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Philippines
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

PH is most disaster-prone country

“The World Risk Report tells us very clearly that the Philippines needs a Department of Disaster Resilience now, not at sometime in the future, to avert further loss of lives, property and public infrastructure, as well as economic setbacks”

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We’ve known all along that we’re among the countries most prone to disasters.

That’s because we have typhoons, or hurricanes, that regularly visit the country from this side of the Pacific Ocean causing massive floods that displace people and cause extensive damage to agriculture.

We have earthquakes that occur with varying intensity from time to time due to movements in tectonic plates deep in the ground that exact a high toll on lives and property.

And we have volcanic eruptions in the major islands that are part of the so-called Pacific ‘ring of fire’ that send people scampering to safety from ashfall and lava flows.

What we’ve been recently made aware of, however, is that we are now the world’s most disaster-prone country. And that’s not just because of the natural causes that we mentioned, but also due to human failings.

That’s the conclusion reached and published in the World Risk Report 2022 by the Germany-based Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft and the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict at Ruhr University Bochum.

Their World Risk Index that calculated the disaster risk for 193 countries showed that the Philippines has the highest disaster risk, with an index score of 46.82, followed by India with 42.31, Indonesia with 41.46, Colombia with 38.37, and Mexico in fifth place with 37.55.

Myanmar, Mozambique, China, Bangladesh, and Pakistan were among the top 10 countries with the highest disaster risk.

The World Risk Report is based on the idea that a disaster occurs not only when severe natural hazards hit a country but also when it becomes vulnerable to their effects.

It seeks to raise awareness about the relevance of social capacities in disaster preparedness among the public and decision-makers in all sectors of society, to provide guidance for practitioners in the prevention of humanitarian crises, and to support decisions in the allocation and prioritization of resources.

The World Risk Report aims to make governments understand that the emergence and progression of disasters are highly dependent on the social conditions of the people, and armed with adequate information, they can shift from reactive to proactive action.

Our current ranking in the World Risk Index represents a huge jump from our previous records.

Our record in disaster response in the last few years is not something to be proud of .

In 2018, we ranked third on the list of countries with the highest disaster risk, with an index score of 26.70. In 2019, the country dropped to ninth after registering an index value of 20.69.

In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread like wildfire, the Philippines was still among the top 10 countries with the highest disaster risk while remaining in ninth place with the same index score.

Last year, the Philippines ranked eighth with an index score of 21.39.

The report also found that the Philippines was among the top 10 countries with the highest exposure to disasters.

The country ranked fourth with 39.99 exposure, trailing China, Japan, and Mexico.

It defines exposure as the extent to which populations in hazard-prone areas are exposed to and burdened by the impacts of extreme natural events or the negative consequences of climate change.

Hazardousness include the frequency and intensity of earthquakes, tsunamis, coastal and river floods, cyclones, droughts, and sea-level rise in populated areas.

The report also focuses on vulnerability, which is the tendency of populations to be affected by extreme natural events or the negative impacts of climate change.

The vulnerability factor explores the capacities and dispositions of households and societies and how easily and to what degree they can be destabilized, damaged, or even destroyed by extreme events.

Here, the country’s vulnerability score was “very high,” at 54.81.

The report makes an important point: “Disaster risks are not solely shaped by the occurrence, intensity, and duration of extreme natural events, but that social factors, political conditions, and economic structures are equally responsible for whether disasters occur in the context of extreme natural events.”

But there’s hope in the horizon: Every society is capable of taking direct or indirect precautions, such as the establishment and maintenance of effective disaster protection to counter the effects of natural hazards or climate change.

And not all is doom and gloom. The country’s coping capabilities and adaptive capacities scores were 57.81 (very high) and 55.48 (high), respectively.

Coping capacities are abilities and measures of societies to counter adverse impacts of natural events or climate change through direct actions and available resources in the form of formal or informal organized activities and measures, as well as to reduce damage in the immediate aftermath of an event and initiate recovery.

Adaptive capacities, on the other hand, refer to long-term processes and strategies to achieve changes in societal structures and systems to counteract, mitigate, or purposefully avoid future negative impacts.

Given all this, do we need to create a department devoted exclusively to disaster response/resilience?

That’s been debated by lawmakers, policy implementors and civil society for as long as we can remember.

But what the World Risk Report tells us very clearly is that the Philippines needs a Department of Disaster Resilience now, not at sometime in the future, to avert further loss of lives, property and public infrastructure, as well as economic setbacks.

(Email: ernhil@yahoo.com)

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