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



Information for Vulnerability Reduction in Latin America
and the Caribbean

Information for Risk Management

The significant increase, over the last decade, in the vulnerability of Latin America and the Caribbean to natural phenomena—and the emergencies they create—has several sources. Various factors augment risk, such as poverty, deforestation, pollution, and inappropriate land use. Vulnerability reduction depends on finding solutions to these problems. Given the complexity of the task, national authorities and local communities alike wonder where to begin; given the lack of resources, they attempt to set priorities.

Effective risk management implies a series of related actions requiring the effective participation of all stakeholders—the central and local governments, the community, the private sector, humanitarian organizations—at all stages of the process: from prevention and mitigation to response and rehabilitation. Throughout this cycle, information plays a key role. It describes conditions and relationships, contributes to decision-making, records the lessons learned and conveys knowledge. It is the key component of early warning systems and public announcements on any given emergency situation.

Until recently, the availability of information on disaster issues varied, depending on the occurrence or non-occurrence of catastrophic events. Over the last decade, this situation has been changing, and there is now a significant number of individuals and organizations committed to carrying out research on the components of disaster situations, how to prevent them, and how to control them. Significant challenges remain: how to systematize information production and processing, how to translate it into different languages so that it can be accessible to all stakeholders, and how to disseminate it in timely fashion at a reasonable cost.

CRID’s Mission and Objectives

In response to the demands by Latin America’s governments and civil society organizations, the Regional Disaster Information Centre (CRID) has been established, based on a pilot scheme developed by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) in 1990. Its mission: Reducing disaster vulnerability through the promotion of a culture of prevention and cooperative efforts for risk management. It does this by carrying out activities aimed at providing society with easy access to disaster information.

This mission is based on the following factors and assumptions:

  1. Vulnerability to disasters is high in most countries of Latin America and the Caribbean due to several factors, such as the high risk of sudden and potentially highly destructive events (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods), inadequate urban planning, environmental and ecosystems degradation, poverty, and the lack of a culture of disaster prevention.
  2. Information management is key to preventing and mitigating disasters. It includes the gathering, processing and dissemination of information, as well as training, knowledge engineering, and the uses that are made of available and emerging information.
  3. The negative impact of disasters can be reduced not only through the develop-ment of a culture of prevention but also through institutional capacity building for a better management of disaster information.
  4. The availability of information to the various stakeholders requires that attention be paid to their interests, knowledge, and the social sector to which they belong.
  5. Disaster information management is significantly linked to the sustainable development of the region.
  6. Regional coordination can contribute to mitigation and prevention planning as well as to decision- and policy-making in this field.

CRID’s Objectives

CRID’s objectives are:

  • Providing high-quality information gathering, processing and dissemination services in an unrestricted, readily available fashion to a wide variety of users in the region.
  • Building regional, national, and local capacity for managing disaster information centres.
  • Promoting the use of information and communications technology to provide information services.
  • Contributing to the development of a Regional Disaster Information System.
  • Promoting the concept of decentralization and disaster information exchange so that it can be easily accessed by institutions and users in general.
  • Providing advice and training to the various stakeholders on information optimization, exchange and dissemination.
  • Striving for the sustainability of CRID itself through project management and the execution of initiatives or programmes.

CRID’s Services and Products

  • Assistance to a wide variety of users in searching and finding disaster and health information available on physical or electronic media.
  • Electronic access to an extensive collection of documents and other information sources.
  • Development and implementation of disaster information management training for information centres, including the use of databases, controlled vocabulary on disasters, use of the Internet, and related topics.
  • Massive distribution of public and technical information (bulletins, bibliographies, etc.).
  • Design of information stands and participation in specific events.
  • Coordination with other institutions interested in disaster information management.
  • Management of information management projects.
  • Production, edition, and distribution of training material.
  • Publication and distribution of information products such as bibliographies.


  • Virtual Disaster Library. A CD-ROM collection of 250 documents, in English and Spanish, produced by the UN System on disaster issues.
  • Bibliodes. Specialized bibliographies on specific disaster-related issues. So far, 28 issues have been published and distributed to over 1,500 organizations, with electronic versions going out to 200 other bodies. The latest issue, which will appear in November 2001, focuses on prevention.
  • LILACS. CRID publishes its bibliographic database three times a year on a LILACS CD-ROM produced by BIREME.
  • Web site. It provides online access to CRID resources, as well as to other resources available on the Web.

Where Is CRID headed?

The vulnerability of Latin America and the Caribbean to natural phenomena, sadly reflected in the devastation wrought by hurricanes Georges and Mitch in 1998, the floods in Venezuela and Central America (1999), and the El Salvador earthquakes of 2001, cries out for a substantial improvement in interinstitutional coordination and in the existing channels of information gathering and dissemination, so that vulnerable communities and decision-makers can manage risk more effectively.

CRID’s challenges in this context can be summarized as follows:

  • It must strengthen its core competency as a documentation centre specialized in disaster issues by adding value to its bibliographic records and constantly updating its bibliographic database.
  • In the light of its experiences to date, it must select certain technical cooperation services it can provide, taking advantage of its human and technological resources.
  • It must continue to promote the establishment of the Regional Disaster Information System as an effective way to gather and disseminate information, building capacity at the local and national levels.

For more information, please contact:
Apdo. 3745, San José 1000, Costa Rica
Tel. +506 296-3952
Fax +506 231-5973