World Habitat Day 2011: Over 800 cities join resilience campaign to fight climate change

GENEVA, 3 October - The UN Disaster Risk Reduction Office, UNISDR, today announced that 841 cities and municipalities around the world, representing hundreds of millions of urban dwellers, are now active participants in the World Disaster Reduction Campaign “Making Cities Resilient” which was launched over a year ago.

UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, in a statement to mark World Habitat Day, said: “Mayors and municipal leaders are on the frontline in the fight against climate change and disasters. More are joining the World Disaster Reduction Campaign every week. Cities today are bursting at the seams and they are both an opportunity for economies of scale which will reduce the impact of climate change, and a challenge because of the rapid pace of urbanization.

“UNISDR’s 2011 Global Assessment Report draws attention to the fact that, since 1989, in nationally reported disasters in 21 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America the following public infrastructure was damaged or destroyed: 63,667 schools, 4,873 health facilities, 73,000 kilometres of road, 3,605 municipal water systems, 4,400 sewer systems and 6,980 power installations.

“This level of losses is clearly unacceptable. Public investment is vitally important especially for the welfare of low-income households and communities already facing a deficit of services and infrastructure.

“Loss of life and economic losses from disasters are increasingly an urban phenomenon and protecting built environments must be a priority for the 21st century as the population of the planet reaches seven billion and over half of us now live in cities. Over the last 40 years the average number exposed to floods every year increased from 32.5 to 69.4 million annually. Global physical exposure to tropical cyclones tripled between 1970 and 2010.

“Cities are inevitably going to experience more major disasters in this century and many of these will be triggered or intensified by climate change. Governments and the private sector need to act now to reduce risk because a failure to reduce foreseeable risk will accelerate economic losses.

“Social demand for investment in disaster risk reduction is going to grow and UNISDR continues to lay out the evidence for all to see why disaster risk reduction is the only defence against unacceptable losses in the face of predictable events.”