for Vulnerability Reduction in Latin America
and the Caribbean
for Risk Management
The significant increase,
over the last decade, in the vulnerability of Latin America and the Caribbean
to natural phenomenaand the emergencies they createhas 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 stakeholdersthe central and local governments, the community,
the private sector, humanitarian organizationsat 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.
In response to the
demands by Latin Americas 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The availability
of information to the various stakeholders requires that attention be
paid to their interests, knowledge, and the social sector to which they
- Disaster information
management is significantly linked to the sustainable development of
- Regional coordination
can contribute to mitigation and prevention planning as well as to decision-
and policy-making in this field.
- 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
- 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.
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
- Web site. It provides
online access to CRID resources, as well as to other resources available
on the Web.
Where Is CRID headed?
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.
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
- 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