Prepare for Disasters Despite Downturn: UN

KUALA LUMPUR ~ UN officials meeting in the Malaysian capital on Tuesday warned Asian countries not to cut funding for disaster preparations, despite the global economic downturn.

Philippine senator Loren Legarda, the UN’s newly-appointed “champion” for disaster risk reduction said countries in the region must spend to reduce risks in a natural disaster.

“We are hoping (budgets) will not be affected because disasters will continue to happen, just like 22 typhoons come to the Philippines every year… whether there is a global crisis or not,” she told reporters on the sidelines of a two-day UN conference on disaster risk reduction.

“We must make (governments) aware that we are cutting losses by being prepared,” she said.

Asia is already home to most of the world’s natural disasters – 75 percent of all people killed last year from calamities attributed to rising sea levels including floods and storms lived in the continent, global charity World Vision said in September.

In May, Cyclone Nargis left about 138,000 people dead or missing when it hit Myanmar, while an earthquake in southwestern China in the same month killed more than 87,000.

An earthquake-triggered tsunami in 2004 killed 168,000 people in Indonesia alone, with tens of thousands more dead in other nations.

Malaysia’s deputy premier Najib Razak said his country would set up a regional disaster relief centre in a tie-up with the UN World Food Programme to coordinate humanitarian relief operations in Asia.

The centre will be built in Subang, in central Selangor state north of the capital Kuala Lumpur next year, and will serve as an operations centre to distribute food aid and relief work in disaster-struck nations in the region.

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