News in Brief 10 March 2016 (AM)

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Urban-search-and-rescue members of USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) at work in Nepal. Photo: USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team

Asia-Pacific world's "most disaster-prone" region

The Asia-Pacific region has been dubbed the world's "most disaster prone region" by a new UN report.

Half of the world's 344 disasters in 2015 took place in the area, resulting in over 16,000 deaths with 59 million people affected.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) issued the report on Thursday, warning that disaster risk reduction cannot be achieved without political will.

The report says that the region's fast-growing cities may not be well-equipped to tackle these urban disasters that are happening more frequently and with greater intensity.

A lot of the infrastructure in many of the Asia-Pacific big cities is outdated and is not built to withstand or recover from hazards like earthquakes, cyclones, floods or drought.

Over 700 million people in the region live in cities at 'extreme' or 'high' disaster risk, and by 2030 this number could reach one billion.

Countries should include health emergencies in their disaster response

A strong focus of disaster management is on extreme weather events which affect 100 million people every year, but the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) says public health emergencies should not be left out.

Events such as the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the Zika virus outbreak underline how important it is to adopt what the Office describes as a "multi-hazard approach".

Health should be a key issue in building resilience to disasters, said UNISDR Chief Robert Glasser, adding that it should be introduced the Sendai Framework, a global plan for reducing disaster risk and losses adopted by UN Member States last year.

"It's time for the world to include both man-made, natural hazards and associated environmental, technological and biological hazards", he concluded.

UN Chief calls for renewed Western Sahara talks

An appeal has been made by the UN Secretary-General to parties in the Western Sahara conflict to restart negotiations in a more "positive spirit and without preconditions".

Mr Ban Ki-moon released a statement through his Spokesperson, upon his return from a visit to a Western Sahara refugee camp.

The Security Council has also voiced its support for negotiations aimed at a "mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara".

Since 1975, there's been a long-running dispute over the territory between the North African Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement, which supports the ethnic Sahrawi.

The UN has established a mission since 1991, tasked with monitoring a cease-fire and organizing a referendum on the self-determination of Western Sahara.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 2'49''

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