World Disasters Report 2010

By: Staff Reporter

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The signs of our vulnerability to urban risk are everywhere. An earthquake can bring hospitals, schools and homes tumbling down with unspeakably tragic consequences. A volcano can throw city airports into chaos. Flood waters can turn well-kept streets into detritus-strewn canals. The drug trade can turn an inner city into a war zone. An epidemic can spread rapidly through a crowded slum. As the pendulum of human development swings increasingly away from the countryside to the city, we see that rapid urbanization and population growth are combining to create enormous new challenges. When it comes to the impact of natural disasters, well-run cities can be among the safest places on earth. They can also be the best places to raise a family, for schooling, healthcare and employment. You can expect to live longer in a city. Cities can also be the most dangerous places on earth for those who live in an urban environment where the authorities have little presence and where the will and the resources are lacking to ensure basic social services, food security, policing, running water, sewerage and respect for building codes. This urban risk divide is a major challenge for humankind in the 21st century if we are to ensure that the worldwide movement from the countryside to cities does not fuel a growth in sickness and deaths.  The urban ‘underclass’ should concern the humanitarian community most. Their numbers are almost 1 billion and they are growing at the rate of 10 million annually despite commendable efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goal on shelter in some parts of the world.

The 2010 World Disasters Report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies presents sound advice on how the urban risk divide between the developing world and the developed world can be reduced. It also highlights how, in a globalized world, a deficiency on one side of the world can create problems for us all. Urbanization can be a strong bulwark against the worst that climate change is throwing at us. The chapter plan includes sections titled avoiding the urbanization of disasters; urban disaster trends; starting over- community rights and post-disaster response; urban violence; urban risk to health; urbanization and climate change risk and urban governance and disaster risk reduction among others. Where there is good urban governance, you find economies of scale in terms of risk reduction and response capacities. Where there is good urban governance, you will also find citizens who are empowered and active in their communities because they have security of tenure and their housing, land and property rights are respected.

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