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Bracing for Disaster
atural disasters wreak havoc without discrimination, wiping out homes,livelihoods, a country’s economic gains, and often many individual lives.Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe have all been struck bycatastrophes in recent years. Asia, however, has been hit hardest: 40%of the world’s disasters have occurred in the region in the past decade, resultingin a disproportionate 80% of disaster deaths. And Asia’s poor, lacking in resourcesand more vulnerable and exposed to the elements, have borne the brunt of thesecataclysms.Touted as the next economic power, Asia cannot afford to continue along this path.Countries in distress will be hard-pressed to reach their development goals as fundsmeant for fortifying social and economic infrastructure get diverted for emergencyrelief and reconstruction. Efforts to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life indeveloping countries could suffer sizeable setbacks.With extreme weather conditions attributed to climate change increasing infrequency and complexity worldwide, setting up disaster risk managementinitiatives at all levels has become even more imperative. Lessons learned fromdisaster response and recovery experiences show that a well-coordinated communityresponse is just as vital as emergency action at the national or even international level.This edition of
looks at the state of disaster preparedness inthe region, the economics of risk mitigation and the politics of disaster relief, andproactive strategies and innovative solutions. We put the spotlight on Bangladesh,long a victim of recurring disasters, where a community-led program hasdramatically reduced disaster-related deaths and damage. In
The Big Voice
, MargaretaWahlström, who heads the United Nation’s Secretariat for the International Strategyfor Disaster Reduction, talks about the challenges of preaching preparedness. On thefundraising side, we examine the sometimes controversial role that celebrities haveplayed in rallying international support for disaster victims.On a lighter note, we also explore how the tiny seahorse is helping to reducepoverty in coastal communities across the region, and chime in about the musicaltraditions of international development.As with all the development issues presented here, we sit back objectively andinvite you, the reader, to join in the discussion by sending us your comments firstname.lastname@example.org.