Canadian Red Cross

Canadian Red Cross

June 26, 2008 06:00 ET

Forty Per Cent More People Affected by Disasters, Says 2008 World Disasters Report

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 26, 2008) - Overall, disasters in 2007 were slightly less numerous and far less deadly than in previous years but the total number of people affected by natural disasters, including floods, storms, droughts and earthquakes, rose sharply.

According to the 2008 World Disasters Report released today by the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, more than 201 million people were impacted by disasters, which is a 40 per cent increase since 2006. Of those killed, a disproportionate number were from already vulnerable communities in developing nations.

"It is a sad reality that the people most affected and hardest hit by disasters are amongst the poorest in the world," says Charlie Musoka, the emergency response manager for the Canadian Red Cross. "So, while we'll continue to help put measures in place to bolster disaster preparedness to lessen the number of lives lost, we must also focus on responding to the greater number of disaster survivors who will need help rebuilding their lives and communities in the aftermath."

Over the past decade, more than two billion people have been affected by natural disasters. This number is expected to continue to increase as population densities rise and more people live in high-risk disaster areas.

- 405 natural disasters were reported worldwide in 2007.

- The estimated cost of damage inflicted by natural disasters in 2007 is nearly $63.5 billion.

- The combined total of 23,167 people killed by natural and technological disasters was the lowest of the decade, far below the decade's average of 113,000.

The report also focuses on the HIV and AIDS crisis and argues that it should be given much higher priority in disaster management programs, whether in preparedness and risk reduction, or during emergency response and recovery. Disasters, man-made and 'natural', disrupt basic services, exacerbate other drivers of the epidemic, and can increase people's vulnerability to HIV infection.

Since 1981, more than 25 million people have died of AIDS, and some 33 million are currently living with HIV. In the most affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where prevalence rates reach 20 per cent, development gains are reversed and life expectancy has been cut in half.

"The HIV and AIDS epidemic is a disaster whose scale and extent could have been prevented," says Chris Rosene, Canadian Red Cross Director of International Development Programs. "Ignorance, stigma, political inaction, indifference and denial all contributed to millions of deaths.

"People living with HIV are among the groups most vulnerable in disaster and crisis situations. But, at the same time, they have much to offer and their fuller participation is crucial to tackling the epidemic and disaster responses."

Among the solutions offered by the Report to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of HIV programs are simplification of procedures, improved coordination, confrontation of gender inequalities, and involvement of local communities - including people living with HIV/AIDS. Better preparedness for emergencies, reducing risk, and further research into HIV's impact on people living in disaster zones are also examined.

The Red Cross' ability to rapidly deploy much needed relief supplies and personnel during a disaster is essential in minimizing the impact of a disaster on vulnerable communities.

The International Disaster Relief Fund allows Canadian Red Cross to respond within hours of an emergency, well before any money has been received from supporters for a particular disaster. The fund provides an essential lifeline to people when they need our help most.

Donations to the Canadian Red Cross IDRF will help provide the survivors of future disasters with urgently needed food, shelter, first aid, basic health care and medical supplies. Canadians wishing to support the humanitarian relief efforts can donate at, by calling 1-800-418-1111 or contacting their local Red Cross office. Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked "IDRF" and mailed to the Canadian Red Cross National Office, 170 Metcalfe Street, Suite 300, Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2P2.

The Canadian Red Cross is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which includes the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and 186 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Its mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity in Canada and around the world.

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