Start – where do we go? Posted September 25, 2006 by Adrian Nance

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Our start up was six months of research on the nature of the disaster response problem, between April and September 2006.
In 2006, the UK’s Secretary of State for International Development said “We need a better system to make sure that we have available and are able to draw upon quickly the logistics required – for example – helicopters, ships and aircraft.”  Hilary Benn, The International Development Magazine, Issue 33, May 2006.
The Red Cross/Red Crescent says ‘the face of disasters is changing.  Old ways of coping are proving inadequate.  We need new approaches that boost people’s resilience to the full spectrum of physical, social and economic adversities they face.’  IFRC World Disasters Report 2004.
These comments were very helpful indicators.  So too was the book At Risk, a brief meeting with one of its authors and conversations with the Coventry Centre for Disaster Management.

The start of detailed analysis

The detail of our analysis was built on the UN’s EM-DAT database.   We thank the University of Louvain in Belgium for their help.
We looked at where we should start.  There are many ways of measuring disasters.  For us disaster impact was greatest where the highest proportions of the population were affected.  We think the impact is also worst where the frequency of disaster is highest and where numbers affected are large.
In 2005 the UN reported that 42% (!) of the population of Malawi had been affected by disasters.  UN also showed that South East Africa had six of the top fifteen countries for a high disaster frequency over a period of 40 years.  GDP impact is harder to assess.  Indications were that recent famines had impacted up to 5% of the GDP of afflicted countries in South East Africa.

The equivalent in UK

The UK equivalent of this sort of scale of disaster impact in 2005 would have been a disaster that affected 25 million people. It would have had an economic impact of £19 billion and would have occurred again in 2007 or 2008.   That was how we made a start!

The first visit

So in September 2006, Adrian Nance went to see friends in Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi, with a short stop in Zambia.