Just over a month since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, the United Nations and its partners today agreed on the need to act quickly to help the affected communities rebuild their lives, as well as learn lessons from the international community’s response to the disaster.
“While our thoughts and prayers are with the people impacted by this deadly and violent typhoon, words are not enough,” Nestor Osorio, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said at the opening of the special meeting held at UN Headquarters.
“This is the time to show our solidarity with the Filipino people, and to demonstrate our commitment to helping the affected communities and people of the Philippines rebuild their lives.
Evidence suggests that while the number of people killed due to natural disasters has declined over the last 40 years, the world has witnessed an increase in the number and intensity of natural disasters and the number of people affected.
“The cost of disasters goes beyond the damage to property and has immense economic and social impact on societies,” noted Mr. Osorio.
According to the latest estimates, Typhoon Haiyan has affected about 14 million people, displacing around 4 million. The Strategic Response Plan for Typhoon Haiyan presented by humanitarian partners is requesting $791 million funding, of which only 30 per cent has been funded.
In addition to discussing the immediate needs in the Philippines, the meeting also assessed what can be done to ensure effective delivery of assistance, and smooth transition from relief to development. It also examined how the UN system, regional and international organizations, civil society organizations, the private sector and the scientific community can assist in the relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts of the Government.
“We all agree that effective relief measures in the immediate aftermath of disasters are paramount to saving lives,” Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo said in remarks, delivered on his behalf by Navid Hanif, Director of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination.
“While this must be our utmost priority at this point, we need to keep in mind that our efforts should also focus on reducing the risk of natural hazards’ turning into disasters. If death rates from disasters in developing countries are 20 times higher than in developed countries, this is clearly a development issue.”
He added that as the international community helps the Philippines recover from the typhoon, it needs to make it a priority to reduce the risk of natural hazards turning into disasters through increased investment in preparation and adaptation measures.
“This requires us to link relief to development strategies. In particular, a balanced integration of the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development would help build resilience to natural disasters.”
Also addressing the special meeting, via videoconference, were Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström.