International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean        Inssue No. 15, 1999


Methodology for Assessing the Economic Impact of Disasters

ECLAC has been working since the early 1970s on assessing the socioeconomic impact of natural disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean, with emphasis on macroeconomic indicators.

These activities have gained force and a renewed sense of urgency in recent years, given the impact of climatic phenomena such as El Niño in 1997-1998 and hurricanes Georges in the Caribbean and Mitch in Central America in 1998, as well as severe seismic events such as the quake that hit the coffee-growing area of Colombia in early 1999. During the second half of 1999, major disasters included hurricanes Irene, José and Lenny in the Caribbean, earthquakes in Puebla and Oaxaca, Mexico, and unusually destructive floods in Southeastern Mexico. All these events underscore the negative impact of natural disasters on development, both at the local community level and for the country as a whole.

ECLAC is currently working on a project, sponsored by Germany’s GTZ, for improving damage-assessment methodology to promote natural disaster mitigation and risk reduction. The first activity in this regard was a seminar that was held in ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, Chile, in December 1999.

The current methodology is explained in the Manual for Estimating the Socioeconomic Effects of Natural Disasters, produced with the support of the Italian government and published in 1991. It was recently translated into English and French with the support of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) Secretariat, to increase its dissemination and use.

It was decided that the Manual needed to be updated and expanded to meet current assessment needs more effectively, particularly the greater awareness at present of the need for environmental and social sustainability and response capacity. It was also imperative to make the need for vulnerability reduction more explicit, particularly in societies at risk due to their structural, geographical, geological or climatic conditions. Mitigation and vulnerability reduction must be an integral part of the assessment methodology, particularly when it comes to estimating reconstruction costs.

The efforts to improve the methodology focused on the following issues:

  1. The impact on development, i.e., on macroeconomic indicators.
  2. In the housing sector, the different types of dwellings affected and the differential costs of repairs, retrofitting or reconstruction, within the context of the preexisting housing deficit in many of the countries of the region.
  3. An assessment of the impact of disasters on the social fabric, including interpersonal and group-to-group relations and community organization.
  4. The issue of the cost and value of lost lives; loss of income and current valuation at least as an approximation.
  5. The stages of a disaster, its nature and the context in which it occurs.

For more information, please contact:
ECLAC Mexico
Tel (525) 545-0086/250-11555
Ext. 138, Fax (525) 531-1151