Bassel Daher, Ph.D.

Globally, disasters and their impacts have been characterized by increasing frequency and changing patterns. Global warming effects, including climate change, have exacerbated the severity and frequency of hydrometeorological and oceanographic, and other risk factors or drivers, such as population growth, urbanization, limited access to resources, inadequate infrastructure, and prevailing structural development conditions, putting additional lives and infrastructure in danger. Additionally, COVID-19 highlighted the lack of resilience in many areas and led to the first rise in global poverty since 1998. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, sets forth seven targets for disaster resilience to be met by 2030. The framework seeks to substantially reduce disaster mortality, the number of people affected, economic losses, and damage. At the same time, the framework aims to increase the prevalence of disaster risk reduction strategies, as well as the availability of and access to early warning systems, and enhance international cooperation. At the halfway point, the Sendai Framework targets have seen some progress, but a significant part of it has been affected by multiple factors including pandemic-related setbacks, limited financial resources, inadequate institutional capacities, governance issues, political barriers, and competing development priorities.

The Sendai Framework’s targets are especially relevant for Central America. The Northern countries of the Central America region, comprising El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, are some of the most vulnerable to climate change and disaster risks, at a global level. Due to their coastlines on, or proximity to, both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the variability of seasonal rainfall is accompanied by high exposure to a range of hazards, including hurricanes, floods, landslides, and droughts. Furthermore, extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change, thus accentuating the vulnerability of these countries.

The region has experienced increasing temperatures since the 1970s, as well as unpredictable precipitation patterns and rising sea levels. The number of disasters has been growing by an average of 6% per year compared to the 1970s. Those are explained by risk drivers such as poverty, inequality, and poor urban development, among others, along with underlying political, economic, and social challenges. This mix of increased occurrence of hazards, underlying conditions, and vulnerabilities threatens the sustainability and resilience of already fragile economies and social systems. When individuals and communities are already on the verge of poverty, struggling with precarious livelihoods, and facing various socio-economic challenges, even a minor disruption can have devastating consequences on people’s lives and well-being, with many people pushed over the edge, experiencing loss of livelihoods, food insecurity, and displacement, among other possible adversities.

Acknowledging the susceptibility of Northern countries of Central America to disaster risks underscores the importance of disaster risk reduction for achieving sustainable development in the region. Disaster risk reduction and prevention are equally or less costly than management and recovery after disasters. Investing in disaster risk reduction not only saves lives but also safeguards critical development gains and increases resilience in the future. By reducing the vulnerability of communities and enhancing their capacity to cope with disasters, the region can protect livelihoods, ensure food security, promote sustainable economic growth, and prevent displacement.

Link to report 

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