UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for decisive action to reduce the impact of climate change as he launched on Sunday a global assessment of ways to minimise the risks of natural disasters.
Un Chief Ban Ki-moon
Launching the report in the wealthy Gulf state of Bahrain, Ban said that national governments need to do more to reduce the risks which disproportionately affected the poor.
"As a result of global climate change, weather-related hazards are on the rise and we must act decisively," Ban said.
"Last year alone, 236,000 people lost their lives in over 300 disasters. More than 200 million were directly affected. Damage totalled over 180 billion dollars.
"Asia was hit especially hard. Nine of the top 10 countries with the highest number of disaster-related deaths were in Asia.
"We know that poor people and developing nations suffer the most from disasters. This new report catalogues just how concentrated this risk can be, and how similar exposure to hazard can kill many or a few.
"For example, 75 percent of those who die from floods live in just three countries -- Bangladesh, China and India.
"Today, I call on heads of governments and political leaders around the world to invest more in disaster risk reduction."
The UN chief cited three main issues that needed to be addressed -- unplanned urban development, vulnerable rural livelihoods and the decline of ecosystems.
He said governments should invest in upgrading squatter settlements and providing land for the urban poor, and protecting rural livelihoods and ecosystems.
He singled out the potential contribution that could be made by microcredit schemes like that pioneered in Bangladesh by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.