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close this bookDisasters and Development (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1994, 55 p.)
close this folderPART 1 - The relationship between disasters and development
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentDefinition of terms
View the documentHow disaster effects can vary from one type of hazard to another
View the documentHow vulnerability varies between and within countries
View the documentCASE STUDIES
View the documentSUMMARY


Hurricanes David and Frederick

In 1979, Hurricane David hit the Dominican Republic. Several days later, Hurricane Frederick also hit the island. The combination of high speed winds and the subsequent floods caused widespread destruction of housing, agricultural infrastructure, production, electric utilities, supplies of potable water, and of the physical infrastructure in general as well as of the environment.

An estimated 2100 people died in the storms. This number could have been far higher had it not been for an early warning system and an evacuation plan. More than 600,000 people (10% of the country’s population) were left homeless. It was not possible to obtain reliable figures on injured persons or on those left unemployed. The direct losses of these disasters were estimated at $842 million.

Indirect economic losses were estimated at a $464 million deficit in the balance of payments. This was due to an increase in imports of post-disaster necessities and decreased exportation of bananas and other crops. The fiscal deficit increased by $303 million because of increased expenses related to aid, rehabilitation and reconstruction and to a decreased income from exports (see figure 2).

The gross domestic product grew at a more rapid rate during the years that followed the disaster. This was due, at least in part, to a prior economic recession caused by increased oil prices. Limited information is available about the effects of inflation and about fluctuations in monetary reserves after these disasters.*

* Adapted from J. Roberto Jovel, “Los Efectos Economicos y Sociales de los Desastres Naturales en America Latina y el Caribe,” ECLAC, 1989.

The phenomenon of El Nif 1982 and 1983

Changes in the atmospheric currents over the South Pacific in 1982 and 1983 affected Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru in different ways and intensities. There were floods along much of coastal Ecuador and Northern Peru, as well as in the Amazonian region of Bolivia. A serious drought affected the highlands of Bolivia and Peru. The temperature and the salinity of the ocean water were adversely affected.

The death toll and number of injured people was not high; 298,000 people were left homeless because of the floods. A total of 3.7 million people were directly affected by a partial or total loss of their means of production, the disappearance of health and educational services, the scarcity of food and the deterioration of nutritional levels, an increase in the morbidity and the scarcity of agricultural and food products.

The highland drought pushed the most impoverished groups to near starvation and resulted in new migrations towards other regions and countries. The situation that existed in this region before the disaster has only recently been reestablished.

Small scale fishermen as well as the commercial fishing enterprises were considerably affected by a reduction in fish caused by changes in the composition of the ocean water. Certain species of fish emigrated or died. The fishing industry has only recently recovered from this disaster.

The direct losses in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru were estimated at $1.3 billion. They included losses of capital stock and inventory losses in agriculture, transportation, oil production, fishing and in the social infrastructure. The indirect losses amounted to $2.6 billion, due to the decreased production in agriculture, industry and fishing as well as to increased costs and decreased income in transportation.

The total losses thus amounted to $3.9 billion. Therefore, the cost of this disaster was the second highest in the recent history of the region (Figure 2). These losses represent about 10% of the combined GNP of these countries, some 50% of the public sector income at that time. Bolivia, with the most fragile economy, was by far the most adversely affected.

The secondary effects on economic development were substantial. The negative effect on the balance of payments reached an estimated $621 million in the biennium of 1982-1983 due to a decrease in fishing, agricultural and livestock exports and to the importation of food as well as farm products and livestock. The ratio between the public sector and the GNP increased notably. This was due to decreased revenues from value-added taxes and export taxes, as well as to unforeseen expenses related to relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The growth rate of the gross national product and per capita product decreased in these three countries by up to 10%. The consumer price index increased by as much as 50% in some cases, due mainly to increases in food prices caused by reduced production and speculation.*

* Adapted from J. Roberto Jovel, “Los Efectos Economicos y Sociales de los Desastres Naturales en America Latina y el Caribe,” ECLAC, 1989.