1. Disasters in today's world

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 Risk reduction,  the first category includes the various aspects of long-term management designed to do as much as possible to prevent the occurrence of a disaster.

  Disaster preparedness and response,  the second involves reducing the immediate impact of disasters by training those in charge of response so that they can address health challenges effectively.

“Although each group views the problems from different points of view, they have the same objective: to reduce the health hazards of disasters.”

Support for disaster management is often based on humanitarian or political concerns such as the need not to leave victims unprotected. In Latin America and the Caribbean, disaster programs were established or strengthened after major disasters and actions such as widespread use of early warning systems in the Caribbean (as in Asia) have drastically reduced the number of the victims of hurricanes and typhoons.

However, this is not the only evidence that disaster management contributes directly to countries’ social and economic development. According to the World Bank, it is four times less expensive to invest in reducing risks than to rebuild. Estimates of other institutions range from factors of 1 to 15, depending on the type of building involved. The more complex the building, the more the cost-benefit ratio favors mitigation.

What is more important is that disaster management indirectly improves health management in general. Hospitals remain standing and are able to continue providing health care because building codes have been applied during the construction of new facilities.

Year after year, numerous disasters are caused by the combination of natural hazards with the social, economic, and environmental realities in countries around the world. According to the 2010 Annual Disaster Statistical Review published by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), a total of 373 disasters caused nearly 297,000 fatalities that year, affecting more than 207 million people in all, and causing US$ 109 billion dollars in damage and economic losses.

The high number of deaths, loss of economic and social infrastructure, and missed opportunities for development aggravate the vulnerability of affected communities, generating a vicious circle of cause and effect.

According to data from CRED, the American hemisphere experienced 922 natural disasters in the last decade, killing over 247,000 people, affecting more than 82 million, and causing at least US$ 487 billion in economic losses. In terms of the number of disasters and fatalities, only Asia was harder hit than the Americas, although in terms of economic impact the Americas suffered most. The last few decades have seen a global increase in the occurrence of disasters. Whereas the annual average number of disasters in the decade 1990-1999 was close to 250, the figure for the 2000-2009 period was 387.

In the Region of the Americas, the frequency of disasters is unquestionably rising. This does not necessarily mean that the intensity and recurrence of natural processes have grown, but it does point to the fact that the countries’ vulnerability has increased. Ever less intense natural events are producing an ever greater impact on the societies affected.


Diagram of actions to maintain or improve security and quality of life

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