Cover Image
close this bookAn Overview of Disaster Management (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - United Nations Development Programme , 1992, 136 p.)
close this folderChapter 1. Introduction to disasters
close this folderCausal factors of disasters
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPoverty
View the documentPopulation growth
View the documentRapid urbanization
View the documentTransitions in cultural practices
View the documentEnvironmental degradation
View the documentLack of awareness and information
View the documentWar and civil strife

Transitions in cultural practices

Many of the inevitable changes that occur in all societies lead to an increase in the societies’ vulnerability to disasters. Obviously, all societies are constantly changing and in a continual state of transition. These transitions are often extremely disruptive and uneven, leaving gaps in social coping mechanisms and technology. These transitions include nomadic populations that become sedentary, rural people who move to urban areas, and both rural and urban people who move from one economic level to another. More broadly, these examples are typical of a shift from non-industrialized to industrializing societies.

One example of the impact of these transitions is the introduction of new construction materials and building designs in a society that is accustomed to traditional materials and designs. This often results in new materials being used incorrectly. In disaster prone areas, inadequate new construction techniques may lead to houses that cannot withstand earthquakes or wind storms (see the following figure).

Figure 1.5 New house badly built using modern materials.

Compounding this problem is the new community where the disaster survivors find themselves may not have a social support system or network to assist in the relief and recovery from the disaster. The traditional coping mechanisms may not exist in the new setting and the population becomes increasingly dependent on outside interveners to help in this process.

Conflicting as well as transitional cultural practices can also lead to civil conflict, for example, as a result of communal violence triggered by religious differences.