African governments are investing too little in disaster preparedness, putting their citizens at risk from natural catastrophes, the top UN official on disaster reduction told Reuters.
With stretched national budgets going to developing emerging economies, the peril of floods, drought, cyclones and earthquakes has fallen down the priority list in Africa.
“We are calling on governments to invest more in risk reduction which we have seen working in many countries (and) which has saved many lives,” said Margareta Wahlstrom, UN assistant secretary-general for disaster risk reduction.
“It is not easy to convince the ministries of finance to allocate funds for disaster risk reduction, but at the same time we cannot afford not to continue making that point,” she said in an interview on Thursday.
Every year, disasters strike millions of people worldwide, and vulnerability levels in Africa are particularly high. In 2008, natural calamities killed 235,000 people and affected 214 million more.
Over 90 percent of disaster fatalities occur in developing nations, costing them billions of dollars, according to the world body. Per capita, Africa is the most affected by calamities, especially drought, epidemics and famine, it said.
Wahlstrom warned against the failure to learn from disasters and said that governments should use existing indigenous knowledge to help mitigate calamities.
“The best risk reduction plan is one that involves government departments at the top, working with communities which should own and participate in disaster risk reduction programs,” Wahlstrom said.