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1. Disasters, whether natural or man-made, have devastating impacts on lives and livelihoods. The costs of response and reconstruction are further amplified by economic downturn, infrastructure damage, business closures, reduced tax revenues, and increased poverty levels.

  • Estimated losses from natural catastrophes in the first half of 2023 was at $110 billion, with the earthquake that affected Türkiye and Syria contributing the most to the losses, according to Munich Re. This amount is slightly below the $120 billion estimated in the first half of 2022, but above the 10-year average for first halves of years spanning 2013-2022.
  • Of all of deaths from weather, climate, and water hazards, 91% occurred in developing economies, according to the United Nations country classification from 1970 through 2019. The proportion remains similar for the World Bank country classification, according to which 82% of deaths occurred in low and lower-middle-income countries.
  • Since 1980, more than 2.5 million people and, after adjusting for inflation, close to $6 trillion have been lost to disasters caused by natural hazards globally. The total damages increased more than four-fold,  from $52 billion a year in the 1980s to $212 billion a year in the last decade and $228 billion over the first three years of the 2020s.

2.  Vulnerability to natural hazards and climate change is higher in impoverished communities. Disasters do not affect everyone equally. Children, women, girls, elderly individuals, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized communities, particularly in lower-income countries, bear a disproportionate burden of the impacts.

  • Disasters deepen gender inequalities rooted in societal norms. In countries where women have a lower socioeconomic status, evidence suggests that women die as a result of disasters at a higher rate than men. Additionally, individuals with disabilities are often overlooked in disaster recovery planning due to their absence from household surveys. 
  • Disasters and conflict are mutually reinforcing. Countries experiencing fragility, conflict, and violence, known as FCV countries, are particularly vulnerable to disasters due to weakened government capacity. Conversely, disasters can intensify existing tensions, leading to an increased risk of violence. Adding to this vulnerability are the impacts of climate change.
  • Many of these vulnerable people live in the 75 of the world’s poorest countries – those served by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries.

3.  Countries have made significant strides in disaster risk management, shifting from reactive responses to proactive prevention and preparedness. This approach has led to a reduction in loss of lives and mitigation of economic impacts. A recent evaluation by the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) validates the pivotal role played by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) in this progress.

  • A World Bank report Shock Waves (2016) states that almost 75% of the losses are attributable to extreme weather events. As climate change threatens to push an additional 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, another report Unbreakable (2017) shows that natural hazards have had large and long-lasting impacts on poverty. Both reports were funded by GFDRR, a global partnership within the Bank, that provides technical and financial support to disaster risk management projects.
  • In the aftermath of the devastating February 2023 earthquakes which hit Türkiye and Syria, the Global Rapid post-disaster Damage Estimation (GRADE) methodology made it possible to conduct a rapid preliminary assessment of the direct physical damages, thus informing appropriate, timely and efficient courses of action to take, and enabling the prioritization of resources where most needed. 

4. Despite notable advancements, enhancing disaster preparedness alongside effective prevention and climate adaptation measures remain as critical challenges for sustainable development. The World Bank remains committed to supporting countries in prioritizing adaptation and resilience to end extreme poverty and to boost shared prosperity on a livable planet. Together with our partners, we will pursue customized and innovative solutions to safeguard the most vulnerable, foster resilient development, and expedite recovery.

Last Updated: Oct 16,2023

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