Nova workboard

a blog from young economists at Nova SBE

Impact of natural disasters in poor countries

Does nature discriminate? Why is it that a natural disaster such as an earthquake of the same magnitude makes so much more damage in Ecuador or Haiti than in Chile or Japan? The facts are that over 90% of deaths caused by natural disasters occur in poor countries. This is due mainly to the fact that poor tend to live in more dangerous areas, such as steep hillsides prone to landslides or riverbanks and sea shores prone to flooding because they cannot afford safe land. Moreover, their houses are constructed of less quality materials; therefore they suffer more destruction and are less protected of debris falling on them. To illustrate this, we can take the example of the recent earthquake in Ecuador where 80% of the city of Pedernales is considered destroyed, only the houses constructed in rich areas and with resistant materials still stand up.

Here we have only one dimension of the problem; recovering after the calamity is the hardest part. First, we need to think about orphans, many children end up without no one to take care of them and are easily exposed to exploitation of various sorts that can go from having to work on the streets to sexual trafficking. There is also not enough trained social workers in those areas to deal with the children’s trauma. After a disaster, diseases spread quickly, the affected areas don’t possess enough doctor or hospitals, not even enough medicines to deal with all these people, moreover clean water and available toilets become limited which help to expand the contamination and the different kind of infections. Their savings are limited to buy food and other basic necessities to live in a dignified way and in general the poorest people does not possess insurance.

In the big picture, the reaction power of the government to such an event is lower than in rich countries since they tend to have already debts to pay, they have little to nothing of money available for post disaster development. Basically, they depend on rich countries for debt cancellation and resources to generate development and rebuild cities. The president of Ecuador (an economist) said that best way to help recover from this inevitable circumstances would be to re-activate the economy by travelling to the affected area, this kind of solidarity is harder in poor countries since even the people that weren’t attained by the phenomenon cannot afford this kind of help. And even with the resources for that, good intentions aren’t enough, you need experienced professionals, which are scarce in those countries, to take care of the situation.

Natural disasters are an unavoidable risk to every society and of course it is extremely hard to make all countries respect security norms that would minimize the damage. The solution to this events is naturally the sustainable development of the countries, but meanwhile it would be an interesting matter to see the international community assume that risk as a whole; a kind of international insurance in which every country would have contributed that would be reserved for this kind of emergencies. This would permit the quick arrival of goods of primary necessity and competent workers to the affected areas to minimize the damage and have a rapid reconstruction.

Tarek Abdo


Author: studentnovasbe

Master student in Nova Sbe

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