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Crisis Global Health Research

What role does corruption play in worsening so-called ‘natural disasters’?

What role does corruption play in worsening so-called ‘natural disasters’? (Hint – there are no natural disasters!) With recent “bomb cyclone,” natural hazards could create disasters but in many cases, corruption in development and infrastructure exacerbate the situation with buildings and houses that collapse (which shouldn’t).

Colleagues and I from UNSW, UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, University of Technology Sydney, University of Sydney, Harvard Medical School, & SEEDS explored this question while systematically reviewing the academic literature concerning the degree to which corruption worsens naturally-triggered disasters in the built environment. The early view of our research is now published at Wiley ODI Disasters scientific journal (link).

With strong winds and heavy rain from a “bomb cyclone” past Sunday in Northern California and the Bay Area, the impact of the severe weather could be more than flash flood threats and prompted evacuation orders – especially if corruption occurred during the development and infrastructure of buildings and houses that may not been structured to withstand (even though it should if followed latest regulations and technology!).

As G20 Summit in Rome and UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) happening now, much will be in discussion about the economy and financing for health. World Health Organization will be calling for radical redirection from health for the economy to the economy for health for all. Will this financing include efforts to slow the climate impacts and the existing corruption?

Recent United Nations IPCC report stated that there is no going back from some climate impacts, but there is still hope to slow and stop some consequences if we act now.

There is a lot to do when reducing the severity of climate change across industries – but if corruption could be better identified, then better protection can occur to address the vulnerabilities to infrastructure meant to protect communities against natural hazards.

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