Cover Image
close this bookRehabilitation and Reconstruction - 1st Edition (Department of Humanitarian Affairs/United Nations Disaster Relief Office - Disaster Management Training Programme - United Nations Development Programme , 1993, 47 p.)
close this folderPart 1 - Scope of rehabilitation and reconstruction
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentNature of the disaster
View the documentScale of the damage
View the documentLocation of the event
View the documentSectors affected
View the documentLosses
View the documentResulting needs
View the documentAvailable resources
View the documentPolitical commitment
View the documentActors involved in the reconstruction
View the documentSummary

Location of the event

Location of a disaster is critical in understanding the sectors affected and the rehabilitation and reconstruction implications of the event. The sectors that are vulnerable to the same type of disaster vary from one area to another.

While psychological needs may not vary greatly in relation to location for the same type of event, social, economic and physical damage can display a different pattern in urban and rural areas. Rural areas are likely to have less infrastructure and concentration of administrative, commercial and industrial facilities but more agriculture and livestock than urban centers. The priorities for recovery and reconstruction inputs clearly need to reflect this difference. For example, replacing the livestock, agricultural tools and seeds after a rural flood will often be seen as vital for rapid recovery by the affected population. Whereas in an urban flood, rehabilitation of the damaged infrastructure will be essential for renewed functioning of the economy s most urban activities depend on the availability of power supplies, communication facilities and transport. However, it should be remembered that in rural areas if the few infrastructure and facilities such as a health post or a road are damaged, rehabilitation and reconstruction can be delayed since alternatives would not be readily available. Under such circumstances rehabilitation of the critical rural facilities should be considered as a high priority for the rapid recovery of the affected population. For example, repair of access roads to markets or health posts might be a higher priority for the rural communities than reconstruction of their houses. The latter may be possible to rebuilt by their own resources but infrastructure will require investment, machinery etc. which are not easily available to rural communities.

Filipeno volunteer helps build a new road in Bangladesh.

UNV-World Development, November, 1989, inside cover.

Special problems that may arise in some urban disasters, especially in developing countries, lie in the concentration of administrative, political, commercial and cultural facilities in the cities, often in the capital. Heavy losses in a major city, therefore, can have a negative impact on the capacity for rapid decision making and long-term resources which are much needed for rapid recovery. Consequently, assessing the capacities of public and private institutions following a disaster and rebuilding or supporting them where they are inadequate should be considered before moving into other aspects of reconstruction planning.


The Armenian earthquake of 1988 destroyed many towns and cities, including Spitak, where most of the administrators and health staff were among the casualties. Combined with heavy physical damage the vacuum in administrative and health sectors resulted in the slower recovery in the city compared to other areas.

Location of the disaster also determines the possibility of secondary effects. For example, heavy rainfall and earthquakes in areas with steep slopes can trigger land slides. Damage to dams, bridges and industrial plants by natural events may lead to future disasters. Reconstruction and relocation decisions need to incorporate such secondary risks that may arise from the possible location of the event These potential threats need to be evaluated especially in planning for physical rehabilitation and reconstruction projects. Failure to do so may result in reducing one risk at the cost of creating another one.

Another critical issue in relation to the location of a disaster is the limited attention that might be given to some affected areas vis-a-vis others which attract disproportionate support. This may be due to a number of factors. Sometimes selective media coverage shapes the nature of subsequent support. It is the big city in relation to small villages, or, the center of the event as opposed to the peripheries that receive the most attention even at times when there are only a few survivors. The Armero volcanic mud-flow in Colombia is a classical example of this situation where the relocated town was built much larger than was needed for the very few survivors to benefit from the reconstruction. More often, however, it is the areas where ethnically, politically, economically or socially marginalised communities live that are overlooked. As these groups may not always be in a position to effectively articulate their needs, rehabilitation and reconstruction programs can easily neglect them as beneficiaries.

Q. What are the three primary areas of information required for the assessment of needs for rehabilitation and reconstruction?

A. __________________________________________________________



(In order to carry out assessment for reconstruction and rehabilitation needs the primary information required is that concerning: the nature of the disaster, the scale of the damage, and the location of the affected communities.)