Apr 3, 2011

Natural Disasters, Economic Development, and Humanitarian Aid

From the article: Strömberg, David. 2007. "Natural Disasters, Economic Development, and Humanitarian Aid." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 21(3): 199–222

Geographic Distribution of Natural Hazard Events, 1980–2000

Geographic Distribution of Mortality Risk from Natural Hazards, Based on Events

Important facts and findings: 
Droughts have been the most deadly disaster, followed by windstorms and wave surges (tsunamis), while floods have affected the largest number of people.
China reported an average of less than one disaster per year over the period 1960–1979 (under Mao Zedong and Hua Guofeng) and never reported less than six disasters per year after 1980 (with Deng Xiaoping taking over as de facto leader).
Although the total number of disasters reported worldwide has been rapidly increasing, the number of killed has not (except in Africa).
What explains the growth in the number of natural disasters? More frequent extreme weather events may explain part of the increase in droughts, floods, and storms. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007), there is likely to have been an increase in heavy precipitation events and, in some regions, increases in tropical cyclone activity and extreme weather events causing droughts in the period 1970–2000.
More complete reporting may also be driving this increase.
Population growth may also turn more natural hazard events into disasters, by exposing more people. 
Our estimates imply that fatalities would have been around 20 percent higher today, absent economic growth since 1960.

A puzzling fact:
In July 2001, heavy rains caused floods in Poland, killing approximately 30 people and affecting 15,000. This disaster was met by international relief efforts totaling around $15 million, as reported by the FTS. In that same year, a flood in Thailand killed 100 people and affected 450,000, while one in Angola killed 50 and affected 40,000 people, and another in Brazil killed 50 and affected 2,200. Here are the corresponding relief efforts: Thailand received $25,000; Angola, $75,000; and Brazil, $230,000. [Explanation: relief efforts are higher for disasters reported in the news].
Read more. Here

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