Coping with disasters and other shocks

Around the Asia-Pacific region, ESCAP finds that hazards are deviating from their usual tracks and becoming more intense, creating greater complexity and deep uncertainty that are harder to predict.297 The region is not sufficiently prepared for this climate reality. It has experienced unprecedented flooding in Iran, in March 2019, and in the state of Kerala in India, in August 2018. There was unusual cyclone activity as cyclone Ockhi developed near the equator in December 2017, and the lasting impacts of cyclone Gita affected eight Pacific Island countries. Furthermore, quick succession of flooding and heatwaves were experienced in Japan in July 2018, and collisions of sand and dust storms, with thunderstorms raged across the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal in May 2017. The Sulawesi and Sunda Strait tsunamis in Indonesia, in 2018, presented the complexity of near field tsunami risks.

Further ESCAP identifies four distinct hotspots where fragile environments are converging with critical socioeconomic vulnerabilities. The first is located within the transboundary river basins of South and South-East Asia, where poverty, hunger and under-nourishment are coupled with exposure to intensifying floods that alternate with prolonged droughts. The second surrounds the Pacific Ring of Fire, where transport and ICT infrastructure and poor populations are exposed to typhoons and tectonic hazards. The third is the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (SIDS), where vulnerable populations and critical infrastructures are exposed to climate-related hazards of increasing intensities. A person in Pacific SIDS is found to be three to five times more at risk than those in other parts of the region.298 An increase in both deaths and economic losses is higher than the increased occurrence of natural disaster events. Further, the rate of increased financial lost is almost twice as the occurrence of a disaster. This fact demonstrates the role of social and economic conditions aggravating the disaster.299

As the above reveals, the vulnerabilities that the Asia-Pacific faces place additional strains on those looking to make a living via micro enterprise and maintaining small business. Further, small businesses have been largely forgotten when it comes to preparation for, response to or recovery from disasters. While there are resilience improvement initiatives for major cities and MNEs, small businesses are often left behind even though they are the major source of employment, of new jobs created and often serve as critical supply links both to the community as well as to other companies.300


298 Ibid.

299 ESCAP Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2019

300 Sands, D. (2019).The state of disaster resilience of small businesses 'natural hazard' or 'disaster'. Contributing Paper to GAR.