KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Bangladeshi cities have signed up en masse to a U.N. campaign to develop local action plans and improve infrastructure to prepare for disasters, officials said on Tuesday.
Low-lying, densely-populated Bangladesh is one of the world's most disaster-prone countries, hit every year by cyclones that are becoming more frequent due to climate change.
About 60 percent of deaths caused by cyclones around the world in the last two decades occurred in Bangladesh, according to the World Bank.
The country has made progress in preparing for disaster since a 1991 cyclone killed more than 100,000 people, and now all the country's 329 municipalities have agreed to join the U.N.'s Making Cities Resilient Campaign.
Bangladesh was the second country in the Asia-Pacific after Mongolia to have all its cities sign up, said Animesh Kumar, the regional deputy head of U.N. Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
Each member city commits to understanding their level of disaster risk, designing better infrastructure, and ensuring they can cope with future hazards, Kumar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
"Bangladesh is a highly disaster-prone country and building disaster resilience at the local level lies with devolving responsibility from central government," said Mostafa Quaium Khan, adviser to the Bangladesh Urban Forum, in a statement.
"Local administrations must be empowered and given responsibility for managing disaster risk reduction.
This year more than half the population of the Asia-Pacific will for the first time be urban.
But infrastructure and services have struggled to keep pace with the population growth in many cities, while the effects of climate change have created further challenges.
UNISDR has developed a 10-point scorecard that helps municipalities to build a disaster losses database to give them a clear picture of loss of life, people affected, damage to infrastructure, and the performance of emergency response.
This then helps cities prioritize its future disaster risk planning.
The cities involved in the campaign can also share their knowledge and experiences on reducing disaster risk to other cities, said Kumar, who was speaking by telephone from Mongolia, where a U.N. conference on the subject is under way.
Globally, 3,883 cities and towns participate in the Making Cities Resilient Campaign.
Reporting by Michael Taylor, Editing by Claire Cozens.
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