Atlas Magazine April 2019

Poverty and natural disasters

On March 15, 2019, a massive cyclone lashed Mozambique and Zimbabwe, claiming the lives of 800 people and displacing two millions, with cities devastated, infrastructures destroyed and epidemics ravaging entire regions.
Atlas Magazine N°160, April 2019 Click to download
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These examples taken from recent news bear testament to the concerns expressed by numerous countries about the major risks that are jeopardizing populations and straining economic development.

In fact, whether rich, poor or somewhere in between, the States are up against the same hazards; the only difference being in the severity of the disasters, their socio-economic impact and the resources allocated in order to protect property and people.

Unfortunately, words and figures don’t mean the same things everywhere. People living in poor countries are the harder hit by natural disasters than those in well-off countries. When hit by a catastrophe, the former would lose a higher percentage of their wealth than the latter. Moreover, they are under no illusion to obtain any assistance from their relatives or authorities.

The very high vulnerability of populations at risk is aggravated by the lack of any command over urbanization and by the absence of any land use policies. Both factors combined are pushing rural populations to massive exodus movements towards big cities, the single labor pools. That is why, it is estimated that 60% of inhabitants in Mena-Africa region are squeezing in oftentimes precarious dwellings located around large urban centers. Another equally significant figure is the 92% of the entire population of the afore-mentioned region who live on 3% of the overall area, mainly along the coasts.

Natural disasters do not only drag vulnerable people into poverty, they also drown them in misery, with hardly any chance of bouncing back.

Atlas Magazine N°160, April 2019

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