Jeddah, Nov. 17, 2013 – Representatives of 15 countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region gathered today in Jeddah for two days to discuss findings and recommendations of a recent report on natural disasters in MENA, prepared by the World Bank in partnership with the United Nations
Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and sponsored by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). The report focuses on the need to shift from disaster response to proactive risk management, and underscores the importance of establishing strategic frameworks and integrating disaster risk reduction into sustainable development policies and plans.
The event, hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, convened government representatives of the MENA Region, as well as international experts, and various stakeholders including private sector and the media.
“Our region faces risks from natural disasters that are on the increase both in intensity and frequency such as floods and drought. There is a critical need for a disaster risk management plan for countries in the region to minimize deaths and economic losses. We must shift and adopt prevention measures. We thank the World Bank and GFDRR in supporting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in strengthening its disaster risk management" said Dr. Abdulaziz Bin Omer Al-Jasser, President of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Presentations and discussions at the workshop highlighted the hazards facing the region, the need to integrate disaster risk reduction into sustainable development policies and plans as well as presenting the efforts and achievements in DRM at regional and national levels in MENA. International and regional experiences in addressing hazards disaster risk financing and insurance as a framework for disaster risk management were also presented.
"The MENA region has been hit by at least 370 natural disasters over the past 25 years with 40 million people affected at a cost of US$19 billion. Moreover, the people who suffer the most are usually those who are poor” said Franck Bousquet, World Bank Sector Manager of Urban, Social and Disaster Risk Management. “Many governments have made significant efforts and we, at the World Bank Group, stand ready to scale up engagement so that they can invest more in prevention. Improving the capacity of MENA countries at both national and local levels to absorb shocks is critical and cost effective.”
Since 1980, the number of natural disasters worldwide has doubled and, in MENA, it tripled. Floods are the most recurring disaster in MENA. The 2008 floods in the governorates of Hadramout and Al-Mahara in Yemen caused US$ 1.6 billion in damages and losses, the equivalent of six percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Earthquakes are the second most prevalent disaster in the region, but equally damaging. Droughts also cause significant economic stress. As an example, the 2008 to 2011 drought in Djibouti caused the economy to contract by 3.9 percent of GDP each year.
Over the past decade, governments in the region have developed a better understanding of the risks posed by natural disasters and the measures needed to prepare for them. Recently, some countries, such as Morocco, with the support of the World Bank, are moving towards an integrated risk management approach, taking into account various types of risks, with the objective of strengthening their overall resilience to external shocks. There are promising signs of proactive efforts to expand the capacities to manage the effects of natural disasters.