House falling over

The Asian-Pacific has undeniably been impacted by devastating natural disasters. Investigating from a socio-economic perspective, cases such as the 2004 Tsunami (a natural disaster so big its death toll reached 227,898 across Indonesia and Thailand), can provide an insight into the severity of the chaos wreaked on communities savaged by the natural world.

With the 17th anniversary of the 9.1 magnitude earthquake approaching, we can reflect on the disaster that obliterated communities within Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. Waves reached 17.4 meters tall and there was no escape for thousands. Many lost their lives and for those who survived, issues such as homelessness, joblessness, and trauma resulted from the aftermath. Indonesia was worst hit by this specific disaster with over 570,000 people displaced and around 179,000 homes destroyed. The impact makes this natural disaster a stand-out event in history and it likely contributed to the further devastation encountered by other disasters, such as the South Asian floods (2007) and the Great Sichuan Earthquake (2008).

Factors including climate change, population growth, and urbanization have all contributed towards Asia-Pacific’s increase in both number and severity of disasters. However, seventeen years on, research indicates that these countries are better prepared for potential disasters. Aid agencies, governments, and regional institutions have increasingly placed urgency on the ‘Global Risk Hotspot project’, first published in 2005, which uses modified quantifiable data analytics to predict extreme weather conditions to reduce socio-economic impacts. These are long-term solutions compared to the typical short-term government responses that occurred prior to 2004.  However, short-term responses are still important and cannot be dismissed. The United Nations estimates that every $1 spend on disaster prevention saves at least $4 on disaster recovery expenses later. Thus, providing both immediate and long-term relief are essential to countries’ recovery from natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region.

This is still an ongoing issue within the region. The Asian-Pacific is twenty-four times more likely to be impacted by natural disasters when compared with the UK. It is important to commemorate these events in the memory of those that lost their lives and remind us that they still occur and that there is more that can be done to prevent catastrophic devastation occuring. It is similarly important to note the essential work of charities within the Asian-Pacific, while maintaining the knowledge that western governments need to take more responsibility for their responses to such incidences. This responsibility is not just towards less wealthy countries that are suffering from climate change, but also towards those who continue to recover from the lasting effects of colonialism.