International Strategy for Disaster Reduction   

 

Disaster risk reduction: a development concern
A scoping study on links between disaster risk reduction, poverty and development
Department for International Development, DFID, United Kingdom


Disasters should be a core development concern

Disasters hold back development and progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Yet disasters are rooted in development failures. This is the core rationale for integrating disaster risk reduction into development.

Disasters hold back development

Many countries are not on course to meet MDG1, the prime goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. Country progress reports on MDGs frequently note progress on MDG1 being affected by disasters. In many cases, increases in numbers below poverty thresholds appear in aggregate national statistics following a disaster.

Disasters – including the everyday small-scale ones that go unnoticed by the outside world – affect poverty reduction in several ways. They have macroeconomic impacts, directly through physical damage to infrastructure, productive capital and stocks, but also indirectly and in the longer term by affecting productivity, growth and macroeconomic performance. These hit the poor hardest for several reasons. Loss of tax revenue and diversion of resources into disaster response has fiscal impacts affecting state provision of social services, while food prices often increase.

Moreover recent studies suggest that both governments and donors tend to fund disaster relief
and rehabilitation by reallocating resources from development programmes. Although the impact of any such reallocation is difficult to measure as it is unrecognised in official figures, it can be expected to affect the poor disproportionately through adverse effects on poverty reduction efforts.

Locally, impacts on poverty and food security can be much more severe and may not appear in national statistics. Disasters stretch coping strategies to breaking point and have long-term effects on livelihoods. High frequency hazards such as drought trigger immediate food crises, but can also have longerterm ‘ratchet’ effects which impede recovery in interim periods, especially when combined with other pressures such as HIV/AIDS, poor governance and conflict.

Disasters also slow down progress towards the remaining MDGs. For example:

  • Disaster-hit families often fail to send children to school, while schools may be closed down by
    earthquakes or floods (MDG2).
  • Disasters leave women and girls – including mothers – with heavier responsibilities and workloads and often poorer health. Disasters have also been associated with increased domestic
    violence and sexual harassment (MDG3&5).
  • Children are in greater danger in floods and drought, through drowning, starvation and disease (MDG4).
  • Disasters directly cause disease and damage to health infrastructure, while indirectly lowering
    disease resistance by heightening poverty and malnutrition. They may also lead women and girls to resort to sex work and risk HIV infection (MDG4&6).
  • Disasters can increase rural-urban migration, and in cities disproportionately affect slum dwellers (MDG7).
  • Storms and tidal surges set back gains from partnerships with small island states (MDG8).
    Such diverse consequences tend to go far beyond the immediate impacts which make media headlines and international disaster statistics. This is one reason why their role in holding back development may be much underestimated.

 

2 Table : Examples of disaster impacts on efforts to meet the MDGs

MDG
Direct impacts
Indirect impacts
1. Eradicatee extreme poverty and hunger
  • Damage to housing, service infrastructure, savings, productive assets and human losses reduce livelihood sustainability.
  • Negative macroeconomic impacts including severe short-term fiscal impacts and wider, longer-term impacts on growth, development and poverty reduction.
  • Forced sale of productive assets by vulnerable households pushes many into long-term poverty and increases inequality.
2. Achieve universal
primary education
  • Damage to education infrastructure.
  • Population displacement interrupts schooling.
  • Increased need for child labour for household work, especially for girls.
  • Reduced household assets make schooling less affordable, girls probably affected most.
3. Promote
gender equality
and empower
women
  • As men migrate to seek alternative work, women/girls bear an increased burden of care.
  • Women often bear the brunt of distress ‘coping’ strategies , e.g. by reducing food intake.
  • Emergency programmes may reinforce power structures which marginalise women.
  • Domestic and sexual violence may rise in the wake of a disaster.*
4. Reduce child
mortality
  • Children are often most at risk, e.g. of drowning in floods.
  • Damage to health and water & sanitation infrastructure.
  • Injury and illness from disaster weakens children’s immune systems.
  • Increased numbers of orphaned, abandoned and homeless children.
  • Household asset depletion makes clean water, food and medicine less affordable.
5. Improve maternal health
  • Pregnant woman are often at high risk from death/injury in disasters
  • Damage to health infrastructure.
  • Injury and illness from disaster can
    weaken women's health.
  • Increased responsibilities and workloads create stress for surviving mothers.
  • Household asset depletion makes clean
    water, food and medicine less affordable.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS,
malaria and other diseases
  • Poor health & nutrition following disasters weakens immunity.
  • Damage to health infrastructure.
  • Increased respiratory diseases associated with damp, dust and air pollution linked to disaster.
  • Increased risk from communicative and vector borne diseases, e.g. malaria and diarrhoeal diseases following floods.
  • Impoverishment and displacement following disaster can increase exposure to disease, including HIV/AIDS, and disrupt health care.
7. Ensure
environmental
sustainability
  • Damage to key environmental resources and exacerbation of soil erosion or deforestation.
  • Damage to water management and other urban infrastructure.
  • Slum dwellers/people in temporary settlements often heavily affected.
  • Disaster-induced migration to urban areas and damage to urban infrastructure increase the number of slum dwellers without access to basic services and exacerbate poverty.
8. Develop a global
partnership for development
  • Impacts on programmes for small island developing states from tropical storms, tsunamis etc.
  • Impacts on commitment to good governance, development and poverty reduction—nationally and internationally.
ALL MDGS  
  • Reallocation of resources – including ODA – from development to relief and recovery.

* Though data are scarce, a number of studies suggesting a surge in domestic and sexual violence against women in the wake of disasters are cited in, for example, PAHO (2004), EIIP (1998), Wisner et al. (2004:16), possibly resulting from heightened intra-household tensions.


Table 3: What disaster risk reduction can contribute towards meeting the MDGs

MDG
Examples of what risk reduction can contribute
1. Eradicatee extreme poverty and hunger
  • Disaster risk reduction and MDG1 are interdependent. Reducing livelihood vulnerability to natural hazards is key both to eradicating income poverty and improving equity, and to improving food security and reducing hunger. Reducing disaster impacts on the macroeconomy will promote growth, fiscal stability and state
    service provision, with particular benefits for the poor.
  • Disaster risk reduction and MDG1 share common strategies and tools: this overlap means that giving development more security from natural hazard can be very costeffective.
2. Achieve universal
primary education
  • In hazard-prone areas, the case for building schools and encouraging attendance becomes much stronger if buildings are safe and students and teachers are trained in emergency preparedness. Promoting safer structures may encourage better maintenance even in non-disaster times.
  • Reduced vulnerability will allow households to invest in priorities other than mere survival. Education is often a high priority. Girls (as 60% of non-attendees) may benefit disproportionately.
3. Promote
gender equality
and empower
women
  • Better risk reduction will help protect women from disproportionate disaster impacts.
  • Collective action to reduce risk by households and communities provides entry points for women (and other marginalised social groups) to organise for other purposes too, providing a catalyst for economic and social empowerment.
4. Reduce child
mortality
  • Disaster risk reduction will help protect children from direct deaths and injuries during hazard events (as exemplified in Box 5, p.24), and will lower mortality from diseases related to malnutrition and poor water and sanitation following disasters.
  • Health infrastructure and personnel in hazard-prone areas will be better protected. This may also promote better maintenance of infrastructure.
5. Improve maternal health
  • Disaster-related illness and injury will be reduced.
  • Improved household livelihood and food security will lower women’s workloads and improve family nutrition.
  • Health infrastructure and personnel in hazard-prone areas will be better protected. This may also promote better maintenance of infrastructure.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS,
malaria and other diseases
  • Public health risks, e.g. from flood waters, will be reduced, and nutrition and health status improved, boosting resistance to epidemic disease.
  • Fewer disasters will free up social sector budgets for human development.
  • Livelihood security will reduce the need to resort to work in the sex industry.
  • Community organisations and networks working in disaster risk reduction are a
    resource for family and community health promotion, and visa versa.
7. Ensure
environmental
sustainability
  • Reduced disaster-related migration into urban slums and reduced damage to urban infrastructure will improve urban environments.
  • An emphasis on governance for risk reduction and more secure livelihoods will help curb rural and urban environmental degradation.
  • Risk reduction partnerships that include community level actors and concerns will offer more sustainable infrastructure planning, and enable expansion of private sector contributions to reducing disasters.
  • Housing is a key livelihood asset for the urban poor. Disaster risk reduction
    programmes that prioritise housing will also help preserve livelihoods.
8. Develop a global
partnership for development
  • Creating an international governance regime to reduce risk from climate change and other disasters will help overcome disparities in national negotiating weight.
  • Efforts to build equal global partnerships for risk reduction will have particular relevance for small island developing states and HIPCs.
  • Disaster risk reduction initiatives could promote better public-private partnerships.
ALL MDGS
  • Reducing disaster impacts will free up resources, including ODA, to meet MDGs.

 


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