7 Myths on Disasters

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Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Myth #1: Disasters cause deaths at random.

Reality:

Disasters tend to take a higher toll on the most vulnerable geographic areas (high-risk areas), generally those settled by the poorest people.

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Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Myth #2: Disasters bring out the worst in human behavior.

Reality:

Although isolated cases of antisocial behavior exist, the majority of people respond spontaneously and generously.

Dead bodies haiti

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

Myth #3: Dead bodies pose a health risk.

Reality:

Contrary to popular belief, dead bodies pose no more risk of disease outbreak in the aftermath of a natural disaster than survivors.

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Photo source: dailymail.co.uk

Myth #4: Epidemics and plagues are inevitable after every disaster.

Reality:

Epidemics do not spontaneously occur after a disaster and dead bodies will not lead to catastrophic outbreaks of exotic diseases. The key to preventing disease is to improve sanitary conditions and educate the public.

saudi5

Photo source: news.kuwaittimes.net

Myth #5: The fastest way to dispose of bodies and avoid the spread of disease is through mass burials or cremations. This can help create a sense of relief among survivors.

Reality:

Survivors will feel more at peace and manage their sense of loss better if they are allowed to follow their beliefs and religious practices and if they are able to identify and recover the remains of their loved ones.

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Myth #6: Disasters are random killers.

Reality:

Disasters strike hardest at the most vulnerable group, the poor — especially women, children and the elderly.

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Myth #7: Starving people can eat anything

Reality:

It is widely held that people who are starving will be very hungry and eat any food that can be supplied. This attitude is inhumane and incorrect. Even if hungry initially, people often do not consume adequate quantities of unvaried and unfamiliar foods for long enough. More importantly, the starving people are often ill and may not have a good appetite. They will therefore languish in an emaciated state or get even sicker.

Even someone well-nourished would fail to thrive on the monotonous diets of three or so commodities (e.g. wheat, beans and oil) that is all that is available, month in, month out, to many refugees and displaced people. And this is aside from the micro-nutrient deficiencies that often develop. This misconception starts, in part, from a failure to agree on explicit objectives for food assistance — which should surely be to provide for health, welfare, and a reasonably decent existence and help in attaining and acceptable state of self-reliance and self-respect. Source: Lancet, Vol. 340, Nov 28, 1992.

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com except those with attributions

Reference:  World Health Organization (WHO), “Humanitarian Health Action”. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/ems/myths/en/.

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7 Top Myths on Disasters

heavy-water-factory-1053775_640

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Myth #1: Disasters cause deaths at random.

Reality:

Disasters tend to take a higher toll on the most vulnerable geographic areas (high-risk areas), generally those settled by the poorest people.

 

demonstration-2477988_640

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Myth #2: Disasters bring out the worst in human behavior.

Reality:

Although isolated cases of antisocial behavior exist, the majority of people respond spontaneously and generously.

 

Dead bodies haiti

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

Myth #3: Dead bodies pose a health risk.

Reality:

Contrary to popular belief, dead bodies pose no more risk of disease outbreak in the aftermath of a natural disaster than survivors.

 

 

 

article-2496954-1951722300000578-748_964x641

Photo source: dailymail.co.uk

Myth #4: Epidemics and plagues are inevitable after every disaster.

Reality:

Epidemics do not spontaneously occur after a disaster and dead bodies will not lead to catastrophic outbreaks of exotic diseases. The key to preventing disease is to improve sanitary conditions and educate the public.

 

saudi5

Photo source: news.kuwaittimes.net

Myth #5: The fastest way to dispose of bodies and avoid the spread of disease is through mass burials or cremations. This can help create a sense of relief among survivors.

Reality:

Survivors will feel more at peace and manage their sense of loss better if they are allowed to follow their beliefs and religious practices and if they are able to identify and recover the remains of their loved ones.

 

cyclone-2102397_640

Myth #6: Disasters are random killers.

Reality:

Disasters strike hardest at the most vulnerable group, the poor — especially women, children and the elderly.

 

starving-children-waiting-227319_640

Myth #7: Starving people can eat anything

Reality:

It is widely held that people who are starving will be very hungry and eat any food that can be supplied. This attitude is inhumane and incorrect. Even if hungry initially, people often do not consume adequate quantities of unvaried and unfamiliar foods for long enough. More importantly, the starving people are often ill and may not have a good appetite. They will therefore languish in an emaciated state or get even sicker.

Even someone well-nourished would fail to thrive on the monotonous diets of three or so commodities (e.g. wheat, beans and oil) that is all that is available, month in, month out, to many refugees and displaced people. And this is aside from the micro-nutrient deficiencies that often develop. This misconception starts, in part, from a failure to agree on explicit objectives for food assistance — which should surely be to provide for health, welfare, and a reasonably decent existence and help in attaining and acceptable state of self-reliance and self-respect. Source: Lancet, Vol. 340, Nov 28, 1992.

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com except those with attributions

Reference:  World Health Organization (WHO), “Humanitarian Health Action”. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/ems/myths/en/.

Thank you for reading this post. Sign up or follow this blog via email for more updates.

Is Your Country Vulnerable to Disasters? See the List of the World Risk Index Report

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The World Risk Index 2016 ranked 171 countries according to how exposed and vulnerable they are to natural hazards, including earthquakes, floods and storms. Topping the list are Vanuatu, Tonga, Philippines, Japan, Costa Rica, Brunei, Mauritius, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Bangladesh. Except Japan and Brunei, one can notice that many in the top 10 are poor and developing countries. Yearly disasters is one reason why these countries experience  underdevelopment and extreme poverty.

Photo source: https://twitter.com/UNEnvironmentAP/status/769001042084147200

World-Risk-Map-Index-Philippines-2016

Source:http://www.wheninmanila.com/philippines-now-3rd-most-disaster-prone-country-according-to-latest-world-risk-index/

The Natural and Social Spheres of Vulnerability to Disasters

Examine the diagram and see the connection between natural disasters and social vulnerability of people to calamities:

world-risk-index-2016-philippines

Source: http://www.wheninmanila.com/philippines-now-3rd-most-disaster-prone-country-according-to-latest-world-risk-index/

Examine the list below and judge whether your country is vulnerable to disasters or not, Rank 1 would mean the the country is the most vulnerable (Vanautu) and Rank 100 (Laos) as the least vulnerable to calamities.

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My country, the Philippines, is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. It ranked #3 in the list below.

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What is the consequences for the Philippines being ranked as one of the most vulnerable countries to disasters according to the report?

"The findings of the study, which was published by scientists from the United Nations University and from development organizations, mean that not only is the Philippines at great risk from natural disasters, but Filipinos are also more vulnerable to these natural hazards than people in most other countries. To put it bluntly: the higher a country is ranked in this index, the greater the chance that its inhabitants will die in a natural disaster, a thought that should be of some concern to local politicians and to everyone else in the Philippines" (http://www.wheninmanila.com/philippines).

How about yours? Do you see your country in the list below? Here is the list of countries in the world which are vulnerable to disasters:

The Top 100 Vulnerable Countries Worldwide

1. Vanuatu
2. Tonga
3. Philippines
4. Guatemala
5. Bangladesh 19.17
6. Solomon Islands
7. Brunei Darussalam
8. Costa Rica
9. Cambodia
10. Papua New Guinea
11. El Salvador
12. Timor-Leste
13. Mauritius
14. Nicaragua
15. Guinea-Bissau
16. Fiji
17. Japan
18. Viet Nam
19. Gambia
20. Jamaica
21. Haiti
22. Chile
23. Benin
24. Guyana
25. Niger
26. Madagascar
27. Dominican Republic
28. Cameroon
29. Chad
30. Honduras
31. Cape Verde
32. Senegal
33. Togo
34. Djibouti
35. Burundi
36. Indonesia
37. Sierra Leone
38. Zimbabwe
39. Burkina Faso
40. Albania
41. Afghanistan
42. Myanmar
43. Cote d’Ivoire
44. Mozambique
45. Uzbekistan
46. Suriname
47. Ghana
48. Mali
49. Netherlands
50. Guinea
51. Sudan
52. Nigeria
53. Malawi
54. Mauritania
55. Kyrgyzstan
56. Liberia
57. United Republic of Tanzania
58. Ecuador
59. Swaziland
60. Bhutan
61. Trinidad and Tobago
62. Algeria
63. Sri Lanka
64. Comoros
65. Panama
66. Zambia
67. Congo
68. Serbia
69. Rwanda
70. Ethiopia
71. Central African Republic
72. Pakistan
73. Lesotho
74. Kenya
75. Tajikistan
76. Greece
77. India
78. Peru
79. Belize
80. Uganda
81. Angola
82. Morocco
83. Colombia
84. Turkmenistan
85. China
86. Malaysia
87. Eritrea
88. Georgia
89. Thailand
90. Cuba
91. Bosnia and Herzegovina
92. Armenia
93. Gabon
94. Yemen
95. Mexico
96. Venezuela
97. Romania
98. Republic of Macedonia
99. Syrian Arab Republic
100. Lao People’s Democ. Republic

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Social Vulnerability in Disasters and the Philippines

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Social vulnerability is defined as “the susceptibility of groups to the impacts of hazards, as well as their resiliency, or ability to adequately recover from them” (Cutter and Emrich, 2006, p. 103). “Social vulnerability highlights differences in the human capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. It varies over space and time, and among and between social groups, largely due to differences in socioeconomic and demographic characteristics” (Abstract, Hummel, Cutter, & Emrich, 2016).

Although considerable research attention has examined components of biophysical vulnerability and the vulnerability of the built environment (Mileri, 1999), few studies have been done to understand it. Socially created vulnerabilities are largely ignored, mainly due to the difficulty in quantifying them, which also explains why social losses are normally absent in after-disaster cost/loss estimation reports. Instead, social vulnerability is most often described using the individual characteristics of people (age, race, health, income, type of dwelling unit, employment). Social vulnerability is partially the product of social inequalities—those social factors that influence or shape the susceptibility of various groups to harm and that also govern their ability to respond. However, it also includes place inequalities—those characteristics of communities and the built environment, such as the level of urbanization, growth rates, and economic vitality that contribute to the social vulnerability of places” (Cutter, Boruff, & Shirley, 2003, p. 243).

Generally speaking, vulnerability to environmental hazards means the potential for loss. Since losses vary geographically, over time, and among different social groups, vulnerability also varies over time and space. Within the hazards literature, vulnerability has many different connotations, depending on the research orientation and perspective (Dow, 1992; Cutter, 1996; 2001a).

There are three main tenets in vulnerability research: the identification of conditions that make people or place vulnerable to extreme natural events, an exposure model (Burton Kates, and White, 1993; Anderson, 2000); the assumption that vulnerability is a social condition, a measure of social resistance or resilience to hazards (Blaike et al,1994; Hewit, 1997); and the integration of potential exposures and societal resilience with a specific focus on particular places or regions (Kasperon, Kasperon, and Turner, 1995; Cutter, Mitchell, and Scott, 2000) (Cutter, Boruff, & Shirley, 2003, p. 242-243).”

Social vulnerability of people to disasters in a population is not evenly distributed. Some regions are more susceptible to the impacts of hazards than other places based on the characteristics of the people residing within them. In the case of Hurricane Katrina, differential vulnerabilities were observed: residencies in high-risk areas such as the hurricane coasts received catastrophic losses compared to other places hit by the hurricane. This geographic discrepancies in social vulnerability thus requires different mitigation, post-response, and recovery actions (Cutter and Emrich, 2006, p. 102).

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The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to disasters. Typhoon Ketsana or Ondoy in 2009 revealed differential vulnerabilities of the country. Its impacts largely depend on the physical attributes of the place and the social characteristics of people residing in it. Some areas suffered devastating losses in life and property compared to other places. The local government units (LGUs) are in the forefront of disaster management, including responding to the impacts of climate change in the Philippines.

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70 percent of the country’s disasters are due to hydro-meteorological phenomena such as typhoon and flooding. LGUs, being in the forefront in the delivery of basic services, also have the mandate in Disaster Risk Management (DRM) as provided for by a number of national policies such as the Climate Change Act of 2009 and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Act of 2010 (Penalba, Elazegui, Pulhin & Cruz, 2012, p.309).

Because adaptation to climate change is location-specific, the role of local institutions is critical in shaping adaptation and improving capacities of the most vulnerable social groups. However, many LGUs are not aware of climate change phenomena and do not have the capacity to assist the affected communities in preparing climate change adaptation measures. It is important for people, communities and institutions to develop adaptive capacity and enhance resilience to minimize risks, damages and losses (Penalba, Elazegui, Pulhin & Cruz, 2012, p.309).

The local government code (LGC) of the Philippines vests authority to LGUs (i.e. provinces, cities and municipalities and villages in the implementation and maintenance of disaster management program, ensuring prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, rehabilitation and reconstruction, and development) (Penalba, Elazegui, Pulhin & Cruz, 2012, p.309).

Vulnerability in the Philippines is determined by the socioeconomic characteristics of the communities and their abilities in responding effectively. The capacity to adapt varies across regions, countries, and socioeconomic groups and will vary over time. The most vulnerable regions and communities are those that are highly exposed to the changes expected in the climate and have limited adaptive capacity. Countries with limited economic resources, low levels of technology, poor information and skills, poor infrastructure, unstable or weak institutions, and inequitable empowerment and access to resources have little capacity to adapt and are highly vulnerable (IPCC, 2001) (Penalba, Elazegui, Pulhin & Cruz, 2012, p.310).

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