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

EIRD Global


2003 World Disaster Reduction Campaign

Turning the tide on disasters towards sustainable development

Too much water…

The increasing extent of disastrous flooding can be explained by various factors, including growing urban populations, denser occupancy of flood plains and other flood-prone areas, as well as the expansion of unwise forms of watershed land use. In the period 1980-2001 a total of 163,471 deaths were associated with the occurrence of floods worldwide.

In Mozambique, more than 80 per cent of the population live off the land. During the 2000 floods – the worst for over a century –
almost all of that land was under water.

Nearly one million people were forced to flee their homes,
seeking refuge in trees. Floodwater levels were said to have risen from four to eight metres in a matter of days.

Too little water…

The nature and impact of drought is difficult to assess, due to its slow-onset character and pervasive effects lasting over many months and even years. In the above-mentioned period 1980-2001 a total of 560,300 people were reportedly killed by drought, representing nearly half of the casualties triggered by natural hazards.

Since 2000, southern Sri Lanka has suffered a drought
described by locals as being “the worst in fifty years”.
Communities in drought-stricken areas have suffered greatly
from failing crops and malnourishment, forcing local industries to close down and villagers to head for the towns in search of work.

Living with risk - Turning the tide on disasters towards sustainable development

In keeping with the International Year of Freshwater, ISDR’s 2003 World Disaster Reduction Campaign looks at how we can cope with water-related hazards. Hydrometeorological hazards (such as floods, droughts, landslides, tropical cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons) are noticeably on the rise, affecting more communities than ever due to human activities that increase vulnerability and change the natural balance of ecosystems. This is why disaster reduction needs to be successfully incorporated into the broader goals of sustainable development to enable the building of disaster resilient communities. While the statistics on the impacts of disasters are sobering enough to make us appreciate the extent of their impacts – including shocking death counts, costs and figures based on economic, social, property losses – it seems that few of us have actually taken steps to act upon this knowledge to adequately protect ourselves against the risk of disaster.

What can you do?

As the slogan suggests – “Turning the tide” – the 2003 World Disaster Reduction Campaign aims at changing our perceptions and attitudes towards hydrometeorological disasters through the involvement of as many sectors as possible. While its culminating occasion will be the International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction – to be held on 8 October 2003 – the Campaign itself will in fact extend beyond the year 2003 until World Water Day on 22 March 2004. On that day UN/ISDR and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will together take the lead within the UN system in the international celebrations focusing specifically on water-related disasters. Both of these days represent an opportunity for national institutions, schools, community groups, media at the regional, national and local levels to highlight the subject and draw attention to lessons learned and best practices on how to reduce the vulnerability to water-related hazards, organize roundtables, festivals, community contests and other events to raise awareness on disaster reduction.

Water and disasters

At any time throughout the world a river somewhere is in flood and its waters are threatening communities, their properties and even their lives. At the other end of this extreme water overload are droughts that have been and are still occurring around the world at the same time.

Today, hydrometeorological hazards are having a greater impact due to human activities that increase vulnerability and change the natural balance of ecosystems, interfering more than ever with the natural surroundings that make our world a liveable home. In addition to this worrying trend, water-related disasters are predicted to increase both in frequency and intensity due to climate change, environmental degradation, and phenomena such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, affecting the patterns and intensity of natural hazards.

This is precisely the reason why sustainable development, along with the international strategies and instruments aiming at poverty reduction and environmental protection, must take into account the risk of natural hazards and their impacts. Sustainable development is not possible without addressing vulnerability to natural hazards; it is in fact a crosscutting concern related to the social, economic, environmental and humanitarian sectors.

Water-related disasters – too much or too little water – have major impacts on the well being of countries in all of these sectors, and appropriate policies for the assessment of risk and vulnerability, strategies to reduce and share risk, as well as strengthened preparedness, early warning and response measures are essential for the successful incorporation of disaster reduction into sustainable development. Disaster reduction includes the activities taken to assess and reduce both vulnerable conditions and, when possible, the impact of the hazard – especially when addressing droughts, floods and landslides.