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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Pope urges US Congress to action on refugees, climate
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 24, 2015


Asia hit hardest by natural disasters in 2014: report
Geneva (AFP) Sept 24, 2015 - Asia was the continent hit hardest by natural disasters in 2014, with China getting the worst of it with 58 million people affected, according to an annual report released Thursday in Geneva.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in its 2015 World Disasters Report that while there were 317 natural disasters reported worldwide in 2014, it was actually the lowest number of the decade.

Disasters caused 8,186 deaths worldwide in 2014, but that mortality rate is the lowest since 1986 (7,303), and 90 percent lower than the decade average.

According to the report, 48 percent of all disasters occurred in Asia.

"Over 85 percent of those killed and 86 percent of those affected globally were also in Asia," the report said.

The earthquake in China's Yunnan province last August that killed 731 people was the deadliest disaster in 2014, and drought, storms and flooding affected some 58 million people in the country.

Continuing a 20-year-long trend, nearly nine out of ten disasters were climate related -- 87 percent in 2014.

The IFRC report also focused on "local actors", and the need to fund more local humanitarian aid.

"Local actors are always the first to respond," IFRC said.

It said that local actors are effective because "of the perspective they bring, their understanding of language and cultural norms, and because they are permanently present in communities and able to accompany them to address risks before disaster strikes."

Pope Francis on Thursday urged the US Congress to help those fleeing war and poverty, and work to combat climate change, in a historic address to lawmakers that touched on many hot-button issues in US and global politics.

The historic speech to lawmakers at the Capitol was keenly anticipated and warmly received -- but will have been uncomfortable listening for some there who are skeptical about environmental causes and opposed to immigration.

"Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War," he warned, referring to the wave of refugees arriving in Europe from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities," he added, referring to immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

"Is this not what we want for our own children?" implored the 78-year-old Argentine pontiff, himself the son of European immigrants to the Americas.

"We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation."

Many conservatives in the US Senate and House of Representatives deny that climate change is a result of mankind's industry and agriculture, and have opposed emissions controls designed to slow global warming.

The pope urged them to instead seek "courageous" and "responsible" solutions "to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity."

"I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States -- and this Congress -- have an important role to play," he declared.

Underpinning the pope's message on specific policy areas was his concern about the danger posed by religious and political extremists.

"We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind," he continued.

"A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms."


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