Sunday, March 6, 2011

UN Expands Scope of Asia Tsunami Warning Fund

The United Nations has expanded the scope of a tsunami warning fund for Asia to include programs for disaster and climate-change preparedness. The Asia-Pacific region is the world's most disaster-prone region and the United Nations says more funds are needed to prepare countries, especially the poorer ones.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific on Monday announced it is expanding the work of a trust fund that helped establish a regional tsunami warning system.

The fund now will cover programs for disaster and climate-change preparedness.

Noeleen Heyzer is executive director of ESCAP. She says there is urgent need for the region's wealthier and better prepared nations to help the poorer ones get ready for natural disasters and other emergencies.

"Many of the region's countries do not have the capacity or the resources essential for disaster preparedness on their own. They benefit from pool[ed] resources, access to new technologies, skill development, and best practices derived from across the region. These are the benefits this fund is designed to provide," she said.

The tsunami warning fund was established after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which struck at least 12 countries and killed more than 200,000 people.

Thailand and Sweden provided the bulk of contributions to the fund and were later joined by Bangladesh, Nepal, Turkey, and the Netherlands.

Countries are currently reviewing future pledges for the expanded fund.

Thailand's foreign minister, Kasit Piromya says they have appealed for other countries to pledge funds and support.

"So, now it's only five, six countries. So, I think, we need more funding in order to be able to carry out more comprehensive activities. But, this is sort of a common responsibility for all," Kasit stated.

The Asia-Pacific region every year is struck by earthquakes, tropical storms, monsoon floods and landslides. The toll from the disasters is compounded by the region's dense population, the remoteness of many areas, such as some Pacific island nations, and the extreme poverty of such countries as Burma and Bangladesh.

In 2008 Burma was hit by Cyclone Nargis, which killed 140,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

The U.N. says from 2000 to 2008, 80 percent of the world's natural disaster victims were in the Asia-Pacific.


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