[ASC-media] Media release: disasters 'hit the poor hardest'

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Sun Aug 13 03:24:40 CEST 2006


International Association of Agricultural Economists 26th Conference
Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, Australia
August 12-18, 2006	   ph 07 5504 4057


MEDIA RELEASE

Sunday, August 13, 2006							


DISASTERS 'HIT THE POOR HARDEST'

Any increase in natural disasters due to climate change or other factors will hit the world's poorest people hardest.

"There is little real action that I can see around the world to help the world's poorest 2 billion people cope better with natural disasters such as droughts, floods and other catastrophic events," Professor Per Pinstrup-Andersen of Cornell University will say at an international conference in Australia tomorrow.

Professor Pinstrup-Andersen is chairing a plenary session on the economic impact of natural disasters at the International Association of Agricultural Economists conference on the Gold Coast.

"The poor live mostly in regions prone to floods and drought which are low in natural resources and infrastructure. They have no buffer.  

"When a disaster takes place, it increases the 'silent death' which is already occurring among these people. More children die," he says.

Prof. Pinstrup-Andersen is urging a far greater international effort to develop a disaster monitoring and early warning system for the whole world - wealthy and poor alike.

"Technology to predict drought and other disasters already exists - but it is mainly applied for the benefit of the wealthy countries.  We need to develop a worldwide system that helps everyone," he says.

He also urges an international effort to develop infrastructure - especially roads and communications - in the most disadvantaged and rural regions, where disasters are most likely to occur.

"It is extremely difficult to maintain secure stocks of food in these regions - but with good roads we can get food in there quite quickly.  The Pakistan earthquake demonstrates what can happen when a disaster occurs in a place where roads are poor."

Early warning and basic infrastructure are two practical things the world can do to reduce the hardship and suffering inflicted by natural disasters on the poorest.

Another is to increase the investment in research to develop more drought-hardy and pest-resistant crops.

Despite good intentions and brave declarations, little is being achieved to stem the growth in poverty, he warns - and this will add to the magnitude of future disasters.

"By 2015 there will still be at least 800 million hungry people in the world. Despite progress in reducing hunger in countries such as China and Vietnam, the number of malnourished is expected to increase elsewhere - by an additional 100 million.

"Natural disasters will only exacerbate this tragedy."

Prof. Pinstrup-Anderson warns that extreme hardship often drives affected groups to armed conflict - and these local conflicts have a widening impact on the global community and its stability.

He adds that globalization means that many events that were once quarantined from the rest of the world are now felt more extensively.  "It means the people affected are no longer isolated - and that, at least, is a good thing."

The International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) 26th Annual Conference on "The Contribution of Agricultural Economics to Critical Policy Issues" is at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, from August 12-18, 2006.

More information:
IAAE media centre, Gold Coast Convention Centre, +61 (0)7 5504 4057
Prof. Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Cornell University,  ph 001 607 262 0496 
Media contact: Prof. Julian Cribb, 0418 639245

Conference program & details:
http://www.iaae-agecon.org/AusConf/index.html
http://www.iaae-agecon.org/AusConf/highlights.html





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