-related disasters are already on the rise, and threaten to create devastation in many countries, both rich and poor. The number of recorded disasters has doubled from approximately 200 to over 400 per year over the past two decades, and the numbers of people affected and requiring emergency assistance are clearly growing. Over 97% of disaster deaths occur in developing countries. Nine of out ten disasters recorded are now climate related. Over the next twenty years, the intensity, frequency, duration and extent of weather related hazards will increase in many parts of the world.

Much of the loss and suffering stemming from climate-related disasters could be prevented or mitigated through better disaster risk reduction, preparedness and response. By investing in risk reduction and preparedness, in particular, we can reduce the amount required to respond to emergencies once they have occurred. China spent $3.15 billion on flood control between 1960 and 2000, which is estimated to have averted losses of about $12 billion. Countries such as Mozambique and Bangladesh provide excellent examples of how effective disaster preparedness measures can significantly reduce the impact of climate hazards in risk-prone areas. These lessons now need to be adapted and tailored to other similar, hazardprone countries.

For further information, please call: Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679,; Nicholas Reader +1 212 963 4961, mobile +1 646 752 3117,, John Nyaga, OCHA-NY, + 1 917 367 9262,; Elisabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, +41 22 917 2653, mobile, +41 79 473 4570, OCHA press releases are available at or

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