extent of disastrous flooding can be explained by various factors,
including growing urban populations, denser occupancy of flood
plains and other flood-prone areas, as well as the expansion
of unwise forms of watershed land use. In the period 1980-2001
a total of 163,471 deaths were associated with the occurrence
of floods worldwide.
more than 80 per cent of the population live off the land.
During the 2000 floods - the worst for over a century - almost
all of that land was under water. Nearly one million people
were forced to flee their homes, seeking refuge in trees. Floodwater
levels were said to have risen from four to eight metres in
a matter of days.
and impact of drought is difficult to assess, due to its slow-onset
character and pervasive effects lasting over many months and
even years. In the above-mentioned period 1980-2001 a total
of 560,300 people were reportedly killed by drought, representing
nearly half of the casualties triggered by natural hazards.
southern Sri Lanka has suffered a drought described by locals
as being “the worst in fifty years”. Communities
in drought-stricken areas have suffered greatly from failing
crops and malnourishment, forcing local industries to close
down and villagers to head for the towns in search of work.
OFDA-CRED International Disaster Database, CRED, Catholic University
of Louvain, Brussels (data as at 26 February 2002).
Living with Risk
Turning the tide on disasters
towards sustainable development
|In line with the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction's
(ISDR) mandate of increasing public awareness to understand risk,
vulnerability and disaster reduction globally, the dissemination
of clear messages is crucial for the development of disaster
reduction programmes at global, regional, national and local
levels. International agencies, non-governmental organizations,
government representatives, local decision makers, scientists,
educators and local communities all have the opportunity to participate
in the World Disaster Reduction Campaign, bringing each of their
complementary roles and responsibilities, generating more widespread
commitment and understanding to disaster reduction.
Organized by the Inter-Agency Secretariat of the International
Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR), the overarching
goal of the annual World Disaster Reduction Campaign is to
raise awareness through an interactive movement in which
different parties are engaged, to create social pressure
and change peoples' perceptions towards reducing the risks
and vulnerabilities to the negative impacts of natural hazards.
By bringing together diverse experiences and initiatives
taking place worldwide, more people learn about disaster
reduction, which can ultimately lead to changed perceptions
and behaviours, such as the organization of educational community
gatherings to design risk maps, school classes on what to
do in the event of a disaster, training opportunities for
disaster reduction practitioners and the development of national
disaster management policies.
The Campaign builds momentum throughout the year, culminating
in the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction,
whereby it is celebrated internationally by global organizations,
regional institutions and local communities alike. Celebrations
of the Day bring together representatives of all facets of
society, such as national governments, local emergency volunteers,
school children and journalists. Natural disasters can affect
us all, wherever and whoever we may be.
In keeping with the International Year of Freshwater, ISDR's 2003
World Disaster Reduction Campaign looks at how we can cope with
water-related hazards. Hydrometeorological hazards (such as floods,
tropical cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons) are noticeably on the
rise, affecting more communities than ever due to human activities
that increase vulnerability and change the natural balance of ecosystems.
This is why disaster reduction needs to be successfully incorporated
into the broader goals of sustainable development to enable the
building of disaster resilient communities. While the statistics
on the impacts
of disasters are sobering enough to make us appreciate the extent
of their impacts - including shocking death counts, costs and figures
based on economic, social, property losses - it seems that few
of us have actually taken steps to act upon this knowledge to adequately
protect ourselves against the risk of disaster.
What can you do?
As the slogan suggests - Turning the tide - the 2003 World Disaster
Reduction Campaign aims at changing our perceptions and attitudes
towards hydrometeorological disasters through the involvement of
as many sectors as possible. While its culminating occasion will
be the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction - to be held
on 8 October 2003 - the Campaign itself will in fact extend beyond
the year 2003 until World Water Day on 22 March 2004. On that day
UN/ISDR and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will together
take the lead within the UN system in the international celebrations
focusing specifically on water-related disasters. Both of these days
represent an opportunity for national institutions, schools, community
groups, media at the regional, national and local levels to highlight
the subject and draw attention to lessons learned and best practices
on how to reduce the vulnerability to water related hazards, organize
round-tables, festivals, community contests and other events to raise
awareness on disaster reduction.
2000, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2003
to be the International Year of Freshwater. Supported by
149 countries, the UN resolution encourages increased awareness
of the importance of sustainable freshwater use, management
and protection. The International Year of Freshwater is
a platform for promoting activities and spearheading new
initiatives in water resources at the international , regional
and national levels.
Year of Freshwater is expected to follow up on agreements
reached at the World Summit on Sustainable Development
(Johannesburg, August-September 2002) and the World Water
Forum (Kyoto, March 2003), and should have an impact far
for the Year are being coordinated by the UN Department
of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA) and the UN Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Water and disasters
At any time throughout the world a river somewhere is in flood and
its waters are threatening communities, their properties and even
their lives. At the other end of this extreme water overload are
droughts that have been and are still occurring around the world
at the same time.
hazards are having a greater impact due to human activities that
increase vulnerability and change the natural
balance of ecosystems, interfering more than ever with the natural
surroundings that make our world a liveable home. In addition to
this worrying trend, water related disasters are predicted to increase
both in frequency and intensity due to climate change, environmental
degradation, and phenomena such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation,
affecting the patterns and intensity of natural hazards.
This is precisely the reason why sustainable development, along
with the international strategies and instruments aiming at poverty
reduction and environmental protection, must take into account the
risk of natural hazards and their impacts. Sustainable development
is not possible without addressing vulnerability to natural hazards;
it is in fact a crosscutting concern related to the social, economic,
environmental and humanitarian sectors.
Water related disasters - too much or too little water - have major
impacts on the well being of countries in all of these sectors, and
appropriate policies for the assessment of risk and vulnerability,
strategies to reduce and share risk, as well as strengthened preparedness,
early warning and response measures are essential for the successful
incorporation of disaster reduction into sustainable development.
Disaster reduction includes the activities taken to assess and reduce
both vulnerable conditions and, when possible, the impact of the
hazard especially when addressing droughts, floods and landslides.
towards sustainable development
disaster reduction measures into long-term sustainable development
planning and action, people's lives of today and tomorrow have
the best chance of functioning without being disrupted or compromised
by a natural disaster.
result of the impact of natural hazards
Natural hazards are phenomena such as earthquakes; volcanic activity;
landslides and avalanches; tsunamis; tropical cyclones and other
severe storms; tornadoes and high winds; river floods and coastal
flooding; wildfires and associated haze; drought; desertification;
heat waves; sand/dust storms.
Natural hazards themselves do not necessarily lead to disasters.
It is only their interaction with people and their environment that
generates impacts, which may reach disastrous proportions. Natural
hazards have the potential to become natural disasters by the serious
disruption to the functioning of societies, causing widespread human,
material and environmental losses, often exceeding the ability of
the affected society to cope.
We are all vulnerable
to natural disasters
People and societies are becoming more vulnerable to natural disasters
due to their own activities that lead to increasing poverty, population
growth and density (particularly in the context of rapid urbanisation),
environmental degradation and climate change. Although societies
have always been threatened by natural hazards, in recent years they
have been increasingly affected by their impact, leading to major
disasters. Natural hazards can threaten everyone but in practice,
proportionally, they tend to harm the poor most of all. People who
have to struggle every day just to survive do not have the time or
the strength to worry about seemingly distant natural hazards.
From disaster response
to disaster reduction
While disaster response and relief are important following a natural
disaster, conscious risk management is essential to motivate and
enable societies to become resilient to the effects of natural hazards
and related technological and environmental disasters.
reduction is the sum of all policies and measures a society
can undertake to protect itself from the negative effects of natural
hazards, involving a wide variety of interrelated activities at the
local, national, regional and international levels. It involves risk
assessments, knowledge development and education, institutional arrangements
to deal with risk, integration of risk management in sustainable
development and poverty reduction plans and practices, access to
early warning systems, among others. It has traditionally been described
as disaster preparedness, mitigation and prevention:
- Disaster preparedness involves measures taken in advance that prepare
a society for an oncoming disaster through early warning systems
and evacuation infrastructures.
- Disaster mitigation involves measures that reduce the effect of
a disaster, for example the upgrading of buildings to withstand a
- Disaster prevention involves avoiding a disaster entirely through
advanced planning, such as refraining from building in disaster-prone
will produce various supporting information materials
for the World Disaster Reduction Campaign available
in English, French and Spanish for dissemination
worldwide, including an information kit comprising
facts and figures, definitions of key concepts, success
stories and lessons learned and resource and website
invite you to contribute to the information kit in
the form of feature articles addressing the Campaign
theme Living with Risk - Turning the tide on disasters
towards sustainable development. Please provide us
with stories, examples from local, national or transborder
integrated management of floods, of drought or other
water-related hazards, briefs on methodologies or
specific risk reduction projects or policies that
have proved successful (or unsuccessful) in approximately
500 words, accompanied by images and/or graphics
and with relevant contact details for those who would
like to seek further information.
submit proposals for contributions for the 2003 World
Disaster Reduction Campaign, please contact
Nicole Rencoret, UN/ISDR, [email protected]