At regular but unpredictable intervals, people around the world are affected by natural hazards. These may be caused by climate (eg drought, flood, cyclone) geology (eg earthquake, volcano, tidal wave, landslide) the environment (eg pollution, deforestation, desertification, pest infestation) or combinations of these. Hazards become disasters when people’s homes and livelihoods are destroyed. Poverty, population pressures and environmental degradation mean that increasing numbers of people are vulnerable to natural hazards. Increasing population and urbanisation is increasing the world’s exposure to natural hazards, especially in coastal areas (with greater exposure to floods, cyclones and tidal waves). Although worldwide disaster occurrence seems to follow an upward trend, some of their impacts on societies (victims and economic damages) have not increased as preparedness has improved.
Disaster management is a complex series of activities that include risk assessment, prevention measures, preparedness to cope with future disasters, emergency response to a disaster, recovery and reconstruction.
Good development and community preparedness can reduce the impact of a disaster especially for the most vulnerable people, such as those living in hazard-prone areas with few financial resources to help them recover if they lose their means of livelihood.
The second Wednesday in October is International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction which focuses on the urgent need for prevention activities to reduce loss of life, damage to property, infrastructure and environment, and the social and economic disruption caused by natural disasters.
Search and rescue – finding those who may be trapped under debris
Assessment of needs – working out what is required, in what quantities, and for whom
Health – providing medical care and preventing the spread of disease through immunisation, the provision of safe water and food, waste disposal and burial of the dead
Basic needs – procuring and distributing food, shelter and clothing
Gender – understanding the roles of men and women in families and communities to identify needs and ensure the fair distribution of resources…
Modifying or removing the causes of any likely hazard – for example by building houses away from hazard prone areas, building levy banks in flood prone areas and upgrading stoves to reduce the risk of fire
Taking measures to reduce the effects of a hazard – for example by building houses to standards that will protect people during a hazard, developing early warning systems that can function without power systems, developing response plans, defining the roles and training of emergency services personnel, collecting and storing resources and equipment to ensure a quick response, educating the public and rehearsing for a hazard (eg evacuation drill)…
Our individual responses
The most useful form of assistance during a humanitarian crisis is the donation of money to non-government overseas aid organisations. This is because such organisations:
May have qualified people already working in the affected country who understand what is needed in the emergency situation, understand the peoples’ cultures, and know the local languages.
Have strong local networks so they know where to buy emergency relief goods at the best prices with the least long-term negative impact on the affected country and can manage timely and cost-effective transportation have controls …
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