Natural disasters take many lives, disrupt livelihoods and cause significant economic damage, often inhibiting development and contributing to conflict and forced migration. While the number of people dying from natural disasters has declined over time, these events are still responsible for a huge burden on human life. They are also the biggest source of financial losses for low-income countries, which require foreign aid to cover reconstruction costs.
In the aftermath of a natural disaster, people must find ways to access clean water and food, shelter, sanitation, health services and education. They also need to be able to protect themselves from future hazards and rebuild their communities. Humanitarian organisations are on the ground in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster providing essential emergency relief and supporting the recovery process. They are a crucial element in the disaster response cycle.
This map shows countries experiencing current disasters that are actively being monitored by ReliefWeb. These include floods, droughts, severe local storms, tropical cyclones, storm surges, tsunamis, earthquakes, wildfires and other geo-environmental disasters. The data on these disasters are sourced from the Global Monitoring System for Disasters and Extreme Events (EM-DAT) and national meteorological services.
The size of a country’s marker indicates the number of Disaster Events recorded in that country from EM-DAT during the period displayed on the map. The colour of the marker represents the total number of deaths recorded in that country from these events, according to a statistical model.
On average, around 45,000 people die from natural disasters each year, representing 0.1% of global deaths. However, the death toll from natural disasters can vary considerably from year-to-year, with some years passing without any major events claiming large numbers of lives. Earthquakes continue to be the deadliest type of natural disasters, although other hazards – such as flooding and droughts – also claim many lives. Droughts, floods and hurricanes affect the poorest countries disproportionately, since they lack the infrastructure to adapt to these hazards.
In terms of the amount of damage caused by natural disasters, high-income countries experience a greater loss in GDP than low-income nations, and industrial damages are much more common. However, low-income countries are more likely to suffer from a higher proportion of lives lost in a disaster, since they don’t have the financial resources to cover the cost of rehabilitation and resilience.
The media’s preference for spectacular disasters can have a huge impact on where the world’s attention and resources go. A study by Eisensee and Stromberg showed that TV networks give more coverage to disasters where the number of fatalities is higher, but fewer when the casualty count is lower. This is especially the case for “gradual disasters” like droughts, which build up over a long period of time rather than occurring in an instant. This creates a “catch-22” situation, where the slow-building nature of these calamities makes it difficult for them to garner the media attention they need to receive aid and support from international donors.