Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods can often come at the least expected time. Others, such as hurricanes and cyclones are increasing in severity and destruction. Typically, the poor are the worst hit for they have the least resources to cope and rebuild.
As the 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake has made all too clear, natural disasters can be very difficult to predict and fully prepare against, and have incredibly far-reaching consequences for the safety and wellbeing of individuals and communities. As in previous natural disasters such as the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Australian bushfires in 2009, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2010 Pakistan floods, the impacts on people and society in affected areas are immediate and overwhelming. Such catastrophes tend to worsen pre-existing problems and inequalities, with vulnerable parts of the population often disproportionately impacted. For instance, initial estimates suggest that 65% of the deaths from the recent disaster in Japan were of people aged 60 or over. The consequences can be felt for many years, with people suffering as refugees or being displaced within their own country, their livelihoods destroyed, and facing long-term health issues.
Over the past two years, 700 natural disasters were registered worldwide affecting more than 450 million people, according to a new IMF study.
Damages have risen from an estimated $20 billion on average per year in the 1990s to about $100 billion per year during 2000–10. This upward trend is expected to continue as a result of the rising concentration of people living in areas more exposed to natural disasters, and climate change.