WaterAid and disasters

Disasters can affect anyone, but in low income countries they hit poor communities hard. Vulnerable people are often displaced, losing their belongings and their jobs, and they take a much longer time to recover. Since 1980, low income countries have suffered from only 9% of disaster events but 48% of the fatalities.

Water, sanitation and hygiene are among the biggest immediate priorities after a disaster. Diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera are some of the most common causes of death in emergencies because above-ground water supplies are often contaminated or destroyed and sanitation facilities are absent.

Diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections account for nearly 30% of deaths among children displaced due to humanitarian emergencies, with diarrhoea causing up to 40% of child deaths in the most severe emergencies.

Where there is already a chronically poor water supply and inadequate sanitation, disasters make life even more difficult for the poorest people. Few cities have contingency plans to maintain services, and infrastructure issues such as full toilet pits or contaminated water pipes pose even more danger.

In the long term, poverty and social exclusion can be made much worse by disasters. People are often left with no choice but to move into risky areas such as urban slums or land susceptible to flooding.

Globally, incidences of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and cyclones are increasing in some areas, and in the past 30 years, disaster-related destruction has cost an estimated US$2.6 trillion worldwide. Ongoing climate change is expected to make matters even worse.