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“An increase in extreme weather events and unprecedented natural calamities have set back Asia-Pacific economic recovery and development gains and require a joint regional response,” said Nagesh Kumar, Acting Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). Representatives of 31 countries and 22 international organizations are attending the conference which will study a UN-supported report on natural disasters in the region. According to the report, the region has suffered 85 per cent of deaths and 38 per cent of global economic losses as a result of disasters from 1980 to 2009. Nearly 90 per cent of all people affected by disasters in 2010 were living in Asia. A common feature of the region is the high concentration of populations in seismically active areas. The 2009 earthquake and tsunami in Samoa, for example, derailed that Pacific island nation’s graduation to middle-income country status. “This session takes place at a time when the region is yet to fully recover from the external shocks from the global financial crisis, and disasters contribute to aggravation of the situation and undermine the region’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” Mr. Kumar said. The spate of disasters in many countries over the past year has affected the food security situation, further aggravating the rising food prices, he said. During the conference, a high-level panel of senior government delegates will share insights on emerging trends in disasters and their socio-economic, development and environmental aspects, ESCAP said. A special presentation on challenges and lessons learned in the aftermath of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in March will also be held. 29 June 2011Asia-Pacific countries must pull together to overcome natural calamities that have set back the region’s road to economic recovery, a United Nations official told the start of a three-day disaster risk reduction meeting in Bangkok today.