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Disasters, whether from natural hazards or man-made, cost lives and livelihoods. The immediate spending needed for response and reconstruction is compounded by a weakened economy, damaged infrastructure, destroyed businesses, reduced tax revenues and a rise in poverty levels.

  • According to the latest data from insurer Munich Re, provisional estimated losses from natural catastrophes in 2022 was at $270 billion globally, with Hurricane Ian contributing most to the losses. The average of the last five years (2017-2021, losses adjusted to inflation) was at $270 billion.
  • 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, with total damages increasing by close to 350%, from $52 billion a year in the 1980s to $207 billion a year in the last decade and $232 billion over the first three years of the 2020s.
  • Funded by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), 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 GFDRR-funded report Unbreakable (2017) shows that natural hazards have had large and long-lasting impacts on poverty.

The poorer a community is, the more vulnerable it is to natural hazards and climate change. Disasters do not have an equal effect on everyone. Children, women and girls, elderly people, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized communities — especially in lower-income countries — are often disproportionately affected by disasters.

  • Evidence suggests that women die as a result of disasters at a higher rate than men do in countries where women have a lower socioeconomic status. Meanwhile, individuals with disabilities are often overlooked in disaster recovery planning because they are not identified in household surveys in the first place. GFDRR has recently funded guidance notes on good practices for disability inclusion in disaster risk management, as well as on entry points for social and gender inclusion in disaster and climate resilience efforts. 
  • Disasters and conflict are mutually reinforcing. Countries associated with fragility, conflict, and violence — so-called FCV countries — often face heightened risks from disaster because government capacity is weakened; and on the other hand, disaster risks can exacerbate pre-existing tensions, increasing the risk of violence. Layered on top of 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.
  • The costs of disasters are particularly difficult to bear for low- and lower-middle-income countries that tend to depend on ad-hoc solutions, such as emergency loans or the diversion of other limited financial resources. The lack of financial-resilience mechanisms for disasters often delays economic recovery and prolongs hardships for governments, households, businesses, and vulnerable communities.

Countries have made great progress in managing disaster risks, pivoting from only responding after the fact to a stronger focus on prevention and preparing for shocks, enabling a reduction in loss of lives, and mitigating some economic impacts. A recent evaluation from the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) confirmed that both the World Bank and GFDRR have played a major role in making that happen, as illustrated by some recent country examples.

  • 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. 
  • The government of Sierra Leone has taken the lead on multi-hazard risk assessments that provide a detailed overview of disaster hazards in the cities of Freetown, Makeni, and Bo. These assessments consider a range of disaster risk management options that can save lives and reduce economic losses caused by flooding and other hazards.
  • In the Philippines, nearly 1,000 local officials from all 17 regions of the country have received training and technical assistance on knowledge and skills which will help ensure that their respective communities can be ready to respond and recover from disasters faster and more effectively. The program focused on governors, mayors, disaster risk management officers, planners, and budget officers.
  • Following the Russian invasion, the government of Ukraine has taken the initiative on a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA) which presented the first comprehensive evaluation of war impacts across twenty different sectors. It also laid out the financing needs for a resilient, inclusive, and sustainable recovery and reconstruction.

While we have witnessed substantial progress, improving disaster preparedness at the same time as enabling better disaster prevention and climate adaptation remain as key challenges for sustainable development. The World Bank Group will continue to support countries’ efforts to prioritize adaptation and resilience. Together, with our partners, we will seek tailored and innovative solutions to protect the poorest, enable resilient development and accelerate recovery.

  • The World Bank Group supported 98 countries in FY22 to make disaster risk reduction a priority; and we delivered  $31.7 billion in climate finance. Between 2018 and 2020, we accounted for about 50 percent of all climate finance from the multilateral development banks (MDBs). The world, however, is still quite some way from an estimated $140-300 billion that developing countries may need in 2030 for adaptation action.
  • Mainstreaming disaster risk management into development planning can reverse the current trend of rising disaster impact. Furthermore, when countries rebuild stronger, faster, and more inclusively after disasters, they can reduce the impact on people’s livelihoods and well-being by as much as 31%, potentially cutting global average losses. For example, GFDRR-funded Frontline (2021) report offers recommendations for better preparing health systems to respond to shocks, from seasonal demand surges to pandemics, climate change, and disasters.
  • The transition to a post COVID-19 world and our reckoning with climate change provide us a unique opportunity to think collectively about how to rebuild societies better equipped to handle multiple risks, in a green, resilient, and inclusive way where all stakeholders have a voice – both in defining the problem and the solutions.

Last Updated: Mar 27,2023

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