Red Cross warns one billion living in dangerous conditions

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The Red Cross warned on Tuesday that one billion people were living in dangerous conditions in slums and informal settlements, which was the root cause for urban disasters.

"The root cause of why so many people are affected by urban disasters is because a billion people live in poor quality homes on dangerous sites with no hazard-reducing infrastructure and no services," said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in its annual World Disaster Report.

The report said those most exposed are low-income countries, where just one percent of households and companies are insured against catastrophes.

Even in middle-income nations, the proportion of households and companies with disaster insurance reached just three percent, compared with 30 percent in high-income states, it said.

In addition, these populations often do not benefit from infrastructure that helps to reduce the impact of urban disasters, such as buildings fortified against earthquakes or drainage systems that allow rain water to flow off and lower the risk of floods.

"A very large deficit exists in the infrastructure and services that reduce disaster risk for much of the population in Latin America, Africa and Asia," said Bekele Geleta, IFRC secretary general.

"We must bridge this urban risk divide or it will be further exposed in a very cruel way by climate change in the coming years," he added.

One of the key effects of climate change is heightened flood risk.

Of the 20 cities with the highest exposed population in 2005, 65 percent of the 38.5 million exposed live in Asian cities.

But by the decade of 2070, 14 out of the 20 cities with the highest population exposed would be in Asia, the report noted.. These would include China's cities of Qingdao and Ningbo, Bangladesh's Dhaka, Chittagong and Kulna and Pakistan's Karachi.

© 2010 AFP

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