Page:Brundtland Report.djvu/42

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Page 42

nations. In any river valleys, areas chronically liable to floods are now farmed.

15. These pressures are reflected in the rising incidence of disasters. During the 1970s, six times as many people died from 'natural disasters' each year as in the 1960s, and twice as many suffered from such disasters. Droughts and floods, disasters among whose causes are widespread deforestation and overcultivation, increased most in terms of numbers affected. There were 18.5 million people affected by droughts annually in the 1960s, but 24.4 billion in the 1970s; 5.2 billion people were victims of floods yearly in the 1960s, compared with 15.4 million in the 1970s[1] The results are not in for the 1980s, but this disaster-prone decade seems to be carrying forward the trend, with droughts in Africa, India, and Latin America, and floods throughout Asia, parts of Africa, and the Andean region of Latin America.

16. Such disasters claim most of their victims among the impoverished in poor nations, where subsistence farmers must make their land more liable to droughts and floods by clearing marginal areas, and where the poor make themselves tore vulnerable to all disasters by living on steep slopes and unprotected shores - the only lands left for their shanties. Lacking food and foreign exchange reserves their economically vulnerable governments are ill-equipped to cope with such catastrophes.

17. The links between environmental stress and developmental disaster are most evident in sub-Saharan Africa. Per capita food production, declining since the 1960s, plummeted during the drought of the 1980s, and at the height of the food emergency some 35 million people were exposed to risk. Human overuse of land and prolonged drought threaten to turn the grasslands of Africa's Sahel region into desert.[2] No other region more tragically suffers the vicious cycle of poverty leading to


  1. G. Hagman et al., Prevention Better Than Cure, Report on Human and Environmental Disasters in the Third World (Stockholm: Swedish Red Cross, 1984).
  2. UN, General Assembly, 'The Critical Economic Situation in Africa: Report of the Secretary General', A/S-13/2, New York, 20 May 1986.