Leaving Disasters Behind: A guide to disaster risk reduction in Ethiopia

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This book is intended for staff from government agencies, non-government organizations, academic and research institutions and also donors who work in or for the disaster-prone areas of Ethiopia. The book will also be useful for those working in other disaster-prone regions in Africa and beyond. It provides guidance on how to reduce disaster risk using an integrated approach and will help in the identification and prioritization of hazards, assessment of vulnerability and capacity, and analysis of risk to prevent or minimize impacts of hazards thus ensuring that hazards do not progress into disasters. It captures and reflects the knowledge and experience of specialists in various aspects of disaster risk reduction and was produced through a participatory writeshop process.
  1 Leaving Disasters Behind 1 INTRODUCTION  2 Leaving Disasters Behind N atural and human-made disasters have been experienced throughouthistory. In the last three decades, however, both the frequency of theiroccurrence and the losses associated with them have increased. Theincidence and magnitude of disasters today is widely recognised as posing aserious threat to the survival, dignity and livelihoods of countless individuals,particularly the poor. Hard-won development gains are also under threat,especially in the least developed countries (LDCs).Disaster risk is a global concern; occurrence of a disaster in one region will haveimplications in others. Demographic, technological and socio-economic changes,especially increased urbanization, have resulted in settlement in high-risk zones.This effect is compounded by disease epidemics, such as HIV/AIDS, andincreasing climatic variability, exposing the world’s economies and peoples toincreased threat of disasters. Disasters and LDCs Although the number and seriousness of disasters are increasing everywhere,the low human development countries of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean suffermost and account for more than half of recorded disaster-related deaths. Drought-induced famines, floods, windstorms and earthquakes cause the most deaths.Floods appear to have affected more people in the last decade than any othernatural hazard, but the impacts of drought-induced famine are thought to have been significantly under-reported. While the incidence of disasters is rising, theyhave killed fewer people during the last two decades due to more effectiveinternational disaster response efforts. But the number of disasters and peopleaffected and the scale of property losses have all risen dramatically each decadesince records began in the 1960s. The recorded data should be treated withcaution, however; they are incomplete and only give an indication of trends.Between 1993 and 2002, a global annual average of 540 separate disasters triggered by natural and technological hazards was recorded: on average 62,000 peoplewere killed and a quarter of a billion people were affected each year. Disaster impact by hazard types, 1993-2002 Source: IFRC    3 Leaving Disasters Behind Economic losses attributed to natural disasters are massive. The World Bankestimates annual losses due to natural disasters at US$ 55 billion. Although thevalue of property losses are higher in high human development countries (dueto high monetary values of their physical assets), disasters have more far-reachingconsequences in low human development countries. Disaster-related lossesconstitute a significant proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in poorcountries and drain their potential for development. In both rich and poorcountries, marginalized social groups and the poor suffer most from theconsequences of disaster. The disaster problem in Africa In Africa, the occurrence of disasters triggered by natural and human-madehazards, the number of people affected and the associated economic losses areall rising. Africa’s share of total reported world disasters has increased over thepast decade. Most disasters affecting Africa are caused by ‘hydro-meteorological’hazard (droughts, floods, windstorms) and human factors like war, conflict and bad governance, although disease epidemics often follow in their wake. Climatechange is likely to increase the occurrence of hydro-meteorological disasters inthe future.Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are impactingseriously on households and communities and threatening sustainabledevelopment throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Conflict in many parts of Africahas led to complex emergencies. Other less common causes of disasters includepest infestations, earthquakes, landslides, wildfires and volcanic eruptions.Poor record keeping makes it difficult to quantify economic losses caused bydisasters in Africa. According to the African Union (AU), in 2000-2001 aloneabout 35 million people - 13 per cent of the total population of the continent -were affected. The 1992 drought reduced Zimbabwe’s and Zambia’s GDPs byabout 9 per cent. In 2000, the GDP of Mozambique dropped by 12 per cent as aresult of floods. Disasters can wipe out many years’ development achievementswithin hours or even less. When an earthquake hits areas where the buildingsand infrastructures have not been built to resist it, they can be reduced to ruinsin seconds. Frequent disasters also wear down resources and undermine resilienceof nations and communities, pushing already poor people even deeper intopoverty.At national level, disasters cause extensive damage to infrastructure and humanresources. This erodes gains made in social development through disruption of services and limitation of economic activities that generate income. Floods whichdestroy roads and bridges can affect access to market and lead to massive lossesfor farmers. Destruction of power lines disrupts manufacturing activity andcauses loss of income for workers and businesses.In addition to large, discrete and high-impact disasters, recurrent localizedhazards erode local capacity for development, destroy livelihoods of the poorand weaken their coping and survival capacities.  4  Leaving Disasters Behind Overview of disasters in Ethiopia Ethiopia is vulnerable to disasters caused by drought, earthquake, flood, warand conflict, human and livestock diseases, pests, wildfire and landslide, amongstothers. These different hazards occur with varying frequency and severity. Someresult in nationwide disasters, while the impacts of others are more localized. Drought Hydro-meteorological hazards, particularly drought, are the leading cause of disaster and human suffering in Ethiopia in terms of frequency, area coveredand the number of people affected. Although drought is not necessarily a disaster by itself (rather a natural phenomenon or hazard) it becomes a disaster when itmeets a vulnerable condition. Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countriesand especially vulnerable to shocks: in the Ethiopian context, drought hazard ismore or less synonymous with disaster. Minor climatic variations or other adversefactors can trigger acute food insecurity, which can easily escalate to full-scaledisaster.The recorded history of drought in Ethiopia goes back to the year 250 BC. Therehave been many national and localized droughts in the past and communitiesmanaged most of them through their own coping mechanisms. Between the 9 th century and the Great Ethiopian Famine of 1888-1892, thirteen drought yearswere recorded. Between the Great Famine and the 1970s there have been manynational and localized droughts and at least 20 major drought years were notedaffecting most parts of the country, particularly Tigray and Wollo. The magnitude,frequency and the effects of droughts have increased since the mid-1970s.According to a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)study ( Planning for the Next Drought: Ethiopia Case Study, USAID, March 2003) ,the frequency of nationwide droughts causing severe food shortage increasedfrom once every 10 years in the 1970s and 1980s, to every three years now. Between1970 and 1996, drought and the resultant food shortages have affected millions.The effects of drought are often combined with other hazards. Migratory pestinfestation (locusts) has been a serious problem in some parts of the country andthe prevalence of some crop diseases increase when climatic conditions arefavourable.The increasing trend of drought-induced disaster, associated with other hazards,is reflected in the increasing number of people needing food assistance in Ethiopia.Between 1990 and 2005, on average each year 6.3 million people required foodassistance amounting to over 654,000 tonnes annually . The number of peopleaffected is especially significant in Tigray where an annual average of more than1.2 million people is affected. The proportion of the population affected is alsohigh in Amhara and Somali regional states.
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