Disaster Prevention, Relief & Recovery

Livelihood Security & Freedom from Poverty

Food Security & Dietary Health

Emerging Infectious Disease

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Disaster Prevention, Relief & Recovery

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Impala drinking from a dried up
riverbed at Samburu, Kenya
The loss of ecosystem services can increase our vulnerability to the impacts of natural and man-made disasters - flooding, storms, earthquakes, drought, conflict... Those who are poor or sick, or who experience low levels of livelihood security, are likely to be at greatest risk from such events, and are typically more dependent upon ecosystems for their well-being.

There is compelling evidence that the effects of recent natural disasters - including the tsunami in South East Asia in 2004, the famine in Niger in 2005 and the effects of hurricane Katrina in the Americas in 2005 - have been exacerbated by ecosystem change, unsustainable development and biodiversity loss associated with human activities. The impacts of disasters themselves often include disruption of natural habitats and ecosystems and the services they provide. This in turn can have additional consequences for people living in or near the affected areas, and undermine recovery or redevelopment efforts. Man-made disasters - including the effects of war and other conflicts - also have severe implications on natural environments and human well-being.

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Young girl at refugee camp near Darfur, Sudan
A failure to recognise these issues and to account for biodiversity and essential ecosystem services in relief, recovery and redevelopment programmes, may simply negate today's relief efforts if such disasters recur in the future. There is a risk that problems, which may have been created or exacerbated by habitat disturbance, may persist or recur if those programmes fail to recognise the importance of biodiversity to health and livelihood security. Furthermore, in a world where climate change may result in more unpredictable weather patterns, sea level rise and more frequent and more extreme storms, the services provided by biodiversity will be critical for human communities most at risk from such events. Refugees from disasters may be particularly vulnerable to added burdens of disease, food insecurity and malnutrition as a result of their displacement and loss of access to ecosystem benefits.

The protection, management, monitoring and restoration of ecosystems should play a central role in disaster prevention, early warning, recovery, and emergency aid programmes. Ecosystems and the benefits they provide, and the impacts of disasters (including refugee crises) often straddle national boundaries, and influence the lives of communities over huge areas. Collaboration across disciplines and across borders in addressing this issue is therefore essential.

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