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Number of people affected by climate disaster up 54 percent by 2015

By Oxfam

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WASHINGTON, DC — The number of people affected by climate-related humanitarian disasters is projected to rise by 54 percent by 2015, threatening to overwhelm emergency response and humanitarian aid systems, said international agency Oxfam America in a new report released today.

The rise in numbers—from the current 250 million per year to 375 million by 2015—is due to the increasing threat of climate change-induced severe weather events and inability of millions of people worldwide to prepare to deal with such catastrophes. In the report, The Right to Survive, Oxfam America recommends adequate and urgent investments in climate change adaptation and an overhaul of the current system of humanitarian assistance in order to meet the challenge of more frequent and devastating disasters.

"Entrenched poverty in many parts of the world makes people more vulnerable to disasters," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. "Climate change is already threatening our work to overcome poverty, and now it is increasing the pressure on our relief work. It is crucial that we tackle global warming head on by cutting dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, but we must also invest in community preparedness to cope with climate-related disasters."

According to the report, the international humanitarian system must change the way it delivers aid, with a focus on helping build countries’ ability to prepare and withstand future shocks. The report recommends increased humanitarian aid to ensure there is adequate funding to support timely, effective, and good-quality humanitarian action. In addition, Oxfam urged aid providers—including the US government—to act impartially after a disaster, investing money and effort to commensurate with the levels of need.

As climate-related disasters increase, aid must be more focused on preparing communities, working with local NGOs and governments to create relief that works in the long-term, and helping make vulnerable communities stronger in the face of climate change.

"Communities around the world have the knowledge and experience to craft their response to the negative impacts of climate change, but they need adequate funding to make it happen," said Offenheiser. "Investing in community resilience, especially for the most vulnerable, must be a cornerstone of any American effort on climate change."

The report is released right as important climate change legislation is moving through the Energy and Commerce Committee of the House of Representatives and as the White House prepares to host a high-level meeting of developed countries in Washington on climate change.

"Now is the time for bold action on climate," said Offenheiser. "We must not only improve our response to disasters, but also fund measures that help communities adapt to climate change. After all, it is poverty and failure to recognize everyone’s right to survive that turn a storm into a disaster."