54% Increase in Number of People Affected by Climate Disasters by 2015 Could Overwhelm Emergency Responses

For Immediate Release

Contact: 
Phone
+1 617 482 1211 (Toll-free 1-800-77-OXFAM)

54% Increase in Number of People Affected by Climate Disasters by 2015 Could Overwhelm Emergency Responses

Urgent reforms needed to outdated and unfair humanitarian system.

WASHINGTON - In six years time the number of people affected by
climatic crises is projected to rise by 54 per cent to 375 million
people, threatening to overwhelm the humanitarian aid system, said
international agency Oxfam today.

The projected rise is due to a
combination of entrenched poverty and people migrating to densely
populated slums which are prone to the increasing number of climatic
events. This is compounded by the political failure to address these
risks and a humanitarian system which is not fit for purpose. In its
report, The Right to Survive, Oxfam says the world needs to re-engineer the way it responds to, prepare for and prevents disasters.

Oxfam
used the best-available data of 6,500 climate-related disasters since
1980 to project that the number of people affected by climatic disaster
will rise by 133 million to 375 million people a year on average by
2015. This does not include people hit by other disasters such as wars,
earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The world needs to increase
its humanitarian aid spending from 2006 levels of $14.2 billion to at
least $25 billion a year just to deal with these rising numbers of
people. Even this increase in money - the equivalent of only $50 per
affected person - is still woefully inadequate to meet their basic
needs.

"The humanitarian system works as if it's a global card
game dealing out aid randomly, not based on people's needs. The
response is often fickle - too little, too late and not good enough.
The world barely copes with the current level of disasters. A big
increase in the numbers of people affected will overwhelm it unless
there is fundamental reform of the system that puts those in need at
its centre," said Oxfam International's Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs.

Oxfam
says that the international humanitarian system needs to act swiftly
and impartially after a disaster, investing money and effort
commensurate with the levels of need. Aid is often given on the basis
of political or other preferences making it unfair. In 2004, an average
of $1,241 was spent for each victim of the Asian tsunami, while an
average of only $23 was spent per person affected by the humanitarian
crisis in Chad.

The world must change the way it delivers aid so
that it builds on the country's ability to prepare and withstand future
shocks. National governments, with the help of the international
community, need to invest more in reducing the risk of disasters.

And
as climate change gathers pace, this trend is likely to continue to
increase well beyond 2015. Rich countries must commit now to cut
greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep global warming as far below
2°C as possible, and to provide at least $50 billion a year in finance
to help poor countries adapt to unavoidable climate change.

"While
there has been a steady increase in climate related events, it is
poverty and political indifference that make a storm a disaster," said
Jeremy Hobbs.

More people are now living in urban slums built on
land prone to weather shocks. More than 50 per cent of inhabitants of
Mumbai, for instance, live in slums, many of them built on reclaimed
swamplands. In 2005, widespread flooding in the city caused the deaths
of around 900 people, most of them killed by landslips and collapsed
buildings.

Hunger is on the increase, caused by drought,
population density and an increasing demand for meat and dairy products
in emerging economies. People are being driven from their homes - it is
estimated up to a billion people will be forced from their homes by
2050 due to climate change, environmental degradation, and conflict.
And finally more people are losing their jobs due to the global
economic crisis.

However, despite their poverty, some countries
such as Cuba, Mozambique and Bangladesh have invested heavily in
protecting their people from storms. Following the 1972 super cyclone
that killed a quarter of a million people, Bangladesh invested heavily
in prevention and protection measures. The death toll from super
cyclones in Bangladesh is in the low thousands - still far too high,
but much less devastating. The experience of Cuba, Mozambique and
Bangladesh shows that with sufficient help, even the world's poorest
countries can better protect their citizens.

Oxfam also notes
that while the total number of conflicts has reduced over the years, a
number remain intractable. "Entire generations of people have been
displaced three, four or five times, and know nothing but armed
violence and displacement," said Hobbs. More than 18 million people
could not get enough humanitarian aid because of conflict in 2007,
according to UN figures.

Oxfam is shifting the way it responds to
emergencies in the face of increasing climatic disasters investment,
toward helping to reduce poor people vulnerability to disasters while
still remaining a front-line agency that responds to humanitarian
crises.

"Climate change is already threatening our work to
overcome poverty, increasing the pressure on an already-difficult task
of bringing relief to millions. It is crucial that we tackle climate
change head-on. We need governments to raise their game. The world must
agree a global deal to avoid catastrophic climate change, stop the
fickle way it delivers aid, and radically improve how it responds to
disasters.

###

Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

Share This Article

More in: