NATURAL disasters affect the well-being of Filipinos the most among 117 nations, with a global assessment of human damage—as measured in terms of lost consumption—found to be larger than asset losses, a report by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) said.
The report—“Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural—Disasters”—noted the combined human and economic impacts of extreme weather on poverty are far more devastating than previously understood.
The impact of extreme natural disasters is equivalent to a global loss of $520 billion in annual consumption, and forces some 26 million people into poverty each year, according to the report, which covers 117 countries.
“Severe climate shocks threaten to roll back decades of progress against poverty,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “Storms, floods, and droughts have dire human and economic consequences, with poor people often paying the heaviest price. Building resilience to disasters not only makes economic sense, it is a moral imperative.”
Given that the losses from disaster disproportionately affect poor people who have a limited ability to cope with them, the $520 billion equivalent to consumption losses a year outstrips other estimates by as much as 60 percent, the report noted.
On average, the risk to assets or the annual average of asset losses is 0.63 p ercent of gross domestic product (GDP)—ranging from 0.005 percent in Denmark to 4.5 percent in the Philippines. But the risk to well-being is greater, it said.
“As for the risk to well-being—that is, the equivalent loss in consumption—this risk averages 1.1 percent of GDP across our sample, ranging from 0.006 percent in Denmark to 6.5 percent in the Philippines,” the report added.
With the climate summit COP22 underway, the findings underscore the urgency for climate-smart policies that better protect the most vulnerable.
Poor people are seen typically more exposed to natural hazards, losing more as a share of their wealth and are often unable to draw on support from family, friends, financial systems, or governments.
A 2009 survey examined the impact of recurrent floods on 300 households in urban poor communities in Metro Manila, and found that respondents reported a larger impact on health due to improper sanitation, lack of potable water and inadequate health systems.
“It is no surprise that health shocks are a significant burden: households affected by flooding reported that they or their household members were sick for an average of 12 days during the last rainy season. And only a small fraction (13 percent) of those who were sick were able to obtain free medicine; all others had to pay out of pocket,” the report said.
On average, households spent P1,930 on medical care and some households reported spending more than P10,000, it added.
Respondents also noted four days of work lost were lost each with an average income loss of about P1,000 because of lower productivity when working from home or in terms of inability to get to the work place.
Almost half of the respondents said they could not get out of their house, cross the street, or catch a ride to get to the work place. In addition to lost earnings, households noted damages to appliances, furniture and housing stock.
“On average, this loss amounted to P4,615 each season. And children suffer: a third of households reported the absence of children from school—five days a year on average,” it said.