|A Research Agenda for Disaster and Emergency Management (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 76 p.)|
John R. Rogge
Disaster Research Unit
University of Manitoba
UNDP/DHA DISASTER MANAGEMENT TRAINING PROGRAMME
UNITED NATIONS DEPARTMENT
OF HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS
1.1 The purpose of this research agenda is to set clear-cut research priorities in the area of disaster and emergency management. The agenda will draw attention to a broad array of research themes and will elaborate on the particular utility and consequence of undertaking such research.
1.2 The Disaster Research Unit (DRU) at the University of Manitoba was commissioned by Intertect Training Services to prepare a research agenda in the field of disaster/emergency management for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Disaster Relief Office (UNDRO). The agenda identifies topics where further research is needed, and give some sense of priority these topics should receive for UNDP/UNDRO funding. Some of the research themes proposed will also provide inputs into specific Disaster Management Training Programme (DMTP) training modules.
1.3 In the development of this agenda, inputs were solicited from a large number of institutions and individuals with known expertise or interests in disaster management. A list of those invited to respond is attached in Appendix I, as well as an indication of which subsequently responded. Based on these inputs, a preliminary outline of the agenda was drawn up and submitted for review to UNDP/UNDRO. Also, during his attendance at the "Hazards 91" Conference in August, 1991 in Perugia, Italy, the writer had several conference participants review and comment on the outline; their many suggestions were subsequently incorporated into the agenda.1
1 The writer also gratefully acknowledges the inputs made to this agenda by colleagues in the Disaster Research Unit, especially Drs. J. Mocellin, G. Sevenhuizen and R. Wiest
1.4 The agenda takes the form of introducing and discussing various research issues. For easy reference, recommendations on specific research themes and priorities are emphasized through the use of italic and bold scripts. In the concluding section, some of the major research themes identified under the various thematic sub-headings are reconsidered and it is suggested that they be given highest priority for future research. A bibliography of selected significant/relevant works is appended, however, it is not intended to be an exhaustive listing.
2.1 To date, most academic research on disasters and emergencies has concentrated on the developed world, albeit a number of institutions have also taken a developing world focus, and a few have even developed a specialization in developing world disasters. In contrast, indigenous institutions specializing in disaster research within the developing world remain few and far between, although encouraging signs began to emerge during the late-1980s; the need to develop a better understanding of the causes and consequences of disasters is being increasingly addressed by institutions in a few developing countries. In soliciting inputs for this research agenda, a number of these developing world institutions (as well as several individual developing world researchers) were approached and responses were received from most of them. Their inputs are included in the discussions which follow.
2.2 Within established institutions in the developed world, much of the contemporary disaster and natural hazard research continues to focus upon processes and the physical dimensions of disasters rather than upon their human, societal, economic, political and psychological causes and consequences. The traditional thrusts of focussing research upon specific disaster agents, such as earthquakes, landslides, tropical storms, etc., remain deeply ingrained in the research community, as does a bias towards identifying technological solutions; hazards, whether natural or man-made, continue to be researched primarily as causes of disasters for which technological solutions need to be implemented. However, an alternate approach to researching disasters is gradually gaining momentum. This approach cuts across disaster agents by arguing that the thrust of research must focus upon the current highly variable societal/political/economic structures prevailing throughout the world and which produce conditions of high vulnerability to disasters in some regions and resilience to disasters elsewhere. Consequently, it is strongly argued here that for research to have meaningful inputs into the development of effective disaster management strategies it must identify and focus upon those characteristics within any given society that cause natural or man-made hazards to result in disasters.
2.3 While this research agenda will certainly not imply that physical process and hazard oriented research is no longer warrented, it will emphasize and promote the need for greater inputs into disaster research by social scientists, and especially by social scientists in the developing world. Disasters must be recognized more widely as a consequence rather than as a cause of loss in functionality of an affected population. Therefore, the factors which cause a breakdown in a population's functionality, and thereby render it highly vulnerable to the impacts of a natural or man-made hazard, should become the prime raison d'etre of future research and the concomitant development of more effective means of disaster management.
2.4 The traditional bias towards hazard research vis-a-vis social science research was graphically illustrated at the "Hazards 91" conference in Perugia, Italy, where, out of some 20 working sessions, only three focussed specifically on the socio-economic and human dimensions of natural hazards and disasters. Clearly, physical scientists remain very much the dominant force in disaster research and few appear ready to adopt an integrative and interactive multi-disciplinary approach to the study of disasters. For another example of this bias, we can cite the structure of the national committee formed in Canada to promote Canadian initiatives for the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction; it is chaired by a physicist and does not contain any social scientists with extensive experience in disaster management. Notwithstanding this pattern, however, several noteworthy institutions are currently undertaking valuable research on the human dimensions of disasters, ranging in emphasis from non-structural means of preparing for and mitigating the impacts of disasters to issues relating to recovery (both economic and psychological) and to post-disaster reconstruction and development. Some of the most comprehensive social science research to date has been concerned with the impacts and consequences of conflict-induced disasters producing refugees and displaced persons. It is encouraging to note that much of this "refugee" research can be readily adapted and applied to broader disaster and emergency situations.
2.5 It is not the intent here to provide a comprehensive listing of either developed or developing world institutions or of individuals specializing in disaster research and/or management, nor to identify or evaluate the nature of their respective activities - such a review is clearly beyond the scope of this agenda since it would require a substantial research undertaking. Indeed, the generation of such a detailed inventory would constitute a valuable short-term research activity in itself since it would provide UNDP/UNDRO with a comprehensive international listing of existing human resources, experiences, and ongoing research activities in the field of disasters and emergencies. A list of all institutions solicited for inputs into this study is provided in Appendix 1. It needs to be emphasized that this list of institutions and individuals is by no means a comprehensive one.
2.6 It is also necessary to distinguish between institutions engaged purely in disaster management and training vis-a-vis those with clearly defined research mandates. For example, one of the foremost and long-established disaster management institutions in the developing world is the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre (ADPC) at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. Relatively well funded, ADPC runs regular disaster management training courses and seminars for participants drawn from throughout Asia and beyond, as well as provides consulting services on disaster management to regional governments. However, despite its well-placed location, ADPC's research activities are not nearly as comprehensive as they might be due to limitations placed by its mandate, priorities set by its director, and limited funding for pure research made available by donors. Of the research undertaken by ADCP, most has focused upon structural or engineering issues, such as earthquake resistant housing, rather than socio-economic or human problems of disaster preparation or response.
2.7 Access to funding and the acceptance by donors and national governments of the need to promote socio-economic oriented disaster research within the developing world, and undertaken by indigenous researchers, remains a major constraint to the evolution of meaningful research initiatives in many disaster-prone areas. For example, while a recent project to establish a disaster research and training program at Dhaka University had funding of over a half million dollars committed by CIDA, the project died because Bangladeshi authorities, over a period of two years, were unwilling to assign the project a sufficiently priority to clear it through the convoluted bureaucracy. Indeed, it was repeatedly suggested by some of the authorities that funds of such magnitude should be allocated for implementing technological solutions to the country's perennial disasters rather than for developing socio-economic research capacity.
2.8 All to often, government agencies responsible for disaster management in developing countries, or for determining research priorities on disaster-related issues, are staffed by engineers or other physical scientists. As such, they tend to continue favouring process-oriented research or that which emphasizes structural prevention or mitigation measures. Few appear to have any great sensitivity to the human and socio-economic dimensions of society which render it, or parts of it, vulnerable to disasters and emergencies; even fewer are aware of the psychological consequences and needs created by such events. It is hoped that UNDP/UNDRO's Disaster Management Training Program will heighten awareness and sensitivities among such authorities to the many critical research needs in these areas.
2.9 Therefore, given the traditional emphasis on process/hazard oriented research, and the fact that many of the decision makers required to manage disaster events come from physical science or engineering backgrounds, there is clearly a need for a greater involvement of social scientists in all aspects of disaster management in the developing world. In some cases, expertise is already in place; in other cases it needs to be created. It is thus recommended that a project to enumerate and appraise the current developing world institutional and individual capacity and experience in disaster research and training be implemented. Such a project should place special emphasis on identifying the human resources in this field which are already in place in developing countries, b) the extent to which these resources can be shared by other regions currently lacking an indigenous resource, and c) the prospects for developing disaster management related curriculum and research capacity in existing institutions of higher education in selected disaster-prone countries.
3.1 There are many types of hazards, each with its own specific characteristics, time-frames, and types of human disruptions and needs thereby created. Yet, there are also many characteristics common to most, if not all hazards. Some hazards are geographically defined; others can occur with random spatial distribution. There are hazards which give clearly identifiable early-warnings of their onset, while others arrive catastrophically. Areas with recurrent hazards, or where the risk of a hazards is well established, will usually generate at least some measures of preparedness to mitigate the impact of the hazards when they do occur, while catastrophic hazards all too often occur within an unprepared environment. This in turn clearly affects the type and magnitude of needs created by the hazards and the nature of the most appropriate response mechanisms. It is also important to emphasize that identical hazards can have quite diverse impacts at different spatial locations; some populations are obviously much more vulnerable to hazards than others - one has only to compare the impact of a hurricane on the coast of South Carolina with that of a cyclone (of equivalent strength) in the Bay of Bengal to appreciate the extent to which vulnerability can vary from place to place.
3.2 It is sometimes suggested that this diversity of hazards, and their concomitant impacts upon populations and types of responses they engender, makes any general theory of disasters difficult to attain and makes impossible the development of a set of uniform disaster management strategies. Such a view stems primarily from the traditional pre-occupation with hazards as the cause of disasters. On the other hand, if we begin to see disasters more as a consequence of natural or man-made hazards rather than as the cause, and in so doing address the issues which make some societies more susceptible to disasters than others, then the development of a cogent set of disaster theory becomes a realistic and valuable undertaking.
3.3 There is clearly a need to develop a multi-dimensional framework for disaster studies which has the capacity to cut across the many diverse hazards and which can be used as a basic typology and/or check-list for identifying levels of vulnerability of populations to hazards, the severity and/or frequency of impacts of a hazard, the type of needs created by an event, and the responses required for reconstruction and/or rehabilitation. Such a framework can be developed. The variables for such a framework must:
· differentiate between characteristics which are specific to particular hazard vis-a-vis those that are common to most, if not all disaster events,
· include the social, economic and political characteristics of a society which create diverse levels of vulnerability to hazards; and
· differentiate between the social, economic and psychological impacts which hazards have at different levels within a society and between different societies.
If developed, such a framework for disaster studies could provide a standard set of criteria which can be used for defining, and perhaps even measuring, the nature and magnitude of any specific disaster event.
3.4 As a first step in the development of a disaster research framework it is useful to identify the characteristics and disaster management needs common to each of the principal hazards. It is suggested here that the following hazards be considered for this research agenda:
· earthquakes and tsunamies - characterized by their limited predictability, the suddenness of their occurrence, and their potential devastating impacts over wide areas. Reconstruction usually takes place at the same site. They often create severe and lasting traumatization among affected individuals;
· volcanic eruptions - usually give at least some warning, albeit usually short, and direct impacts are normally localized. They may result in the physical relocation of affected populations. The indirect impacts from dust spewed into the upper atmosphere can have global impacts;
· landslides and mudslides - sudden and highly localized; risk-prone areas are usually readily identifiable. Danger to residential areas can be mitigated by planning/zoning, albeit the poorest and most marginalized populations often have few alternatives other than to reside in high-risk areas;
· tropical storms and tornadoes - vulnerable areas are easily identified since recurrence rates are high. Impacts are regional as well as localized. Several days warning is usually possible for tropical storms if early-warning systems are in place; tornadoes, however, are much more capricious in occurrence;
· floods and storm surges - high-risk areas are generally known and structural preventative measures are often in place. Frequently there is a problem of distinguishing between "normal" floods, which may be beneficial, and periodic "extreme" floods, which are destructive. Storm surges and flash-floods give less or no warning and hence can lead to high mortality;
· forest and brush fires - often man-made and thus partially preventable. They usually occur in areas of low population density and hence direct human impact is relatively low, albeit economic costs can be very high;
· drought - high-risk areas are identifiable and a considerable degree of early warning is normally possible. Droughts are usually a recurrent hazard and are frequently cyclical in nature with long-term impacts on both affected areas and beyond. There is limited scope for prevention, but impacts can be mitigated;
· pest infestation - localized and generally controllable if not preventable, but often at costs too high to be borne by local populations. Infestations may be brought on by agricultural practises;
· famine and food shortage - either a product of sustained drought or pest infestation or may be caused by political events or economic policies. Early warning is usually possible, albeit not always heeded;
· environmental degradation - ranges from local to global in scale. It may require internationally "imposed" solutions in the future and is closely linked with increasing population pressure or is precipitated by "normal" pursuits of economic development;
· epidemics - usually localized and in most cases containable with existing medical technology. AIDS is adding a new dimension to this hazard;
· war and civil strife - widespread and in many cases long-term. Frequently they cause large-scale population displacement, increasingly of a permanent nature. Generally they require massive reconstruction and rehabilitation costs; and
· industrial and technological accidents/failures - sudden and without warning and normally impacting upon an unprepared population. Usually localized, they nonetheless can have national or even international impacts. The full extent of impacts upon population and environment may take many years to be realized.
3.5 Fundamental to any framework for disaster studies is a set of questions which focus upon who is affected and how were they affected by a hazard. Indeed, such a set of questions, if inclusive of the points spelled out below, can essentially be seen as a comprehensive definition of disasters. It is suggested here that the following elements must be included in this set of questions:
· how many people are affected?
· what proportion of society is affected by the hazard?
· what is the social status of the affected population? Are all social strata equally affected or are victims concentrated in any specific social strata?
· what is the duration of the impacts of a hazard upon an affected population Is it only short-term, is it longer-term, or is it permanent?
· how rapidly were the affected populations drawn into the crisis caused by a hazard? Did they have time to undertake any mitigating actions?
· how predictable was the event? Was there any warning of the impending event?
· how familiar or unfamiliar was the population with the event and the resultant disruption?
· how severely is the population affected? Can they recover on their own or within their community, or do they require substantial external assistance? and,
· is the hazard a recurrent one or is it a unique event?
Such a set of questions would clearly help determine the impacts which hazards have, as well as the degree to which a population may or may not have been prepared for a disaster.
3.6 Critical to any framework for disaster studies is the spatial and societal levels at which the natural or man-made hazards are manifest and at which, therefore, they must be managed. Six spatial and societal levels are suggested, namely:
· global - few hazards are global in their impacts, although some, such as rising sea-levels, depletion of the ozone layer, or catastrophic nuclear accidents, will clearly have global impacts;
· national - national impacts of hazards are more usually indirect rather than direct, such as the longer-term economic costs of financing recovery, serious disruptions to transport and communications, or the displacement of populations and their consequent need for resettlement elsewhere;
· regional - most disaster events have their most serious impact at the regional level. It is at this level where the human disruptions, both social and economic, are usually most felt and where most disaster management strategies need to be focused;
· community - hazards affect communities and, in the first instance, it is usually at the community level where responses to the needs created by such events originate. Vulnerability to hazards, and the concomitant capacity to respond, varies greatly from community to community;
· family - the family is the ultimate grouping affected by, and required to respond to a hazard. Disasters disrupt families; their numbers can be decimated or their economic foundation destroyed; and,
· individual - hazards impact upon individuals in different degrees. Women may become more marginalized, children more traumatized. Some have the tenacity to quickly rebound from set-backs caused by such events, others may respond with fatalism or dependency.
Impact assessments of the nature and effectiveness with which affected populations respond must, therefore, focus at all these levels.
3.7 A hitherto much neglected area of research on the consequence of hazards is that of the collective stress situations caused by such events, hazards invariably taumatize their victims and, while some may quickly recover, others may require protracted periods of mental health recovery. Clearly, levels of traumatization will vary with hazards; catastrophic events usually create much higher levels of stress and trauma than slow-onset hazards. Moreover, while we usually think of stress and trauma impacting primarily upon individuals, communities may collectively become traumatized, such as in the event of a major industrial accident. Incorporating such psychological dimensions into a disaster framework will help identify a set of needs that are all too often overlooked in disaster management planning.
3.8 It is therefore recommended that as one of the sub-projects of future research sponsored by UNDP/UNDRO, a framework for disaster studies be promoted which incorporates the above listed characteristics. Such a framework will serve as a useful teaching tool for disaster management courses, at all levels, in that it will facilitate comparative evaluations of the diverse nature and consequences of disaster events. It will also serve as a useful check-list for evaluating and monitoring specific disaster situations and the subsequent response thereto.
3.9 Such a framework could also serve another purpose, namely, as a base-line data collection tool used at the time of a disaster occurrence. All too often, critical baseline data are not collected in times of the crises for want of knowing the critical questions that should be addressed. Consequently, accurate information on the scale of a disaster, and the most critical needs generated by the event, often remain unknown for several days. This is also a problem of there being an ill-defined responsibility for collecting and disseminating such critical data in times of disaster. The existence, therefore, of an internationally adopted framework and/or check-list of disasters would, if integrated into a national or regional disaster management structure, help resolve this shortcoming by having in place a dependable, universally comparable and appropriate data gathering instrument.
3.10 One further issue needs to be introduced at this stage. Because disasters have traditionally been seen as events caused by a single agent - an earthquake, a tornado, an industrial accident, etc., specific sets of responses to each hazard have tended to evolve, albeit with varying degrees of effectiveness. The effectiveness of specific response mechanisms has depended upon available resources, extent of preparedness, and the efficiency and foresightedness of the organizational framework (usually the government) within which the response mechanisms are mobilized. However, what happens when there is a complete breakdown of all government and administrative institutions within a society? For example, the current situation prevailing in Somalia is a potent illustration of such a disaster. Protracted internal political conflict, following the longer-term erosion of almost all elements of societal and governmental infrastructure, has created a condition in Somalia where virtually a whole national population is currently in a critical state of vulnerability. Almost all of the basic economic and social structure of society have ceased to exist. Government is in total disarray and factional fighting, anarchy and banditry is widespread; local food production and distribution has ground to a halt; all imports and exports have stopped; there is no electricity; all internal and external communications have ceased; schools have closed; almost all humanitarian and international organizations have withdrawn; and just about everything else that is vital to a nations' basic functioning has been totally disrupted. The whole country is in a disastrous situation; an immediate symptom is acute malnutrition and an impending severe famine. Clearly, several disaster-agents are at work here, while all the basic mechanisms normally required to find and to implement solutions to the problem appear to be no longer in place.
3.11 While this type of disaster is relatively rare, it is not unique to Somalia and may well be manifesting itself in other regions, such as in Liberia or Sudan. It may prove difficult to incorporate such a disaster situation into a general framework and check-list. However, it is important that such a disaster scenario be addressed and better understood because of the complexities and multidimensional nature of any relief, let alone protracted reconstruction and rehabilitation, which such disasters require.
4.1 Understanding the vulnerability of a population to any given hazard is the key to realistic risk assessment and to effective disaster management. Most of the hazards outlined in paragraph 3.4 above are 'natural' or 'environmental' hazards; by themselves, they are simply hazards that pose a degree of risk rather than disasters. Therefore, it is the degree of vulnerability of a population which determines the extent to which any natural or man-made hazard becomes a disaster. While a well-prepared population can withstand severe hazards with only minimal or moderate disruptions, an unprepared or ill-equipped population can be devastated. Such differences are vividly illustrated when one compares the impacts of similar hazard on diverse populations; people are affected in differing intensities because of their contrasting levels of vulnerability.
4.2 There are many dimensions to the concept of 'vulnerability' - technological, economic, social, demographic, political and psychological.2 All too often, the predominant emphasis has been on technological interventions that aim at modifying the impact of hazards; much less emphasis has gone into attempts to understand the array of conditions among populations which make it possible for hazards to become disasters. It is suggested here that a major thrust of future research promoted by UNDP/UNDRO must focus in detail on the question of what makes populations vulnerable to hazards and how such vulnerability can be moderated within the constraints set by prevailing socio-economic parameters. Essentially, this involves deeper investigation of the relationships between existing conditions of sustained poverty and economic marginalization on the one hand and perpetual disaster vulnerability on the other. Many contemporary disasters, especially in the developing world, are essentially a product of economic and political factors, often exacerbated by demographic pressures which concentrate ever-increasing population numbers into high hazard-risk areas.
2 For the section on vulnerability, I have depended heavily upon discussions with and recent writings of Dr. Terry Cannon (see Appendix 1).
4.3 It is also important to understand that in many parts of the developing world the conditions brought on by hazards are only more acute/extreme manifestations of prevailing conditions of hardship and suffering caused by a population's overall marginalization, lack of access to resources and its concomitant abject poverty. Reduction of vulnerability to hazards is, therefore, inextricably tied to basic development needs prevailing in most developing countries. Creating conditions of better preparedness and, therefore, resilience to hazards, should be but part of general development thrusts by bi-lateral and multi-lateral donors rather than a specific objective in itself. Vulnerability must be seen as a set of variables which affect the functionality of a person or a group; their capacity to withstand, avoid and/or recover from the impact of a hazard. Components of this include the extent of:
· self-protection - which depends, in part, upon levels of awareness of the hazard or on past experience with the hazard;
· social protection - ranging from community to national levels and including spontaneous types of assistance as well as formalized assistance such as insurance schemes;
· resilience - the strength of livelihood and availability of assets that can be drawn upon in times of disaster, and
· health and nutrition - which affect an individual's resilience to withstand the impact of a disaster.
In turn, these components are affected by an array of factors which are mainly social and economic, such as:
· ethnicity; and
· political system.
4.4 It is therefore recommended that a comparative research study be undertaken which examines, in the context of disaster preparedness and management, how prevailing political and economic processes in developing world societies:
· allocate income and resources, including the impacts of this allocation on different groups and individuals in terms of their ability to cope with hazards;
· affect the degree of preparedness and mitigation through the level of scientific endeavour, resource allocation, and type and extent of technical preparation;
· assign resources for the reduction of the impact of hazards;
· determine the level of scientific knowledge of both hazards themselves and their respective impacts, and the allocation of resulting technologies as a means for intervening to reduce their intensity or impact;
· influence mitigation policies in terms of who they effect and are effective for, the nature of the technology involved, the level of capital spending allocated and the amount of capital available; and
· determine the influence of the international economic system on all these.
4.5 A separate, albeit related issue is that of acceptable levels of risk in a hazard-prone area and with respect to specific hazards. Prevention of hazard occurrences is, with few exceptions, seldom possible; people live with varying degrees of risk, depending upon the nature of the hazards common to their environment. For example, people value the rich soils which are often associated with active volcanic areas while flood-prone areas are intensively utilized because they also yield extremely fertile conditions. Likewise, acute need for urban space causes people or agencies to develop lands straddling active fault lines or to utilize unstable slopes. The economic and/or social pressures for using hazard-prone land often overide peoples' concern about the risks from potential hazard events. Therefore, the question of what are acceptable levels of risk needs more detailed evaluation, but such evaluation must take place within the context of the options available to the populations taking the respective risks. If people have no access to any land other than high risk-prone areas from which to derive their bare subsistence income or on which to build their rudimentary shelter, to what extent does their concept of 'risk' vary from those who have other options, and how does it differ from concepts which administrators, politicians or donors have? It is recommended that these questions be taken up in future research initiatives.
4.6 Indeed, this issue may even be taken one step further in that concepts of risk will change even within a given society as its needs for access to productive resources increase. The more impoverished populations are, the greater is the pressure to use whatever resources they perceive will give them a livelihood. This invariably means taking risks with evermore marginal and/or hazard-prone lands. Bangladeshis, for example, have always cultivated the fertile soils of the low-lying, highly flood- and storm surge-prone, mid-channel and coastal islands; today, however, population pressure has led to these lands being permanently and intensively settled. Thus, what may have constituted a non-acceptable level of risk in the past, will, as a result of ever-increasing pressure for land and resources, become a tolerable level of risk when compared to the alternative options. We urgently need to research on a global comparative basis such questions as why people run risks and the consequent short-term benefits to individuals vis-a-vis the longer-term costs to the society of running such risks.
5.1 The nature and extensiveness of preparedness and mitigation measures are to a large extent dependent upon how people and governments perceive risks and hazards. The field of hazard perception has received some attention in the past, especially among North American geographers. However, much scope for further research exists. Indeed, much of the research that has been undertaken has focused upon how people perceive the physical characteristics of hazards rather than on their perception of how hazards affect them or their communities directly and indirectly, or how they perceive risk in the context of the options available to them. Moreover, perception studies have tended to focus at the individual or household level. Much less work has been undertaken on perception at the community, and even less at the gender, local, ethnic, regional and national government levels. There are also differences in perception manifesting themselves at cultural and social levels that need to better understood.
5.2 Hazard and risk perception will usually differ within any given population. The rich will perceive risks differently from the poor; peasants' perceptions will vary from those held by local-level administrators or landlords; urban perceptions may vary from perceptions held in rural areas; national government officials will perceive things differently from local community leaders or even local government officials. The significance of such differing perceptions of hazards and risks is that information flows will be constrained or distorted as they pass through various perception filters; attempts to articulate concerns will not be heard or be discounted; false senses of security may be engendered; and disaster management strategies may address the wrong issues or set inappropriate priorities. Moreover, perceptions among a given population may also change with time; people are much more sensitized to risks at times immediately following a disaster, and it is at such times that they are much more receptive to undertaking preparedness and mitigation measures. This is true both for affected populations, for administrators and government officials, and for the donor community.
5.3 A consequent research need is, therefore, the better understanding of what influences peoples' perceptions of risk. Such research must address the perceptions of risk at:
· the household level - where, presumably, such factors as economic well-being, education levels, previous experience with the hazard, access to institutionalized support networks (including hazard insurance), etc., will play a major role;
· the community level - where the extent to which the community has previously been required to respond to needs created by hazards will significantly determine its collective attitude to danger and degree of preparedness for hazard events;
· government/administrative level - where the quality of local and regional officials, as well as their motives (political or economic) for addressing hazard risks, and their willingness to listen and react to local populations' fears and concerns, are key variables. All too often, the articulation of concerns by vulnerable populations to higher authorities is impeded by disinterest, conflicting interests, or indifference by local authorities;
· cultural and social levels - where such variables as gender differences, folk beliefs, religious influences or pure fatalistic views play a major role in how people interpret and react to indicators of risk.
5.4 It has sometimes been argued that populations living in high risk areas evolve a distinctive hazard-adaptive sub-culture. Their daily routines, economic systems, social and/or political organizations, housing and systems of land-tenure are all adapted to their perceptions of risk. For example, it is frequently suggested that the perpetual threat of flood and river channel shifting within the floodplains of Bangladesh's major river systems has created a 'charland sub-culture' which is quite distinctive to that prevailing on the mainland, having adopted a unique set of adaptive coping strategies to the perennial flood threat.3 Similar sub-cultures may be found to exist alongside active volcanoes or in severe drought regions. An indepth study by anthropologists of such hazard-adapted sub-cultures, therefore, could identify more clearly the relationships between how people perceive risk and how they develop traditional and local-level mitigation strategies.
3 Examples from Bangladesh are cited throughout this report because a) the country exemplifies forcefully so many of the issues raised in the report, and b) the writer was part of a team which recently completed a study which addressed many of these issues in Bangladesh.
5.5 Disaster management strategies which have been undertaken in developing countries have invariably been capital intensive structural measures such as flood protection embankments or cyclone shelters. These may or may not deliver the level of protection which their planners intended to provide. On the other hand, they may also create false senses of security among populations at risk, resulting in their not taking traditional preparedness and hazard mitigation strategies as seriously as they might otherwise have done. Indeed, their perceptions of risk might be so radically altered so that all traditional mitigation strategies are abandoned. It has also been argued by some researchers that a similar false sense of security can be engendered by the perception that relief aid, both governmental and privately sponsored, will be readily and universally available following a disaster and thus the need to prepare for a potential disaster or to take mitigating actions is unnecessary. It is therefore recommended that the question of how disaster preparedness and mitigating interventions on the one hand, and the generally widespread availability of relief aid following a disaster on the other hand, create among populations at risk false perceptions of relative safety or of being adequately cared for if and when hazards do strike.
6.1 Long-term residents in high hazard-risk areas invariably develop sets of time-tested coping strategies. Indeed, in many cases they become variously attuned to 'living with hazards'. Traditional systems of early-warning may have evolved, economic systems and methods of house construction may include measures of preparedness for hazard occurrence, and strategies for mutual assistance in times of disaster, and even for subsequent recovery, may also be in place. Such traditional coping mechanisms have led some observers to propose that distinct hazard-adapted subcultures are in place in many high-risk areas. All too often, however, such traditional methods of preparedness and of response are overlooked or even ignored by authorities when imposing from above their 'modern', 'systematic' or 'technological' interventions. Indeed, as was alluded to in the previous section, such imposed interventions may have the effect of reducing peoples' reliance upon traditional methods and creating a false senses of security among them.
6.2 In their attempts to develop and implement technologically sophisticated methods of hazard preparedness and mitigation, bureaucrats, technocrats and donors often appear oblivious of prevailing traditional responses and coping strategies. Admittedly, in some cases traditional strategies may no longer be as effective as they once were; population pressures and the concomitant increased competition for access to resources, for example, may have negated their usefulness or have made people less able, or less willing, to help each other in times of need, as was perhaps the case in the past. However, it is suggested here that there remains much to be learned from detailed research on how societies, communities and households living in high-risk areas have traditional responded to perpetually 'living with hazards'. Thus, the questions which need to be better understood through systematic research include:
· what kind of signals did people traditionally depend upon for warning of the possible onset of a hazard event? (for example, studies have drawn attention to the way in which animal behaviour has been used in some societies as relatively reliable predictors of seismic activity, or how the flowering of certain trees has been used as a guage of forthcoming rains);
· how housing and other structures were developed to withstand the impacts of hazards or how materials were chosen on the basis of their salvagebility for reuse following a hazard event;
· how traditional economic systems incorporated the periodic need for emergency resource requirements after a hazard event;
· how traditional systems of resource entitlement facilitate or hinder the recovery from disaster events;
· the extended family and community systems of mutual assistance following a disaster, including the types of assistance provided and the expected repayments or other forms of reciprocity; and
· the manner in which land tenure systems may have facilitated living in environments with high hazard risks.
Such research is needed, ideally on a global comparative basis, to generate a better awareness of how communities traditionally coped with hazards without, or with minimal dependence upon external assistance. It would allow disaster managers and planners to better incorporate traditional systems of preparedness into contemporary plans and activities. Indeed, it might reduce the need to impose methods from 'above' by providing assistance and incentives to strengthen traditional systems; people respond much more favourably to an intervention which they see as being their own than to ones which have been externally introduced.
6.3 It may also be argued that by focusing upon traditional response mechanisms, or by attempting to integrate new preparedness strategies with traditional ones, greater levels of risk-awareness creation can be introduced and more effective methods of preparedness and mitigation be promoted. For example, in some coastal areas of Bangladesh, a time-tested method of preparing for recovery from sea-water flooding caused by storm surges is to bury containers of drinking water, given such an accepted strategy, it is not a major conceptual hurdle to introduce to the same population the addition of a three to four foot collar to their tube-well (a simple, low-cost procedure) in order to protect it from salt water spoilage at the time of a storm surge.
6.4 An indispensable component of any preparedness system is a reliable and effective early-warning system. While a few hazards are of the catastrophic type which give little or no warning, in most cases some degree of early-warning, or of guaging an increasing level of risk, is usually possible. Technology has, moreover, greatly facilitated the timing and the reliability of such early-warnings. The problem, however, is often one of the effectiveness and speediness with which early-warnings are disseminated and the seriousness with which they are received. In high-risk areas, for example, warnings may be frequent but will often not result in an actual hazard occurrence. Hence, a degree of complacency towards responding to warnings may set in, or people may simply delay their response until the actual onset of the hazard by which time it may be too late to take mitigating actions. The fear often held by officials that false alarms may constrain future response to warnings may be offset by simple explanations of the reasons why there was a false alarm. Indeed, lack of information is often one of the primary reasons for failure to respond to early warnings; people are not generally overwhelmed with 'technical' information which will help them cope with a hazard event. Moreover, in the absence of reliable and trusted information, rumors may prevail and produce counter-productive results.
6.5 Another dimension of response to early-warnings relates to the extent to which there are options available to potentially affected populations. It is not of much use to advise people to flee an impending hazard if they have nowhere to go or no means of going. Alternatively, they may perceive the risk of leaving, in terms of losing control of their meagre resources, as being far more of a devastating risk than the risk of the impending hazard - this may especially be the case where warnings are frequent but do not necessarily lead to an actual hazard event. Again, coastal Bangladesh illustrates this argument very well; cyclone warnings are multi-annual events but only result periodically in severe cyclones actually touching land in forewarned areas. Hence, few ever flee at the first warning - which may be two to three days before the expected arrival of a cyclone and in plenty of time to take mitigating actions. Rather, they wait until more definitive signs manifest themselves, at which point it may often be too late to reach safety. Moreover, leaving their homesteads entails very high economic risks; theft and looting is rampant at such times and, given the critically limited resources most coastal people have at their disposal, few are thus able, let alone willing, to forsake their households until the hazard is actually upon them. In Bangladesh there is also the added problem of where to flee since cyclone-shelters are too few and often beyond reach for much of the population at risk.
6.6 It is therefore recommended that a research project be initiated which examines the economic, social and psychological underpinnings of when and how people respond to early warning systems and how such responses vary with different hazards and among populations with varying resource entitlement or outside the societal mainstream due to ethnicity, language or because of handicaps.. Such research will greatly assist the fine-tuning of many existing early warning systems and permit a re-orientation of others which may be ineffective or are not being responded to by the people they are meant to protect.
6.7 There is also a need for research on how to mobilize effective early-warning systems to remote or inaccessible areas, especially when such areas are inhabited by technologically unsophisticated populations. Using electronic media is little use in areas where people do not own radios. Even getting warnings to local officials may be a problem because of limited or unreliable communications networks. The development of informal warning systems has, therefore, a major role to play in such circumstances. Indeed, in such instances much benefit would be derived from a better understanding of how traditional early-warning systems operate. Therefore, a viable additional research undertaking would be to explore how informal warning systems can build upon such traditional warning systems so as to provide a heightened level of preparedness among remote and poorly accessed populations.
6.8 A major component of adequate disaster preparedness is the full involvement of the public at all levels of disaster planning. A highly sensitized population is much more likely to develop its own preparedness and mitigation strategies and to undertake appropriate responses to any early warnings that are given. The problem in many developing countries, however, is one of how best to involve and sensitize the public given the limited communication modes that are usually in place and, perhaps, deep-rooted inherent distrust of officials which prevails among many peasant populations.
6.9 An important research question that needs to be addressed, therefore, is that of the constraints and obstacles faced by national and local government agencies attempting to develop public awareness and preparedness programs in high-risk areas. As part of this research, the following issues should be evaluated:
· what role does, or could, the media play in assisting with awareness creation? Does the media work for, or against, the development of realistic perceptions of risk? How realistically or accurately is the media informed of disaster management issues? To what extent do governments manipulate the media in order to impose their disaster management plans/activities or distort the magnitude of hazards? How free is the media of government control to report conditions which may conflict with government positions?
· what role, either positive or negative, do political parties play in disaster awareness? Is there an awareness creating role for multi-party disaster committees in high-risk areas, and, if so, how can such multi-party committees Demobilized?
· what is the appropriate role for local community leaders and how can they be more effectively mobilized to heighten awareness within their community? To what extent can local community leaders serve as the frontline agents capable of blending traditional coping measures with externally introduced and more technologically advanced measures?
· to what degree do NGOs, especially expatriate ones who may not enjoy the unequivocal support of government, have the freedom to publicize needs in times of emergencies or contradict government positions? (It can be argued that vulnerability is greatly increased under conditions where NGOs, or the media, are denied freedom of expressing any concerns which may contradict government policy or positions);
· what are the most appropriate and cost-effective technologies available to third world areas for use in promoting disaster awareness?
· what is the role and/or risk of private enterprise developing and/or promoting disaster mitigation strategies? To what extent does private enterprise in the developing world have the capacity and resources to develop and promote disaster mitigation strategies?
· what is the existing and potential role of the education system in creating awareness?
6.10 This latter point is, essentially, a major research agenda in itself. The value and cost-effectiveness of using the various tiers of an education system to promote political goals has long been recognized and implemented by idealogues and politicians. Some governments have also effectively mobilized the education system to promote other social goals, such as in Thailand for example, where basic concepts of population education are introduced as early as kindergarten and have resulted in a near-universal knowledge and acceptance among younger generations of the two-child family concept. Based upon such experiences, there is clearly much scope for developing within school systems heightened levels of awareness of disaster risks and preparedness and mitigation concepts. It is therefore recommended that a research project be developed to:
· assess ways and means of integrating disaster-awareness and basic concepts of disaster preparedness and mitigation into all levels of school curricula,
· assess how school systems can also be used to promote awareness, preparedness and mitigation concepts to local adult populations, and
· assess ways in which school systems can be integrated with extension programming for local community leaders and tertiary-level government administrators.
A closely related issue is that of developing more effective education channels, especially at secondary and post-secondary education levels, that target the media to provide it with a more informed information base on risk assessment and realistic preparedness, mitigation and response strategies.
6.11 Many of the above proposals on awareness-creation and promotion of preparedness strategies depend to a large extent upon there being appropriate institutions, whether governmental, non-governmental, educational or political, that can be mobilized for disaster management initiatives. However, the appropriate institutions are often not in place or are not mandated to deal with such initiatives. Hence, in many cases there is a need to build new institutions which will take specific responsibility for disaster management. Alternatively, the existing institutions which are charged with responsibility for disaster management may be highly inappropriate ones (such as the military), or ones which have little or no experience (or even interest) in the tasks assigned. Thus, it is necessary to address more fully the question of institution building; it is necessary to identify the most appropriate institutions which should be established to effectively promote disaster preparedness and mitigation.
6.12 While a later section of this research agenda will focus specifically on the role and needs of women in disaster management, it should be emphasized here that women must be brought into all phases of disaster preparation, mitigation and awareness creation. Many types of hazard events impact particularly severely upon women and especially upon women-headed households. Indeed, women are invariably in the majority among the most vulnerable populations at risk in times of hazards. Consequently, any research projects dealing with ways of heightening awareness of disaster preparedness must give high priority to incorporating the special needs of women.
7.1 The concept of 'mitigation', as widely used in disaster studies, is not always a clear one. To some it implies all risk-reduction and preparedness actions taken prior to an onset of a hazard event. To others, it has a much more specific meaning, such as activities undertaken specifically to lessen the human and socio-economic impact of a hazard; engineers and technocrats, on the other hand, may use the term to refer solely to technological and/or structural interventions aimed at containing the physical impacts of particular hazards. Consequently, at the outset of this discussion of mitigation, it is worth drawing attention to the need that there be a more universally acceptable definition of the term 'mitigation', and especially one that more readily and clearly distinguishes between 'preparedness' and 'mitigation'.
7.2 The level of attention to disaster mitigation by governments, donors, other agencies, and local populations is invariably related to prevailing or perceived levels of risk. People residing in high risk areas, or areas with frequent recurring hazards, will usually evolve at their local-level sets of time-tested strategies which aim at reducing the impacts of hazard events. At the same time, governments may also introduce measures to curb the impacts or severity of potential disasters. All too often, however, such local-level strategies on the one hand and government mitigation initiatives on the other hand remain unrelated to each other, or indeed, may even be in conflict with one another. Such variances in approach and/or priorities often reflects differences in the scale of activities; governments usually adopt 'structural' solutions requiring heavy investments, while at the local-level 'non-structural' measures which draw only upon locally available resources normally predominate. Once more, Bangladesh can be used as a good illustration of this dichotomous approach to disaster mitigation. Until recently, there was little or no questioning within government circles about the desirability and necessity of large-scale, highly capital intensive structural flood mitigation works, i.e., embankments and dykes. Disaster mitigation was planned and implemented by engineers and consequently only 'engineering' solutions were contemplated. Indeed, after the disastrous 1988 flood, international donors poured into Bangladesh to reinforce traditional government strategies by proposing massive additional and extremely costly flood protection works - the so-called 'Flood Action Plan'. In contrast, only limited attention has been given to the array of existing and potential non-structural options, including floodplain zoning, which could help people live and cope more effectively with floods. Research on how to develop and introduce low-cost non-structural mitigation strategies is thus urgently needed to complement traditional emphases on structural mitigation measures.
7.3 Closely related to this question of implementing structural versus non-structural measures is that of reconciling the potential costs of losses resulting from relatively rare extreme events with the exceedingly high investment costs of implementing structural mitigation measures. This problem becomes particularly important for very poor countries. For example, a very worthwhile research project, and some might argue an absolutely critical project, would be an assessment of the economic and social benefits which might accrue to rural Bangladesh were the resources currently slated for investment under the 'Flood Action Plan' applied instead to basic rural development initiatives (which would almost certainly also include a number of non-structural flood-hazard mitigation measures).
7.4 The broader issue of how or when to balance alternative mitigation measures, and especially how to reconcile known costs of implementing structural mitigation measures with unknown costs of a likely hazard occurrence, is one that is regularly faced in most disaster-prone areas. Research into this issue, of necessity, is essentially area-specific (such as the Bangladesh case suggested in 7.3 above) rather than a theme where any universally applicable theory can be developed. However, in looking at alternate sets of mitigation measures it is useful to distinguish between:
· measures which lead to the prevention of disasters,
· measures which lessen the impact of disasters,
· measures which cause populations to avoid areas that are hazard-prone, and
· measures which lead to a change in social and/or economic practices.
7.5 Clearly, the number of hazards, especially natural hazards, which can be prevented by human interventions is limited and the costs of such interventions are invariably extremely high. For example, flood protection works which aim at providing 'total protection' (a questionable concept in itself) can usually be only undertaken by agencies able to call on massive funding amortized over several generations, such as has been the Dutch experience where investments made in the early part of this century are still being amortized. Moreover, even in such circumstances, the question remains of what level of risk is to be protected against; given the exponential increases in costs, should such interventions protect against 100-year extreme floods or 400-year extreme floods?
7.6 Much more scope in disaster mitigation lies in the area of modifying or lessening the impacts of hazards and thereby reducing the severity of potential disasters. The options in this area are many and are being widely addressed, ranging from structural/engineering measures which lessen damage caused by hazards, to more reliable early-warning systems, to effective recovery systems such as universally accessible and affordable insurance schemes. Continuing research into all three of these areas is highly desirable, especially with regard to the latter; to date there has been relatively little emphasis placed upon the role or potential (given prevailing levels of economic marginalization of population) of hazard insurance in disaster-prone areas in the developing world.
7.7 A major way to mitigate the impact of a hazard is to reduce the level of exposure of population. This can be achieved by zoning and/or building ordinances which control where people live or work or by setting minimum standards for structures they build. While in theory such interventions seem logical and realistic, in practice they are far from universally in place. Even in highly developed countries such as the US, populations remain vulnerable to disasters through lack of effective control of where and how they build; residential estates continue to straddle the San Andreas Fault and beach-front housing is still being built along hurricane-prone Atlantic shorelines. In the developing world, however, such zoning practices are even more difficult to implement, even if the political will were there, because of a combination of acute population pressure, resource scarcity, abject poverty and bureaucratic corruption. In Bangladesh, for example, because of ever-increasing land scarcity, people have little or no option but to eke out an existence on cyclone-prone off-shore islands or flood-prone mid-channel chars. Elsewhere, people have no choice but to reside on landslide-prone slopes, in areas subject to frequent earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, or along low-lying tropical storm-prone coastlines. Notwithstanding these human constraints, there is clearly much scope for such non-structural mitigation measures; many governments in the developing world have yet to recognize their role lessening the impacts of hazards through devising and implementing realistic legislation.
7.8 A fourth set of mitigation practises are those which focus upon changing social and economic practices. Here, the thrust is upon the introduction of new, hazard-resistant building materials or designs on the one hand, or on new agricultural practices or crops, or upon more general changes in land-use on the other hand. One of the major problems here is that of overcoming cultural barriers; rural conservatism is widespread and new mitigation measures can, therefore, only be successfully implemented if there is a parallel program of promoting heightened levels of hazard-awareness. Also, it must be recognized that in many developing countries the population is economically so marginalized as to not be in a position to adopt any hazard mitigating measures, even if the will is there; the perceived risk of a hazard may well be less than the perceived risk of adopting a change to a traditional economic practice.
7.9 The above points are intended to identify more specifically the principal areas where research into mitigation should focus. It is suggested here that while there clearly remains much scope for technological research into means of preventing the impacts of some hazards or of lessening the impacts of others, there is a greater need to develop more concerted research thrusts into means of hazard avoidance through an array of legislative processes on the one hand and though changing economic and/or social practices on the other hand. Such research should address the questions of how mitigation needs can be translated into effective and realistic legislation and how changes in economic activity can lead to a better adjustment and response to hazards.
7.10 Moreover, such research should also include in its objectives the better understanding of the balance between the economic and social costs of mitigation measures. To do this, we need to consider such questions as how social or cultural factors affect hazard agents or the perception of hazard agents. To date there has not been sufficient and detailed research on how traditional coping strategies worked in high risk areas. Likewise, there has not been much detailed research undertaken to assess how traditional coping and/or mitigation measures can be augmented with low cost interventions to reduce vulnerability. Clearly, here lies a very important area of research by social scientists. Indeed, such research can have a direct bearing upon the issue raised in 7.6 above, namely, it can explore how traditional coping measures can be incorporated into modem concepts of hazard insurance.
7.11 One other area of much needed research is that of how to mitigate the psychological impacts of prolonged exposure to hazards or high risk of disaster. The issues which need to be explored are whether such long-term exposure to high risks creates levels of resilience or generates fatalism. If the latter is the case, it may make more difficult any attempts to introduce risk mitigation strategies into an area. Obtaining a better understanding of the underpinnings of such fatalism should, therefore, be the first step in introducing any programs to prepare for and mitigate against the impacts of disasters.
8.1 Disaster relief is invariably reactive. A disaster or emergency occurs; immediate needs are locally assessed; an appeal for response is mobilized. The time-lag between a disaster event and the initial response is, by necessity, a brief one. Consequently, in most disaster situations there is little or no time for lengthy and detailed evaluations of injury, damage or other losses - such detailed evaluations are usually made long after the emergency phase has passed. Moreover, the quality and timeliness of response to a disaster is a product of the level of preparedness prevailing in a state. Response capacity is also a product of the overall national development-level; it is clear that the capacity and/or the political will to prepare for disasters varies greatly from country to country. One manifestation of this is the extent to which relief flowing into a disaster area - both from inside the country and from abroad - succeeds in addressing the actual needs which exist. All too often, however, some of the relief which arrives at a disaster site is inappropriate, unnecessary, unsolicited or superfluous, while many critical requirements may be left totally unmet
8.2 Donors' responses to disasters are likewise reactive. A disaster occurs; an appeal is received; a monetary or, more usually, an in-kind allocation is made on the basis of resources (or surpluses!) available to the donor. Even less opportunity exists for donors to undertake rapid and independent on-site evaluations of needs. Consequently, aid provided by donors, and especially in-kind aid, is often inappropriate or misdirected. A number of myths regarding needs created at times of emergency and disasters remain deeply ingrained among many governmental and non-governmental agencies. Such myths include:
· that any kind of medical assistant is welcome;
· that any kind of international assistance will be helpful;
· that there is always a risk of epidemics following a disaster,
· that disasters bring out the worst in human behaviour,
· that people always panic in emergencies;
· that the affected population is rendered helpless by disasters;
· that disasters are random killers;
· that disaster victims need to be housed in temporary settlements; and
· that things will get back to normal within a relatively short time.4
4 See Appendix 2 for a table outlining the myths and realities of disasters as recently summarized in the International Review of the Red Cross, No. 284, Sept/Oct. 1991.
8.3 While a few of the above conditions may occasionally be relevant in some disaster situations, for the most part they are distortions of the reality which normally prevail in times of disasters. Yet, these myths continue to guide and direct the policies of many of the agencies which attempt to mobilize responses following a disaster. For example, the widespread belief that any form of medical assistance is desirable resulted in such an over-supply of medical NGOs descending on the coalition-controlled area of Iraqi Kurdistan in the summer of 1991, that they were actively competing with one another to find clients to service (at one point, one village of about 5,000 people had three fully equipped medical NGOs with some 30 professional staff in place, while an Australian mobile military medical team was driving from village to village trying to find one that was not already serviced by an NGO). At the same time, urgent needs such as house reconstruction for some half million people, rehabilitation of village infrastructures and agricultural/irrigation systems, or attending to the needs of the large numbers of destitute women-headed households were hardly being addressed by any donor until several months after the refugees returned; some of these needs have yet to be effectively addressed. Only as the first signs of the impending winter began to manifest themselves was there any significant activity to provide some shelter materials for the returnees and displaced persons.
8.4 The above points are intended to draw attention to the need to break new conceptual grounds regarding policy frameworks for disaster and emergency assistance which go beyond such traditional concepts as 'any form of medical assistance is desirable;, or 'tool and seed distributions will meet the basic requirements for rural rehabilitation'. It is therefore recommended that a concise but comprehensive set of principles and policy guidelines for disaster relief be formulated which can be universally applied to address critical needs created by any hazard. Moreover, such principles and policy guidelines must not be limited to the immediate post-disaster situation but must also integrate longer-term reconstruction (and development) requirements. The latter is particularly important for poorer developing countries where disasters are likely to severely deplete resources and leave little or nothing for longer-term reconstruction.
Moreover, it must also be recognized that international donor interest wanes quickly following the emergency phase of a disaster (or is diverted by new disasters) and hence critical needs for reconstruction tend to be left unattended. The development of such policy guidelines may also help in reinforcing the need for donors and NGOs to re-structure their response mechanisms and see post-disaster relief as more than just a short-term emergency proposition. In too many cases there is a total conceptual separation between 'relief - the short-term emergency response handled by humanitarian agencies - and 'development' - the longer-term assistance mobilized through intergovernmental agreements. Medium-term post-disaster reconstruction invariably falls 'between the cracks'. In sum, donor policies must begin to address relief as but part of a continuum of assistance that progresses to rehabilitation and reconstruction and ultimately to development.
Figure 1 attempts to conceptualize the four phases in disaster response. It suggests that in the relief phase there are normally three groups of affected populations in need of assistance, namely:
· those who are being supported in 'care and maintenance settlements/camps';
· those who receive no direct assistance and attempt to survive on their own at bare minimal levels; and
· those who have the capacity and/or tenacity to immediately commence a process of self-rehabilitation.
Each of these groups require different levels and types of assistance; each faces different hurdles in their attempt to resume a normal existence. Further research into these diverse needs and on the effectiveness of traditional donor response strategies to each of these groups is required. Specifically, research questions to be addressed should include:
· how effective are 'care and maintenance camps' as a means of implementing relief? Are there better alternatives?
· how should donors and NGOs best respond to those spontaneously surviving at bare minimum levels of existence?
· what induces some to begin a process of self-rehabilitation immediately following a disaster? What inputs could be provided to induce a greater proportion of affected populations to self-rehabilitate?
· how to design programs of assistance which minimize the development of dependency among recipients?
· what are the factors and/or preconditions which lead to high levels of dependency on relief assistance developing in some areas but not in others?
· to what extent, and in what way, can relief inputs act as a constraint or disincentive to spontaneous rehabilitation and reconstruction? and
· what are the impacts of non-solicited aid and how can such forms of assistance be better managed/controlled?
8.6 A common concern in many areas where disaster relief is mobilized is whether all the inputs reach the targeted populations. Stories abound of aid being diverted to local merchants, misused for political purposes, or used to re-enforce local power structures. Monitoring of relief during the crisis and emergency phases of disasters is all too often minimal and ineffective and consequently some assistance is invariably re-directed from its targeted population. It is therefore suggested that research into policies of delivering and monitoring relief assistance mechanisms be undertaken, and that such research address especially the inter-relationships between relief delivery mechanisms and the local power structures within which such mechanisms must operate. Specifically, such research needs to consider:
· the relationships between relief and local-level patronage;
· who are the real beneficiaries from the distribution of relief and who loses;
· how local politics/politicians affect or control the access to relief; and
· the extent to which access and control of relief in turn affects policies and practices regarding future mitigation activities.
8.7 The management of relief coordination and dissemination, especially when carried out by UN agencies, is often subject to much criticism from the media, from some NGOs, or from special interests groups. Inefficiency in the manner with which relief is delivered or the tardiness with which a relief operations are mobilized are common criticisms levelled at UN agencies. Comparisons with the perceived efficiency and speediness with which ICRC responds to an emergency are also often made. Some of these concerns may be well-founded; others may reflect processes which are beyond the control of the UN system. Nevertheless, it may prove beneficial to undertake a comparative study of some recent emergencies where the UN system was subject to serious criticism in its relief operations and to objectively determine the extent to which such criticism was warrented on the one hand and where delays or perceived inefficiencies where due to such processes as donor appeal-mechanisms or constraints to relief delivery imposed by host governments on the other hand. Such a set of critical case-studies may serve to identify ways of streamlining the overall system of relief delivery.
9.1 It was suggested in paragraph 8.4 that responses to hazards tend to focus primarily upon the crisis and relief phases; many agencies and donors see the process of recovery and reconstruction, let alone subsequent development, as something that is beyond their mandate or responsibility. A good illustration of this is the perennial discussion about who should take responsibility for assistance to repatriating refugees and for how long after their return such assistance is made available to them. While UNHCR and its associated NGOs are willing participants in the actual repatriating process, the longer-term rehabilitation and re-integration needs that returnees invariably face, especially if they are going back to areas which have been in conflict for protracted periods, are often left largely unmet or totally avoided. The problem is one of humanitarian agencies maintaining that such needs should be dealt with by development agencies such as UNDP or through bi-lateral programs, while the development agencies maintain refugees/returnees/displacees are the responsibility of humanitarian agencies. Bi-lateral donors often face the same dilemma; their multi-lateral and humanitarian divisions are essentially geared to reactive responses to emergency needs, while their development and bi-lateral divisions see the recovery and rehabilitation of displaced people and other disaster victims as falling under the mandate of their humanitarian wings. Clearly therefore, there is a pressing need to strengthen and consolidate the inter-relationships between emergency response phases to disaster events with the longer-term recovery and reconstruction phases. Policy research, such as was suggested in paragraph 8.4, would greatly assist this process.
9.2 In Figure 1, attention is drawn to this close interdependence of the relief phase following a disaster and the subsequent recovery and reconstruction phases. It is important to emphasize here that one should not regard these as discreet phases; the most effective recovery programs are those which usually begin as part of a relief operation. For example, had basic construction materials instead of more tents been made available to returning Kurds during the summer of 1991, the shelter crisis which created a new emergency as winter approached could have, at least partly, been avoided. Rehabilitation programming for displacees and other disaster victims can and should become an essential component of any relief operation, in part to better prepare people for resuming a normal life and in part to prevent the development of dependency upon relief assistance. Instead, too many agencies continue to view relief and emergency assistance as an end in itself; policy research is thus urgently needed to help formulate a new paradigm to disaster response which includes a heightened awareness of the need to integrate relief with recovery and reconstruction. Such research should also make an assessment of what are the most appropriate institutional structures in which to house the process of disaster management from relief through to reconstruction. If, for example, disaster relief is placed in the hands of the military, as is the case in many developing countries where few other institutions have the logistic capacity to mount a major relief operation, it is highly unlikely that much thought will be given to the recovery process. Consequently, case studies of some of the more successful reconstruction experiences should be undertaken to explore:
· why they worked so well;
· what factors influenced the duration of recovery;
· which agency took the lead in the recovery process; and
· the extent to which local vis-a-vis international assistance contributed to the recovery process.
9.3 The latter point raises another important issue, namely, the extent to which large-scale international relief is often part of the problem rather than the solution to subsequent recovery. It is argued by many observers that the knowledge that aid will flow into an area in times of disaster contributes to a reluctance or complacency to undertake better preparedness and mitigation measures. Policy research such as proposed in the previous paragraph must include a critical review of this assertion.
9.4 In any examination of recovery and reconstruction, it is important that the spatial dimensions of the process also be included. As is suggested in Figure 1, there are basically four spatial components to recovery:
· in areas to which disaster victims have been displaced;
· in new locations to which they have been relocated specifically for the purpose of recovery and reconstruction;
· in their home areas to which they have returned after the effects of the hazard have ameliorated; and
· among communities where spontaneously rehabilitating people may have dispersed to in their attempts to recover.
Each of these areas will require distinct interventions; in some cases, disaster victims will need to be specifically targeted while in other cases the most appropriate strategy may be zonal assistance where all residing in the targeted area are eligible to benefit from the intervention. Where recovery also includes development assistance, zonal targeting almost always becomes mandatory. Policy research into recovery processes and strategies should ensure that all four groups of affected populations be included and that the issue of victim-targeted viv-a-vis zonal targeted assistance be critically evaluated.
9.5 A major research area in disaster management is that of the family, community, institutional and societal coping and response mechanisms existing within a state in times of disaster, and especially during the recovery and reconstruction phase. If these mechanisms are fully understood, the planning and implementation of effective recovery programs will clearly be made much easier. People are much more likely to respond to and participate in programs that are closely in tune with activities they normally undertake. A large number of research questions can be posed in this context; research into all of these questions is needed, preferably on a cross-cultural and comparative basis.
9.6 At the family level, the following research questions need to be addressed:
· how does family structure, i.e., numbers, gender and age affect response?
· how does social class and income levels affect family level response?
· how do families decide on response mechanisms and how do their coping strategies vary with different hazards?
· how do the responses of children, the elderly and the handicapped vary from other populations?
· how can one better cope with disaster induced trauma and how does this affect recovery?
· what determines a families evacuation behaviour in times of disasters and its subsequent return?
9.7 At the community level, the following research questions need to be addressed:
· how does the community structure affect its ability to cope with and respond to disasters?
· how do religious beliefs influence response to disaster and do strong religious convictions produce fatalism or resilience?
· are there significant differences in the manner rural communities respond vis-a-vis urban communities, and if so, what is the basis of such differences?
· to what extent does the effectiveness of response depend upon the manner in which communities are organized and the decision making processes within the community?
· what are the expectations of individuals and communities in times of disaster and during periods of recovery, and how do these expectations materialize?
9.8 At the institutional level, the following research questions need to be addressed:
· who creates the emergency and recovery institutions and who are the key players in these institutions?
· does the character and the quality of response vary according to which type of organizations (local, national, international, sectarian, religious, etc.) take the lead in the recovery process?
· what, if any, are the problems created for the recovery process by uncoordinated, unsolicited and/or redundant response institutions?
· what is the role of the mass media in promoting recovery activities?
· what are the longer term special health, and especially mental health needs in the promotion of recovery programs? Does, for example, untreated trauma retard recovery or do other disaster-related health factors prevent or detract people from reconstruction?
9.9 At the societal level, the following research questions need to be addressed:
· how do diverse political systems and structures impact on the recovery process? For example, what are the strengths and weaknesses of military systems when they respond to disasters?
· how do diverse political/ideological systems influence the effectiveness of civil authorities in promoting and executing recovery programs, and what are the constraints created by excessive bureaucratization of the system ?
· how do political/ideological systems influence the mobilization of volunteers in times of emergency and subsequent reconstruction?
· to what extent do political/ideological systems affect the effectiveness with which NGOs respond, and how willing are expatriate NGOs to work within political systems to which they are unsympathetic? What are the consequences to the recovery process when NGOs attempt to work outside of the existing political system?
· to what extent is the overall response to emergency and recovery phases by NGOs more, or less, effective when governments or the NGOs set up NGO-coordinating agencies?
· how can one better influence or control the quality of NGO personnel, their training for the tasks in disaster management which they attempt to address, and their high levels of turnover in personnel? The same questions can be asked regarding government agencies charged with disaster management.
9.10 To the above factors operating within a state, we must add a set of international factors which also influence the nature and effectiveness of interventions aimed at promoting recovery and reconstruction. The major research questions which need addressing in this context are:
· how international bureaucracies inhibit or facilitate recovery? Given that recovery assistance is often not accorded the same level of urgency which relief is, are the time-lags between the articulation of needs and the responses longer than they should be and, if so, what policy changes are required to streamline the delivery of assistance for recovery?
· how the international organizations priorize their assistance for recovery from disasters?
· whether international response levels are equitable for different countries or world regions and, if not, what policy changes are needed to ensure more equity?
9.11 The cost-benefit dimensions of recovery also raise a number of important research questions. Losses to disaster events are invariably measured in economic terms; this may simply be a reflection of the fact that social and psychological costs are much more difficult, if not impossible to measure. Notwithstanding this bias, it is worth questioning whether stated economic costs are always as high as they first appear and to assess the extent to which relief and recovery assistance may often be ill-conceived due to inflated statements of economic losses. Alternatively, while economic losses in the formal sector may be over-estimated, in the non-formal sector the economic losses, and hence the needs for recovery, tend to be largely ignored. Yet, for much of the developing world's urban population, it is only through non-formal sector means of income generation that they are able to maintain a fingerhold on survival. The ability of the non-formal economic sector to recover following a disaster, and the nature of inputs needed to facilitate such recovery remains an almost totally unresearched area.
9.12 The recovery phase following disasters will often lead to some people or communities gaining while others may lose. This can in part be explained by differences in tenacity and aspirations among human populations; it is also a product of differences in access to resources and the means to recover which is, in turn, predicated by such differences as economic status, social class, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation or patronage. Unless the question of who is gaining and who is losing is effectively addressed in times of recovery, the process can lead to profound changes in the social and economic make-up of a community. On the other hand, the recovery process can also be used to effect significant changes into how resources are allocated in a society and the accessibility of greater numbers to better means of income generation and to basic infrastructure and services. Clearly, there is tremendous scope for research into policies and strategies of integrating development initiatives into post-disaster recovery.
9.13 Although the concept that disasters can lead to and promote development was broached about a decade ago,5 researchers have not taken up this challenge to anywhere near the extent possible. Five research themes are suggested here, all of which can be designated as high priority issues. They are:
· an assessment of the extent to which and the conditions under which disasters offset gains made in development, and how such losses can be ameliorated or even avoided;
· an assessment of the extent to which and the conditions under which disasters can provide an opportunity for development;
· an assessment of the extent to which development initiatives can increase vulnerability to disasters, either by creating a false sense of security from hazard events, or by shifting the impacts of a hazard to other areas or to other parts of society;
· the measures and information bases that are required to encourage governments to make disaster preparedness and mitigation integral parts of national development plans. How can the international donor community assist in this process? and
· how to promote development strategies which emphasize risk-reduction in disaster-prone areas.
5 As was promoted by Fred Cuny in "Disasters and Development" Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1983.
10.1 A separate section on displaced persons is included in this agenda because of the large populations that are currently displaced, primarily by conflict-induced disasters, both within their countries and across the borders to neighbouring countries. While many of the issues raised under the previous sections clearly apply also to displaced peoples, there are a number of urgent research questions that necessitate our paying specific attention to the problem of displaced people. Moreover, it is unlikely that their total numbers will be significantly reduced in the near future; resolutions to conflicts in one area allowing people to return home tend to be paralleled by new conflicts and new displacees elsewhere. Thus, while their are growing prospects of internally displaced populations and refugees returning to their home areas in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Ethiopia or Mozambique, new displaced populations are being created by the conflicts in Yugoslavia and in parts of the former Soviet Union.
10.2 It is evident that the thaw in East-West relations has greatly reduced the number or the intensity of conflicts which were hithertoo fueled by super-power rivalry. In some cases, this thaw has led to recently negotiated peace settlements and the concomitant prospects of large numbers of displacees returning home. On the other hand, this 'hands-off approach is resulting elsewhere in renewed factionalism and insurgencies; political rivalries, ethnic or religious tensions, or other simmering hostilities which had previously been kept in check by either of the super-powers are now erupting into all-out conflicts in a number of regions. What is therefore needed is a detailed region by region assessment of existing or potential conflicts in the light of the dramatically changed political climate of the 1990s and their probability of creating new or increased waves of displaced populations, both within their borders and across them. Such risk assessments will help greatly in the formulation of more effective policies for assistance to displaced populations, and especially for the development of better programming for internally displaced populations. The latter, for the most part, have been subjected to exceptional suffering because of the inability or failure by the international community to respond to their needs.
10.3 It is also necessary to understand more about the types of displacement which are occuring and the special needs which each type of displacement experience tends to produce. Moreover, as some of the conflicts which caused displacement are being resolved - people are repatriating - we need to examine in much more detail the different conditions under which people return and the resultant short- and longer-term needs such return movements generate. Specifically, an overview study is urgently needed of the differing types of population displacement and their characteristic problems and requirements for assistance, and such a study should be undertaken within the following parameters:
· displacements which occur within active conflict zones;
· displacements out of conflict zones, but which remain inside the national boundary. Distinction needs to be made here between movements which are spontaneous, those which are directed by the state, and those which are directed by insurgents or political fronts in opposition to government; and
· displacements which are to neighbouring countries. It is important here to differentiate between migrants who are recognized as 'refugees' and therefore receive at least some level of protection and/or international assistance and those who remain unrecognized or who are deemed as 'illegal aliens' by their 'host" governments.
While the research literature on protection and assistance to refugees is very extensive, the literature on internally displaced populations, and especially on unrecognized refugees or conflict-induced illegal aliens, is much more limited and thus in need of augmentation through further research. Indeed, there is virtually no substantive research literature on the special problems and needs faced by displacees within conflict zones.
10.4 The nature and magnitude of assistance required by displaced populations will clearly be a product of the conditions under which the displacement took place and the situation prevailing in the area to which the displacees move. In addressing the needs of displacees, and the extent to which such needs can be met, a number of factors must be taken into consideration (many of which relate also to the broader question of relief provisioning discussed in section 8). These include:
· the attitude which the parties in conflict hold towards the involvement of national or international humanitarian agencies. While one side may welcome the intervention of humanitarian agencies, the other side may be opposed or, indeed, specifically target the agencies to force them to withdraw;
· the role of outside powers in fuelling the conflict. Despite the East-West thaw, external interventions by local, regional or world powers remains widespread in many conflicts - this in turn impacts upon which donors are willing to support which side in a conflict situation;
· the presence of outside military forces, be they UN-sponsored such as is being mobilized in Cambodia, sponsored by a regional organizations such as is currently the case in Liberia, or be they bi-lateral such as the French intervention in Chad. The perceived security which such military presence brings to a conflict area may be pre-requisite for some humanitarian agencies provision of assistance;
· the extent to which conflicts spill over into neighbouring countries. This can seriously affect the accessibility to displaced persons through cross-border operations;
· the effectiveness of the coordinating machinery which national governments or the international community put in place and the extent to which government agencies, the international organizations and the NGOs are willing to, or able to co-operate;
· the extent to which there is an independence or interdependence between the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the human rights record and practices of the national government. Nowhere is this dilemma more forcefully illustrated than with the current assistance strategies for displaced Kurds and Shi'ites in Iraq; and
· the extent and duration to which the conflict is dealt with by the media. Donor support is strongly influenced by the nature, drama and length of media coverage.
All overview assessments of displacee populations, such as is suggested in the two paragraphs above, must consider all of the above issues if a realistic measure of need and likely response is to be achieved.
10.5 The question of assistance and protection to internally displaced populations presents particularly complex problems. Unless a national government specifically invites external agencies into the country to help displacees, the scope for providing any meaningful assistance is limited. In many cases, displacees are associated with insurgent fronts or with areas where such fronts are operating and may thus be viewed with suspicion or open hostility by the national government. In such cases, the government is unlikely to permit assistance to flow to such displacees. This is even more so the case when the displacement has been within a conflict zone and where, therefore, the national government may have good reason to fear that any assistance to displacees will also reach its adversaries. The conflict in Sudan illustrates this point most effectively. The dilemma for the international donor community which such situations create is that of having to reconcile the need for humanitarian assistance to internally displaced (which may be extremely critical if in a conflict zone or where food is being used as a weapon of war) with the need to recognize and respect the sovereignty of a legitimate state. Mechanisms have evolved to deal, at least in part, with such dilemmas. Cross-border operations from sympathetic neighbouring countries into areas controlled by insurgencies have become common, viz., from Sudan into Ethiopia, from Kenya into Southern Sudan, or from Pakistan into Afghanistan. However, such operations have generally been limited to NGOs or bi-lateral donors; international organizations have traditionally avoided any suggestions that they circumvent the authority of a national government by providing assistance through the 'back-door'. Instead, the international organizations have attempted to work with governments by negotiating 'corridors of tranquillity' from government- to insurgent-controlled areas along which humanitarian assistance to internally displaced populations is then channelled. This was implemented in Sudan under 'Operation Lifeline' and in Iraqi Kurdistan with the 'Blue Routes'. However, both these cases showed how fragile such arrangements can be, as well as the limited extent to which implementing agencies can exercising control over the flow of assistance.
10.6 A very valuable research project would, therefore, be a detailed assessment of the broader issue of reconciling humanitarian needs for internally displaced or otherwise vulnerable populations with the question of national sovereignty. Such an assessment should critically evaluate recent experiences of NGOs and international organizations in their attempt to overcome the problem of delivering assistance to needy without the cooperation of national governments. It is clear the UN system has begun to change its traditional position on this issue, as is evidenced by their intervention in such areas as Southern Sudan and in Iraqi Kurdistan. Such a critical assessment would greatly assist with future policy development regarding aid to people in conflict zones.
10.7 Repatriation of displaced populations and refugees is an issue which has, until recently, been largely neglected. It had traditionally been assumed that people returning home, or at least to their home countries, was the optimum solution and as such, was essentially problem free.6 Recent experiences, however, are telling us that this is far from true, and that the assistance needs of returnees are often as great as those of displacees. This is especially the case where the returnees are going back to areas which have been severely devastated by protracted periods of warfare or where the return is less than completely voluntary.
6 For a summary of the many problems faced by repatriating refugees see a recent discussion paper prepared by this writer for UNRISD, Geneva, entitled "Repatriation of Refugees: a not so simple 'optimum' solution".
10.8 Some 3 million African refugees have repatriated over the past two decades, one million refugees recently returned to Iraq, and there are currently growing prospects of large scale repatriations to Cambodia, Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique. And, although the greater majority of Afghan refugees remain in exile, the numbers that have returned exceed the totals of some of the major repatriations in other world arenas. Moreover, when refugees repatriate, there is usually a parallel return of internally displaced populations. Two major international comparative studies of repatriation of refugees are currently underway,7 and it is strongly recommended that UNDP/UNDRO lend support to these studies by financing further case studies and/or the costs of sharing of the two studies' respective research findings. It is also recommended that further research on returnees be initiated, especially focusing on:
· the particular needs of returning internally displaced populations;
· populations who on return do not, or cannot go back to their home areas and are consequently forced to settle elsewhere following repatriation;
· returnees who are going back involuntarily (either coerced or forced);
· returnees of rural origin who, as a consequence of their displacement, are unlikely to want to return to their rural homelands and drift to urban areas instead:
· vulnerable groups and socially alienated populations among returnees; and
· the means of delivering aid to all the above within the constraints outlined in paragraph 10.5 above.
7 A major international comparative study of spontaneous repatriations, which has produced some eight case studies to date, is being conducted by Drs. Fred Cuny and Barry Stein of the Intertect Institute, Dallas, and Michigan State University, respectively, and a comparative study of assistance strategies to returnees in Africa is underway under the direction of Dr. Hubert Morsink of UNRISD, Geneva.
It is strongly recommended that UNDP/UNDRO funds a project which is undertaken jointly by a team of academic researchers and a consortium of NGOs8 which aims at designing, implementing, and evaluating small scale assistance strategies for various types (rural, urban, women, handicapped, etc.) of returnee populations.
8 Discussions on mobilizing such a project are currently underway between a group of Canadian academics and a Montreal-based NGO.
10.9 Conflicts which produce displaced populations also tend to produce large military and/or guerrilla forces. Drawn from their villages or from urban shanties at a very tender and impressionable age, with little or no schooling or employable skills, these young 'warrior' communities learn to live by the gun and are often required to fend for themselves in whatever way possible. When conflicts end, such populations are every bit as 'displaced' from normal society as are civilian displacees. Re-integrating them often requires more than just providing them with employable skills; a re-socialization process is sometimes necessary. Left without any support network after being demobilized from the army or the guerrilla forces, such individuals may well have little option other than drifting into illegal activities or outright banditry (especially if demobilization was not accompanied by disarmament). There has not been any substantive research on the problem of reintegrating demobilized 'warrior' (male or female) to date, and it is therefore strongly recommended that a high priority be assigned to a comparative study of past experiences and to the development of strategies for re-integrating and re-socializing such populations following the termination of a conflict.
9 This section is based upon material collated by Dr. Raymond Wiest from a study on women and children in emergencies prepared by him and Dr. J. Mocellin and D. Motsisi for UNDP/UNDRO's Disaster Management Training Programme.
11.1 Disaster literature on women and children has only recently begun to expand. Current gender research needs are predicated by the fact that normal familial responsibilities of women are especially magnified or disrupted by the onset of disaster events. Their normal responsibilities of production (women as providers of income or subsistence), reproduction (bearing and rearing children) and maintenance of the domestic group (community management activities such as procuring the water supply or collective child care) all tend to be adversely affected by a disaster. The extent of impacts which disasters have upon women are rooted in various forms of emotional, social, economic and institutional dependency, and the combined effect of these variables often makes intervention measures difficult to identify and design.
11.2 As has been suggested throughout this agenda, the degree of vulnerability of a population is the real cause of why hazards frequently lead to disasters, and hence, an appreciation of the societal and cultural contexts is important in understanding the impact of disasters. This is particularly so in the case of women and children because the social structure of most societies formally relegates women and children to inferiority and dependency and increases their vulnerability through such disempowerment The actual performance of women differs significantly from traditional gender ideology and role stereotypes in most societies. It is therefore essential to address these realities in order to appreciate the differential impact of disasters on women and children, and to recognize in the actions of women the potentials for disaster preparedness, mitigation, and recovery.
11.3 The current view, expressed by several operational agencies, is that women are a 'vulnerable group', particularly because of the large number of women and women-headed households that commonly prevail in disaster situations and the responsibilities borne by women related to the stability of the domestic group. Such 'vulnerability' is cultural and organizational rather than biological or physiological. The resultant dependency displayed by vulnerable groups in emergencies is especially felt by adolescents, pregnant women, lactating mothers, the disabled, and the aged. In the course of determining the impact of both natural and man-made hazards on such vulnerable sections of the population, it is imperative to note that their vulnerability to disasters is created by certain social and economic processes.
11.4 In areas where the disaster victims are confined to overcrowded 'care and maintenance' camps, often for extended periods of time, women are frequently subjected to family violence due to pent-up frustrations and fragmented community life. They are simultaneously exposed to sexual abuse. Under such circumstances, women become victims of structural and social discrimination resulting in their further disempowerment.
11.5 It is therefore recommended that two sets of studies be undertaken, namely:
· a detailed review of the existing literature on sexual exploitation of girls and women in times of emergencies and disasters. Such a review should then form the basis of an additional study, which controls for socio-cultural variables, aimed at identifying preventive factors of sexual abuse and culturally appropriate interventions; and
· a study to determine the institutional and legal mechanisms of protection of women and children in emergencies, including an assessment of the sociopolitical and ideological factors that impede women's search for equal employment opportunities or their freedom of assembly and expression.
11.6 In developing countries woman play a pivotal role not only in the socialization of children, but also in the production of food, particularly in the rural areas. Ironically, in times of disaster, women are most often the victim of the worst forms of under-nourishment or malnutrition because traditional cultural norms preclude an equitable access to nutrition. Moreover, due to the disruptions caused by disaster events, women also incur psychological and emotional stress disorders due to material loss. loss of kin, cultural displacement, and physical and emotional insecurity in the new environment to which they may be displaced.
11.7 Psychological survival will be directly dependent upon the personal capacity to cope with extreme conditions, on the socio-emotional resources available, such as special health services becoming available during crisis and relief phases, and the severity and duration of a hazard. Depending on the balance of the above components, post-stress traumatic effects will most likely appear throughout most of the population, and especially among women and children, thereby generating additional social problems for the community if not therapeutically treated within six months after the impact of the disaster. There are, however, conditions which will protect people from major psychological breakdown, including the factors commonly used to cope with the grief over the loss of a loved one, such as spiritual belief or strong social and/or community support. To date, very little research has been undertaken on this issue; we need to know much more about the kind of information that can be made available to the victims after disaster onset (and how to effectively deliver this information) to help victims cope more effectively with stress and trauma.
11.8 Where the incidence of women-headed households is high in disaster areas, women and their children will be affected disproportionately. The impacts of a disaster may include loss of loved ones, loss of homeland (in the case of displaced populations), destruction of physical property, loss of land and/or livestock, and loss of their sense of community. Lack of employment opportunities for women, particularly in organized relief settlements, all too often force large numbers of women into socially unacceptable forms of wage labour, or worse, into prostitution in their attempts to gain income to sustain their families. In such cases, women who are already marginalized by their status as disaster victims suffer the added indignity of being viewed as social outcasts.
11.9 In women-headed households women may also have to assume responsibility for caring for older and feeble relatives. Thus they become the bread-winners who play the socializing roles of both mother and father in providing material and emotional support to the children. However, when both material and emotional support for them is lacking, and mental health support services are not provided, these unusually resourceful women often break down. Occasionally, their resultant depression is unwillingly passed on to the children. In contrast, studies have suggested that men, in accordance with strongly internalized and culturally widespread traditional gender roles, repress their suffering more than women. Some research suggests that women typically express their emotions more openly and more strongly than men. Such findings can readily be adapted to disaster situations, to conditions prevailing in emergency shelters, and to relief camps and the protracted periods of rehabilitation and reconstruction following a disaster.
11.10 It is therefore recommended that a series of research projects be initiated to address the question of health and disaster-induced stress, especially as this affects women and children. Such research must go beyond the simple expansion of medical anal or psychiatric services to relief camps or disaster areas; it should, on the other hand, look into the effectiveness of combining western medicine with traditional medicine and healing practices. Research must also focus on how to better utilize the agricultural background and farming knowledge of women and children to improve and expedite their nutritional intakes in times of emergencies.
11.11 Research is also urgently needed on the interactive impact of stressors and stress and on the modifying measures applied to women and children in emergencies. Specifically, such research needs to include:
· the compilation of a list of preventive measures (and their simple implementation by health personnel) which will reduce catastrophic stress reactions during the crisis and relief phases of a disaster; and
· an analysis of the positive interaction of self-help groups in conjunction with western style counselling and how to increase these links and expand such groups into areas with high incidence of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
11.12 In many developing countries, women's contribution to extra-domestic labour is obscured or even denied. Pre-disaster conditions in many societies deny to women what they in actuality carry out, thus rendering them and their dependent children relatively more vulnerable than men. With organized consciousness-raising efforts, recognition of the real contribution of women is an asset in terms of potential productive and creative capacity. Their contribution to the social and economic development of their societies is often dominantly visible in the so-called 'informal sector;, and as such, not recognized adequately within the 'modem sector'. This results in the minimal absorption of their labour into the mainstream labour market.
11.13 With the disruption of established social control mechanisms under disaster conditions, women and children are the first to be neglected and/or abused; they encounter strong institutional barriers to organizational efforts, especially in societies with strong patriarchal ideologies. Women are less likely to organize, either out of seclusion, education, or outright threat. This means that the organizational and mobilizing role of women in emergencies has to be developed much more effectively than before. When it comes to reconstruction following a disaster, it is common to find that women are denied access to credit facilities or have little knowledge on how to access credit. Such conditions are symptomatic of the serious lack of women's empowerment in political, economic, and social terms; disasters tend to reinforce this situation.
11.14 Because women have a prominent role in the control and distribution of food in most societies, it is reasonable to suggest that agencies make more of a concerted effort to channel food assistance primarily through women. The likely consequence would be a more equitable distribution that would reach the needy in general, and especially children. However, since food assistance comes through governments and external channels, and because manipulation of food aid is a lucrative business for middlemen and/or officials, such changes may not be easy to implement.
11.15 It is therefore recommended that research on social roles of women and children be implemented, focusing especially on the following projects:
· a socio-economic and cultural analyses of changes in women's varying domestic responsibilities following a disaster event, including production, reproduction and maintenance of the family structure, and women's varying involvement in the wider society;
· the identification of pre-disaster and post-disaster factors leading to changes from traditional to innovative roles for women and factors which will enhance the participation of women and children in the various phases of response to disaster;
· the development of a data-bank comprised of studies in both developed and low-income countries where programs have been successfully applied to increase the organizational and managerial capacity of women; an assessment of how such programs can be replicated in disaster-prone areas;
· a pilot study on utilizing women and children as a labour force in emergency construction projects, including how to facilitate their access to primary resources for building sustainable types of shelters;
· the design and implementation of assistance programs appropriate for women with different backgrounds (i.e., which show sensitivity to variables of age, education, social class, rural or urban in the original place) and which allow for a diversity of strategies for women by not assuming that women will be integrated only in agricultural-related projects.
12.1 Any rank ordering of the multitude of research themes suggested in this agenda will depend to a large degree upon who is undertaking the ordering. This writer's ranking of priorities will invariably differ from a ranking by another academic, which in turn, would differ from rankings by professionals engaged in disaster management. Moreover, UNDP/UNDRO's support of any of the research topics proposed here will clearly be influenced by current disaster management needs, by donor concerns, by the constraints set by the two agency's mandates, by the feasibility of undertaking some projects, and by needs created by the Disaster Management Training Programme. Consequently, in this concluding section, the intent is only to isolate a small selection of the topics which, in this writers opinion, should be given highest priority for research in the near future. These are:
12.2 The development of a comprehensive inventory of developing country institutions and individuals with capacity and experience in disaster-related research (para. 2.9).
12.3 The identifications of factors which make populations vulnerable to hazards and the means of moderating such vulnerability - such research should take a comparative thrust and consider the constraints set by prevailing socio-economic parameters (para. 4.2) - and an examination, in the context of disaster preparedness and management, of how prevailing political and economic processes in developing world societies affect the ability to cope and respond to disasters (para. 4.4).
12.4 An assessment of what acceptable levels of risk are within the context of the options available to risk-prone populations (para. 4.5/4.6).
12.5 An anthropological study of hazard-adapted sub-cultures to identify more clearly the relationships between how people perceive risk and how they develop traditional local-level preparedness and mitigation strategies (para. 5.4).
12.6 An examination of the economic, social and psychological underpinnings of when and how people respond to early warning systems and how such responses vary with different hazards and among populations with varying resource entitlement (para. 6.6).
12.7 A study of how to mobilize effective early-warning systems to remote or inaccessible areas, especially when such areas are inhabited by technologically unsophisticated populations; how traditional early-warning systems operate; and how informal warning systems can build upon such traditional warning systems so as to provide a heightened level of preparedness among remote and poorly accessed populations (para. 6.7).
12.8 An evaluation of what is the existing and potential role of education systems in creating awareness of disaster preparation and mitigation strategies (para. 6.9/6.10).
12.9 A country specific research project in Bangladesh which is an assessment of the economic and social benefits which might accrue to rural Bangladesh were the capital resources currently slated for investment into the major facets of the 'Flood Action Plan' applied instead to basic rural development initiatives, which would almost certainly also include a number of non-structural flood-hazard mitigation measures (para. 7.3).
12.10 A study of how to mitigate the psychological impacts of prolonged exposure to hazards or high risk of disaster; do such long-term exposure to high risks create levels of resilience or of fatalism ? (para. 7.11).
12.11 The development of new policy frameworks for disaster and emergency assistance which go beyond traditional concepts; a concise but comprehensive set of principles and policy guidelines for disaster relief need to be formulated which can be universally applied to address critical needs created by any hazard and which are not limited to the immediate post-disaster situation but also integrate longer-term reconstruction (and development) requirements (para. 8.4).
12.12 A study of the inter-relationships between relief delivery mechanisms and the local power structures within which such mechanisms must operate (para. 8.6).
12.13 Because too many agencies continue to view relief and emergency assistance as an end in itself, policy research is urgently needed to help formulate a new paradigm to disaster response which includes a heightened awareness of the need to integrate relief with recovery and reconstruction. Such research must also assess what the most appropriate institutional structures are in which to house the process of disaster management from relief through to reconstruction (para. 9.2).
12.14 A major research need in disaster management is that of the family, community, institutional and societal coping and response mechanisms existing within a state in times of disaster, and especially during the recovery and reconstruction phase (para. 9.5-9.9).
12.15 An in-depth study of the capacity of the non-formal economic sector to recover following a disaster, and the nature of inputs needed to facilitate its recovery (para. 9.11).
12.16 All five themes dealing with the inter-relationship of disaster and development spelled out in para. 9.13 need to be researched.
12.17 A detailed region by region assessment is needed of existing or potential conflicts in the light of the dramatically changed political climate of the 1990s and their probability of creating new or increased waves of displaced populations, both within their borders and across them (para. 10.2).
12.18 Research on the special problems and needs faced by displacees within conflict zones is urgently required (para. 10.3).
12.19 A detailed assessment is required of the broader issue of reconciling humanitarian needs for internally displaced or otherwise vulnerable populations with the question of national sovereignty. Such an assessment should include a critical evaluation of recent experiences of NGOs and international organizations in their attempt to overcome the problem of delivering assistance to needy without the cooperation, or even against the wishes of national governments (para. 10.6).
12.20 A study is needed which seeks to identify the particular needs of returning internally displaced populations in general and specifically the needs of those returnees of rural origin who, as a consequence of their displacement, are unlikely to want to return to their rural homelands and drift to urban areas instead (para. 10.8).
12.21 A study of the problem of re-integrating demobilized 'warrior' (male or female) including a comparison of past experiences, and to the development of strategies for re-integrating and re-socializing such populations following the termination of a conflict (para. 10.9).
12.22 A review of existing literature on sexual exploitation of girls and women in times of emergencies and disasters is required; such a review should then form the basis of a further study which controls for socio-cultural variables, and aims at identifying preventive factors of sexual abuse and culturally appropriate interventions (para. 11.5).
12.23 A series of research projects should be initiated to address the question of health and disaster-induced stress, especially as this affects women and children. Such research must go beyond the simple expansion of medical and/or psychiatric services to relief camps or disaster areas; it should, on the other hand, look into the effectiveness of combining western medicine with traditional medicine and healing practices (para. 11.10).
12.24 Research is needed on the interactive impact of stressors and stress and on the modifying measures applied to women and children in emergencies. Specifically, such research needs should include the compilation of a list of preventive measures (and their simple implementation by health personnel) which will reduce catastrophic stress reactions during the crisis and relief phases of a disaster (para. 11.11).
12.25 A study which identifies pre-disaster and post-disaster factors leading to changes from traditional to innovative roles for women and factors which will enhance the participation of women and children in the various phases of response to disaster (para. 11.15).
Assistance, advice, suggestions and comments concerning the development of this research agenda were solicited from the following individuals and/or organizations.
Dr. H. Adelman, Director
Centre for Refugee Studies
290J Admin. Studies Building
York University, 4700 Keele Street
North York, Ontario M3J 1P3
Dr. Yasemin Aysan
Disaster Management Centre
Oxford Polytechnic, Gipsy Lane
Headington, Oxford OX3 OBP
Dr. Abera Bekele, Director
Ethiopian Nutritional Institute
Addis Ababa, PO Box 5654, Ethiopia
Dr. Neil Britton, Director
Disaster Management Centre
University of New England
Armidale NSW 2351, Australia
Dr. Supang Chantavanich, Director
Indochinese Refugee Information Centre
Institute for Asian Studies
Chulalongkorn University, Phyathai Road
Bangkok 10330, Thailand
Dr. Francis Charhon
Medecins Sans Frontiers
8 r St Sabin 11e Paris, France
Dr. Ellen Colthoff, Director
Disaster & Emergency Reference Centre (DERC)
Delft University of Technology
PO Box 5048 - 2600 GA Delft
Dr. Ian Davis
Disaster Management Centre
Oxford Polytechnic, Gipsy Lane
Headington, Oxford OX3 OBP
Dr. M. Frontier
Centre for Research on the
Epidemiology of Disaster
Universite Catholique de Louvain
Place de l' Universite 1
1348 Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium
Dr. B. Harrell-Bond, Director
Refugee Studies Program
Queen Elizabeth House, 21 St. Giles
Oxford University, England OX13LA
Dr. Mahabub Hossain, Director-General
Bangladesh Institute of Development
GPO Box 3854, E-17 Agargaon
Dhaka 1207 Bangladesh
Dr. Habibul H. Khondker
Department of Sociology
National University of Singapore
10 Kent Ridge Crescent
Dr. M. Aminul Islam, Director
Centre for Disaster Research & Training, University of Dhaka
Dhaka, 1000, Bangladesh
Dr. Allan Lavell, Director
Central American Research Programme, CSUCA
(Confederacion Universitaria Centroamericana)
Secretaria General, Apartado 37-2060
Cuidad Rodrigo Facio
San Jose, Costa Rica
Dr. Michael LeChat
Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster
Univeisite Catholique de Louvain
Place de l' Univeisite 1
1348 Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium
Dr. E. L. Quarantelli, Director
Disaster Research Centre
University of Delaware, Newark
Delaware 197111, USA
Professor C. V. Rag Havulu, Director
Disaster Mitigation Centre
Nagarjuna University, Nagarjunanagar
Guntur District 522510
Andra Pradesh. India
Brian Wood, Director
Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre
Asian Institute of Technology
Bangkok 10501, Thailand
Myths and Realities of Natural Disasters
MYTH: Foreign medical volunteers with any kind of medical background are needed
REALITY: The local population almost always provides immediate first aid. Only medical personnel with skills that are not available in the affected country may be needed.
MYTH: Any kind of international assistance is needed, and it's needed now!
REALITY: A hasty response that is not based on an impartial evaluation only contributes to the chaos. It is better to wait until genuine needs have been assessed.
MYTH: Epidemics and plagues are inevitable after every disaster.
REALITY: Epidemics do not occur spontaneously after a disaster and dead bodies will not necessarily cause catastrophic outbreaks of disease. The key to preventing disease is to improve the sanitary conditions and educate the public.
MYTH: Disasters bring out the worst in human behaviour.
REALITY: Although isolated cases of antisocial behaviour exist, the majority of people respond spontaneously and generously.
MYTH: The affected population is too shocked and helpless to take responsibility for its own survival.
REALITY: On the contrary, many find new strength during an emergency, as evidenced by the thousands of volunteers who spontaneously united to sift through the rubble in search of victims after the 1985 Mexico City earthquake.
MYTH: Housing disaster victims in temporary settlements is the best alternative.
REALITY: It should be the last alternative. Many agencies use funds normally spent for tents to purchase building materials, tools and other supplies in the affected country.
MYTH: Things are back to normal after a few weeks.
REALITY: The effects of disaster last a long time. Disaster-affected countries deplete much of their financial and material resources in the immediate post-impact phase. Successful relief programmes make provision for the fact that international interest wanes as needs and shortages become more pressing.
Source: International Review of the Red Cross. No. 284, Sept/Oct. 1991 p. 515.
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