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

Disaster in the Region


Damage Assessment ECLAC Updates Its Manual for Estimating the Socio-Economic Effects of Natural Disasters

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has been updating its Manual For Estimating The Socio-Economic and Environmental Effects Of Natural Disasters. On 30 and 31 August 2001, a meeting was held at ECLAC’s Subregional Headquarters in Mexico so that experts from throughout the region could discuss the status of the project with the consultants and authors of the revised edition.

This initiative has enjoyed the support of the government of the Netherlands, through its project to Improve damage assessment methodology to promote natural disaster mitigation and risk reduction awareness and preparedness in Latin America and the Caribbean, and of the Italian government and its project for the Development of methodologies on environmental economics to update the ECLAC Manual For Estimating The Socio-Economic Effects Of Natural Disasters and training activities to build the capacities of countries to reduce environmental vulnerability to natural disasters.

Representatives of international organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the ISDR Secretariat took part in the Mexico meeting. ECLAC was represented by officials from such departments as the Environment and Human Settlements Division and the Population Division (CELADE). Officials from the Mexican National Centre for Disaster Prevention also attended the meeting.

At the workshop, participants discussed the new chapters, as well as cross-cutting issues that are highlighted in the new version of the Manual, like environmental valuation and the social costs of disasters including unemployment and the disruption of the social fabric of affected communities and countries. Another issue they discussed was gender—not, obviously, because of men and women suffering different impacts in the event of a disaster, but because their role is different in reconstruction and, more importantly, in vulnerability reduction, the promotion of a culture of prevention, and better risk management.

ECLAC representatives reflected on the significance of vulnerability to natural hazards as a strategic component of the development agenda, and agreed that a better conceptualization and internalization of risk reduction throughout ECLAC’s various programmes and projects would help change local, national and regional development policies to take into account risk management and vulnerability reduction. Participants agreed that ECLAC must improve its institutional capacity to respond to the growing demands for technical cooperation in this field, and to execute and negotiate projects involving disaster reduction.

Discussions were held on the best format for the revised edition of the Manual so that it can be most easily consulted in the field. For instance, recent studies on aid to countries affected by disasters should provide good examples for the various sectors involved.

Consensus was also reached on the importance of launching the revised Manual, sometime in late 2001, not only in Latin America and the Caribbean but elsewhere, since it is a methodological contribution of value to other developing countries.

Looking towards the future, a joint IDB-ECLAC project, to be executed by ECLAC starting early next year, aims to develop complex economic and social vulnerability indicators, as well as methodologies for projecting the impact of disasters on country by assessing their historical impact, developing ex ante analysis models, and carrying out studies on risk management capacity in at least five countries in the region, probably Barbados, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala and Mexico.

In addition to expressing their satisfaction with the recent work done on these issues of growing significance to the international and regional agendas,[1] participants recognized the potential of damage assessment for enhancing ECLAC’s hemispheric development efforts.

To view the current version of the Manual, as well as recent damage assessments of the impact of hurricanes Georges, Mitch, and Keith between 1998 and 2000, and of the earthquakes that shook El Salvador in January and February 2001, go to

1 For instance, the Action Plan of the Third Summit of the Americas (Quebec City, April 2001) discusses disaster management. In order to facilitate the exchange of experiences and knowledge and reinforce coordination among national response agencies, regional leaders also agreed to rely on ECLAC’s attempts to improve, update and implement its damage assessment methodology, and to continue promoting disaster mitigation and greater awareness of the need for risk reduction and disaster prevention.