Asia Pacific hardest hit by COVID-19, climate-related disasters

A woman carrying her son as she tries to protect him from heavy rain while they rush to a safer place, following their evacuation from a slum area before Cyclone Amphan made landfall, in Kolkata, India, May 20, 2020 [File: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]

At least 51.6 million people worldwide have been doubly hit by COVID-19 and climate-related disasters, including floods, droughts or storms, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

In a new analysis published on Thursday, the IFRC said the Asia Pacific was the region hardest hit by the “double jeopardy” of disasters and the coronavirus pandemic.

About 80 percent of the global total of people affected by disasters and COVID-19 in 2020 were in the Asia Pacific.

“The pandemic is increasing the needs of people suffering from climate-related disasters, compounding the vulnerabilities they face and hampering their recovery,” the IFRC said.

India and Bangladesh were the worst hit, with 40 million people across the two countries affected by the pandemic and floods or storms.

Notably, Cyclone Amphan – the region’s strongest tropical storm in more than 10 years – killed 129 people and affected some 15 million in areas under lockdown, complicating emergency relief efforts, such as evacuation, disbursement of food and temporary shelter.

Monsoon flooding affected 17 million people in India and five million in Bangladesh, leaving a third of the country submerged, the IFRC said.

The Asia Pacific was also the worst affected by extreme heat overlapping with COVID-19, with 179 million people affected out of a global total of 431 million. At least a further 2.3 million people have been affected by major wildfires, the IFRC added, all the while contending with the direct health impacts of COVID-19 or measures implemented to contain the virus.

“These new figures confirm what we already knew from our dedicated volunteers on the frontlines: the climate crisis has not stopped for COVID-19, and millions of people have suffered from the two crises colliding,” Francesco Rocca, president of the IFRC, said in a statement.

“We have had absolutely no choice but to address both crises simultaneously.”

Noting that the world is investing “unprecedented amounts” to help economies recover from the damage from COVID-19, the IFRC said governments should be wary of recreating old vulnerabilities and invest in greener societies.

“The massive global investment in recovering from the pandemic proves governments can act decisively and drastically in the face of imminent global threats,” Rocca said.

“We urgently need this same energy on climate, and it is critical that the recovery from COVID-19 is green, resilient, and inclusive if we are to safeguard the world’s most vulnerable communities.”

Source: Al Jazeera