The Human Cost of Disasters, and the Urgency to Act


GeoHazards International is joining the world community in recognizing International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, #DRRday. Action is urgently needed to ensure a world that is resilient to increasing disasters.


This need is clear in The Human Cost of Disasters: An overview of the last 20 years (2000-2019), a report just released by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). 


The data show a sharp increase in disasters and impacts than in the previous 20 years. The people hit hardest were the poorest. Low-income countries suffered the most in terms of human toll and had the highest average number of deaths per disaster event. They accounted for 23% of total disaster deaths but had less than 10% of the world’s population.

Disaster Impacts: 1980-1999 vs. 2000-2019. Note the sharp rise in disasters. Source: UNDRR, The Human Cost of Disasters: An overview of the last 20 years (2000-2019).


Much of the increase in disasters is explained by a staggering rise in climate-related impacts and extreme weather events. But while major flood events more than doubled, earthquakes and tsunamis killed more people than any other natural hazard, accounting for 58% of total disaster deaths as well as massive infrastructure damage. (The COVID-19 pandemic occurred after the 2000-2019 report period and is not factored.)


"Nothing undermines development like a disaster. But there are solutions: every US$1 invested in risk reduction and prevention can save up to US$15 in post-disaster recovery. Every US$1 invested in making infrastructure disaster-resilient saves US$4 in reconstruction."


-Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of UNDRR


It is critical that we shift the focus from picking up the pieces after disasters to ensuring that communities are well equipped to reduce risk that leads to such tragedies. I describe this urgency and several of GeoHazards International's approaches to reduce disaster risk in a recent MIT Architecture Lecture. If you missed it live, here is a link to the recorded webcast: Designing for Disasters Before They Happen: A Focus on Underserved Communities.


Please join us in supporting our neighbors worldwide and in working toward a safer, more resilient future for all. Landslides, earthquakes, extreme weather, pandemics and other hazard events will continue to occur. Your support means that when the next one strikes in a community where we work, people will be better protected, better trained and better prepared.


Kind regards,

Veronica Cedillos, President and CEO

GeoHazards International 

Bhutan · Dominican Republic · Haiti · India · Nepal · U.S.A.