Every day brings a reminder of how weather, climate and water affect the lives and livelihoods of each and every one of us, whether we live in Washington, D.C., Nairobi, or Dhaka. As this publication goes to print, more than 5,000 people are reported missing or presumed dead after major flooding in Uttarakhand, India; while in other parts of the world it is a lack of water cou- pled with extreme temperatures—that is taking lives and destroying livelihoods.
Developing economies are particularly vulnerable because they are predomi- nately poor, less resilient and prone to natural hazards—and also because many don’t have the capacity to provide risk information to their own citizens or man- age disasters effectively.
As the world’s population continues to grow, more and more people will be exposed to hazards. Over the past 30 years there has been a 114 percent increase in the number of people living in flood-prone river basins, and a 192 percent increase in the number of people exposed to tropical cyclones. Many of these people live in poorly planned urban areas, further increasing their vulnerability and exposure.
One part of the solution is to invest in structural mitigation measures (such as dams and levees); another is to map the hazards, identify vulnerabili- ties, provide accurate risk information and build early-warning platforms to enable early action in the face of extreme weather. Even a few minutes’ warning can save lives, and longer lead times can help people protect livelihoods.
Effective early warnings can make the difference between life and death. But, as this report shows, the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs), tasked with producing such warnings, often lack capacity and resources. NMHSs in more than 100 countries—mostly in Africa—are in dire need of modernization investments.
By providing an overview of the vital role of NMHSs and highlighting the issues they face in many countries, this report aims to increase government and development agencies’ understanding of the value of NMHSs and thecommitments required to maintain their operations. More than that, the report provides convincing arguments that adequate support for NMHSs can have significant return on investment.
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