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

Global ISDR




The Role of Science and Technology
in Disaster Reduction

Building Disaster Resistant Infrastructures

Mobilizing Local Communities in Reducing Disasters


Every year, the Secretariat for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) organizes a worldwide information campaign destined to inform people from all horizons about disaster reduction, giving practical examples of what societies can do to be less vulnerable to natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, floods or landslides for example.

The information campaigns, called World Disaster Reduction Campaigns, focus on a different theme every year. This year, the general theme of the Campaign is “Countering Disasters; Targeting Vulnerability”. There are also three sub-themes which are “The Role of Science and Technology in Disaster Reduction”, “Building Disaster Resistant Infrastructures”, and “Mobilizing Local Communities in Reducing Disasters”.

The information material which is currently being developed as part of the Campaign -information kit, poster, radio programme- follows the theme and sub-themes of the Campaign; general information about recent disasters and their costs, projections for the future if current trends continue and a series of definitions of key concepts will form one part of the information material while specific practical cases illustrating vulnerability reduction will come under the three sub-themes mentioned above.

The World Disaster Reduction Campaigns culminate on the second Wednesday of October, which the United Nations has set as the International Day for Disaster Reduction. This year, the Day falls on 10 October 2001. Special celebrations therefore take place worldwide, based on the campaign theme and sub-themes, to promote awareness and make information available about disaster reduction.

The ISDR Secretariat has issued a detailed campaign announcement which is now available (contact information below).

As part of the Campaign, the ISDR Secretariat also offers suggestions for local activities and events destined to give ideas on how to promote the Campaign themes at the regional, national and local level. These include the organization of seminars and information sessions and the mobilization of the media. Moreover, specific sets of guidelines1 on how to participate in two risk mapping contests are also available; one for children and one for local communities. Risk maps are part of the best tools to target the vulnerability of a given area and are therefore a useful exercise in the practical application of risk reduction measures.

As of the end of July, the printed Campaign material will be sent out worldwide. Any material can be obtained from the address mentioned below.

The ISDR Secretariat highly encourages contributions to the Campaign in the form of descriptions of successful disaster reduction initiatives and projects on the main theme and sub-themes, as well as participation through the risk mapping contests or the organization of special events.

For any further details, questions on how to participate and to obtain information material, please do not hesitate to contact:

Nicole Appel,
Promotion and Awareness Officer, ISDR Geneva Office
tel: 41 22 917 97 06 fax: 41 22 917 90 98


ISDR Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean

(1) The guidelines for the risk mapping contest for local communities were developed in collaboration with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO).


Risk Mapping Contest for Children

Guidelines for children:

  1. With the help of your teacher, look up the meaning of the following words: Disaster, Hazard, and Vulnerability. Definitions are on the following page.
  2. Find out from books, archives and ask around in your community what major disasters have happened in your area in the past. Identify hazards (like floods, earthquakes, storms, landslides, volcanic eruptions or others) that could affect your city or village.
  3. Discuss disasters in your community with the mayor, firemen, the police, emergency personnel, doctors, social workers, and journalists.
  4. Draw the most important buildings; schools, hospitals, fire services, houses, police stations as well as potentially dangerous buildings such as factories, fragile buildings, dams, power plants. Use a different symbol for each building. Map out roads, rivers, power lines, sewarage works and dumps. Use different colors to show these areas.
  5. For each hazard, identify how buildings would be affected (a little, badly, completely destroyed) and use a different symbol for each degree of damage.
  6. Identify where the people are who will need most help in case of a disaster (Nursing homes, hospitals, nursery schools for example).
  7. Discuss possible solutions to diminish the risk.
  8. Present your findings to your teacher and send us your map so that you can enter the contest and we can show your map everywhere in the world.

Risk Mapping Contest for Local Communities

What Is a Community Risk Map?

A risk map is a map of a community or geographical zone that identifies the places and the buildings—homes, schools, health facilities and others—that might be adversely affected in the event of hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and other natural hazards and related technological or environmental disasters.

Risk mapping is a group effort. Many people with various kinds of expertise—emergency management, geology, meteorology, history, or simply a good knowledge of the locality— participate in the effort by providing their own input about which places in the community are vulnerable to hazardous events.

Who Can Participate?

  • Community organizations.
  • Municipalities.
  • Local healthcare workers.
  • Local Emergency Committees.
  • Religious groups.
  • Non-governmental organizations.
  • Any other groups wishing to participate and organize themselves to do so.

What Should the Risk Map Include?

It should be a map of the community or area at risk indicating the most significant facilities, such as schools, hospitals, churches, the Red Cross, fire-fighters or police headquarters, the City Hall or other municipal buildings.

The Risk Map should also include especially hazardous buildings in the area, such as factories or other work places. The different types of buildings should be identified by a distinctive symbol. The map may also include the main streets, roads, and bridges; significant electricity and water supply lines; areas exposed to flooding or landslides due to excessive deforestation or any other reason; and densely populated areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters. Different colors may be used to indicate the degree of risk: severe, moderate or light.

How Should the Risk Map Be Produced?

  • Organize a series of walks or drives around the community or the area under consideration to identify areas or features at risk.
  • Hold meetings to discuss the findings of this reconnaissance effort and the reasons why some areas are considered at risk.
  • Discuss possible solutions to reduce risk.
  • Collaborate in the drawing of the map.


What Will the Prizes Be?

The winners of the contests will receive grants towards disaster reduction projects in their schools and local communities.

In addition, the winning maps—and any others considered noteworthy—will be published in a commemorative volume and will be exhibited.

All maps submitted will become the property of the ISDR Secretariat and will not be returned to the contestants. Participants are encouraged to keep copies of their maps and distribute them as widely as possible in their community.

Please send your Risk Maps
by 21 september 2001
“Risk Mapping Contest”
(Nicole Appel)
ISDR Secretariat
Palais des Nations CH 1211
Geneva 10 • Switzerland.




What is a natural hazard?

Natural hazards comprise phenomena such as earthquakes; volcanic activity; land-slides; tsunamis, tropical cyclones and other severe storms; tornadoes and high winds; river floods and coastal flooding; wildfires and associated haze; drought; sand/dust storms; infestations.

What is a natural disaster?

A natural disaster is the result of the impact of a natural hazard on a socio-economic system with a given level of vulnerability, which prevents the affected society from coping adequately with this impact. 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. The ISDR encompasses technical and environmental disasters only when caused by natural hazards.

What is vulnerability to disasters?

Vulnerability to disasters is a status resulting from human action or from an inherent situation such as poverty. It describes the degree to which a society is threatened by the impact of natural hazards. The degree of vulnerabiliy depends on the condition of human settlements and their infrastructure, the way in which public policy and administration are engaged in disaster management, the level of information and education available about hazards and how to deal with them.

Why target society’s vulnerability to disasters?

Although societies have always experienced major natural disasters, they have, in recent years, been increasingly affected by their adverse impact. In early 2001 alone, two severe consecutive earthquakes in El Salvador and one in India, together with recurring floods in Mozambique caused significant loss of life and damage to economic and social infrastructures in these countries. This global development is directly linked to a number of trends such as increasing poverty, population growth and density particularly in the context of rapid urbanization, environmental degradation and climate change.

What is Disaster Reduction?

Solutions to counter the increasing impact of natural hazards world-wide exist. The knowledge and technology necessary to apply these solutions are widely available. Disaster reduction is the sum of all the measures, which can be undertaken to reduce the vulnerability of a socio-economic system to natural hazards. The measures cover a wide spectrum of activities ranging from avoiding disasters all together to measures aimed at limiting the severity of a disaster when it strikes. Sound information and political commitment are the basis of successful disaster reduction measures. This is an ongoing process which is not limited to a single disaster. It seeks to motivate societies at risk to become engaged in conscious disaster management, beyond the traditional response to disasters. Disaster reduction is multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary in nature and involves a wide variety of interrelated activities at the local, national, regional and international level.

The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

The UN has established the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction as a global framework for action with a view to enabling all societies to become resilient to the effects of natural hazards and related technological and environmental disasters, in order to reduce human, economic and social losses. It involves a conceptual shift from an emphasis on disaster response to the management of risk through the integration of disaster reduction into sustainable development. The implementation of the Strategy is premised on the establishment of partnerships between governments, non-governmental organizations, UN agencies, the scientific community, the media as well as other relevant stakeholders in the disaster reduction community. The four goals of the Strategy are to increase public awareness about disaster reduction, to obtain commitment from public authorities, to stimulate inter-disciplinary and inter-sectoral partnerships, and to improve the scientific knowledge of the causes of natural disasters and the consequences of the impact of natural hazards. The UN General Assembly has mandated two additional tasks which are directly relevant to disaster reduction; the continuance of international cooperation to reduce the impacts of El Niño and La Niña and the strengthening of disaster reduction capacity through Early Warning measures.