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The Impact Of Natural Disasters In Developing Countries

The world’s natural disasters have exponentially increased, with flooding being the most common natural disaster by far, making up 43% of the world’s recorded natural disasters over the last 20 years. What’s more, climate-related disasters have tripled over the course of the last 30 years. With the average global temperature almost 2 degrees hotter now than it was during the Industrial Revolution, we can expect more extreme weather events as time passes.

Natural disasters can happen anywhere, and they do. Developing countries, however, areas in extreme poverty, suffer a disproportionate amount. A 2014 United Nations report examined natural disasters from 1994 to the year of the report. They discovered that 33% of the world’s countries that had witnessed natural disasters were of low to middle income, but a full 81% of the people who died lived within those same countries.

Why are developing countries at such a disadvantage when it comes to natural disasters? This article will look at the disastrous impact that natural disasters have on developing countries, and what we can do to lessen this tremendous impact.

More Dangerous in Developing Countries

Despite efforts towards globalization, there are still many things in which the developing world lacks that the developed world takes for granted. Developing countries continue to suffer from a disparity of income as well as a lack of environmental regulations. This lack of regulation causes deforestation, overgrazing, and land degradation, which greatly increases the risk of natural disasters such as flooding or mudslides.

Developing countries also tend to have more poorly constructed buildings that cannot easily withstand a natural disaster. When the San Francisco Bay area was hit by a 6.9 quake in 1989, only 63 people died, but when an earthquake just marginally larger hit Haiti in 2010, over 100,000 people perished, largely due to the conditions of the buildings prior to the quake.

In addition, the lack of infrastructure in developing countries makes it difficult for emergency supplies to get to the people they are intended to help. For example, when Nepal was hit by devastating earthquakes in 2015, close to a half-million homes were destroyed with many others damaged. The airport, however, remained relatively undamaged, and humanitarian relief rained on the country in high volumes. Due to roads leading out of the city to some of the hardest-hit areas destroyed, however, millions of people suffered without the relief reaching them.

Much Harder to Recover

Natural disasters also work towards putting and keeping people in extreme poverty. Natural disasters destroy peoples’ livelihoods, and they have to sell their assets to buy necessities such as food. In addition, if disasters such as droughts occur regularly, farmers may refuse to invest in methods to increase their crop yield, because they fear that their investments will be for not.

People who suffer from disasters also have the risk of experiencing mental health issues including PTSD. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claims that approximately 8 in 100 people experience PTSD at some time during their lives. However, after a bit of fact-finding, they discovered that over 90% of adults and even more children suffer PTSD symptoms after experiencing an earthquake.

What makes matters even worse is that these sufferers lack the ability to seek medical help, whether for physical injuries suffered from the disaster or mental health support. Nothing like Medicaid or Medicare exist to offer even basic support.

How Can the Developed World Help?

One way that we can help developing countries is by preventing natural disasters from happening in the first place. This involves reversing climate change and can be done by cutting down on carbon emissions in the following ways:

  • Consume less beef and embracing a more plant-based diet
  • Employ less fertilizer on crops
  • Use fewer hydrofluorocarbons in air conditioning units and refrigerators
  • Regrow our depleted forests

Another way that the international community can prevent disasters from happening is by investing in the infrastructure of developing countries. Right now, we tend to concentrate on short-term relief for disaster victims after the damage is done instead of concentrating on making sure that infrastructure is in place before the disaster occurs. This infrastructure could not only prevent damage, but the right type of infrastructure could give warning of possible disaster before it happens. Building weirs on rivers known to flood, for example, can detect an increase in water flow and give people warning when a possible flood is imminent.

One way that individuals can help with both disaster relief as well as building important infrastructure in a developing country is by sponsoring a child. In some child sponsorship programs, the money you give goes directly to the child or to the child’s family for food and education. In other sponsorship programs, the money goes towards the community to enhance the lives of everyone. There are many sponsorship programs to choose from if you decide you want to step forward and make a difference.

When a natural disaster strikes, the most impoverished of us all are the ones who die and suffer the most: those in developing countries. There are ways, however, that we can reverse this trend. We must stop climate change to reduce the number of natural disasters that happen and help those countries build up their infrastructures so when natural disasters strike, they are better prepared to weather the storm. There is much we can do; we just need to step up to the plate, as part of the human family, and do it.

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