Since 1980, the number of natural disasters in the Middle East and North Africa has tripled, compared to a doubling for the world as a whole. This requires more proactive measures to limit their effects in the region.
“Our region faces risks from natural disasters that are on the increase both in intensity and frequency such as floods and drought. There is a critical need for a disaster risk management plan for countries in the region to minimize deaths and economic losses,” said Dr. Abdulaziz Bin Omer Al-Jasser, President of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, at a recent conference in Jeddah.
Delegates from 15 MENA countries as well as international experts, private sector representatives and the media gathered to discuss findings and recommendations of a recent World Bank-UN report on natural disasters in the region. The report focuses on the need to shift from disaster response to proactive risk management,
According to the World Bank, over the past decade, governments in MENA have developed a better understanding of the risks posed by natural disasters and the measures needed to prepare for them. They take Morocco as a good example of ”moving towards an integrated risk management approach.”
“Many governments have made significant efforts and we, at the World Bank Group, stand ready to scale up engagement so that they can invest more in prevention. Improving the capacity of MENA countries at both national and local levels to absorb shocks is critical and cost effective,” said Franck Bousquet, World Bank Sector Manager of Urban, Social and Disaster Risk Management.
“The MENA region has been hit by at least 370 natural disasters over the past 25 years with 40 million people affected at a cost of US$19 billion. Moreover, the people who suffer the most are usually those who are poor.”
Floods and earthquakes are the most recurring and damaging disasters in the MENA region. Droughts are another cause of significant economic problems.