Natural Disasters: Adverse Impact on Economy, Infrastructure & Livelihood

NeW Bureau

Natural disasters have hit every continent and region of the world with growing frequency and intensity, resulting in loss of life, injury, homelessness, damage to infrastructure and environment as well as impacting on other critical sectors such as education and agriculture. Be it earthquakes, landslides, flood, drought, fires, and hailstorms that occur every year, at any point, and anywhere, causing threats to the livelihoods. The number of recorded natural disasters, along with their associated impact on livelihoods and economies is increasing significantly. People at risk have been growing each year and the majority is in developing countries with high poverty levels making them more vulnerable to disasters.
Natural hazards can cause significant number of deaths, severe damages of properties and infrastructure, disruption of livelihood, disruption of services and destruction of the environment. The disaster also poses substantial challenge to the provision of health services as a result of damage. These disasters thus undermine efforts to eradicate hunger and food insecurity, and build sustainable, prosperous futures. The impact of disasters is usually measured in quantifiable ways, such as adding up the number of the dead and injured, and estimating the physical damage to housing, land, livestock, agriculture, stores and infrastructure. Several areas experiences floods following on-going above normal heavy rains which results into landslides in localized areas where steep slopes and mountain valley are presents. Climate change will increase the likelihood and magnitudes of extreme weathers in the future and natural hazards like floods and landslides will therefore also likely become more frequent and serious.
Floods and landslides are considered one of the most important natural disasters today with significant effects in terms of the number of people affected and the economic losses. It can lead to major disasters which hamper the development of the nations and affect many areas in the world. Floods and landslides may generate significant negative impacts directly on humans including loss of life, on properties and infrastructures, and on the environment. The impacts of floods and landslides are determined not just by their magnitude, but also by human and societal choices related to infrastructures, behaviors and other factors. Also large populations are left homeless and sought shelter in makeshift tents and tarpaulin. Rainfall characteristic is becoming an increasingly important component that needs to be taken into consideration as in the recent past it has significantly changed its patterns causing changes in the affected environments. While the temperature has shown an increasing trend globally, the behavior of rainfall vary depending on the location.
Water related events such as floods have been a major concern since the dawn of human civilization. It is the most common natural disaster and the leading cause of natural disaster fatalities worldwide. Every year floods take thousands of lives, leave millions homeless and cause significant loss to properties and infrastructures all over the world. Among the oldest and known disasters, floods have been threatening humanities for ages. The most common causes of floods are climate related, most notably rainfall. Prolonged rainfall events are the most common cause of flooding worldwide. These events are usually associated with several days, weeks or months of continuous rainfall. Risk of catastrophic losses due to flooding is significant given deforestation and the increasing proximity of large populations. They continue to hit every generation of human beings, bringing suffering and death as well as immense and still growing, material losses. Harmful impacts of floods include direct mortality and morbidity and indirect displacement and widespread damage of crops, infrastructure including small roads connecting communities that are being damaged and property.
The increased frequency of the floods in recent years is attributed to climate, deforestation, and increased sediment runoff and silting of rivers. Human impacts on river catchments influence flood behavior. Land use changes in particular have a direct impact on the magnitude and behavior of floods. Deforestation results in increased run-off and often a decrease in channel capacity due to increased sedimentation rates.
The floods have led to loss of human life, destruction of social and economic infrastructure and degradation of already fragile ecosystems. Flood disaster has different impact on individuals, households and communities. The immediate and direct impacts of these measures on human health include drowning, heart attacks, various injuries, and hypothermia. Furthermore, indirect impacts, such as infections, water-borne infectious diseases, mental health disorders, respiratory diseases and allergies in both the medium and long term, should also be considered as significant effects. Impact of flooding on housing and households can be extensive. Fast flowing flood waters are capable of washing away entire slums while the slow rising water damages buildings. Regardless of place and events, floods have a negative impact on humans, crops, agricultural inputs, livestock, poultry, fish, other assets such as land and infrastructure thus impacting socio-economic condition.

People survive in different ways. Those who have the capacity after being hit by a disaster emerge faster while those without such capacity sink deeper into the twist of poverty. The major impact of floods is death caused by drowning, water-borne diseases, diarrhea, snakebites. Most of households in affected areas are mostly living with agricultural and livestock activities. Impact on agriculture has a direct effect on livelihoods and food security of rural farmers as massive damage and losses occur to crop lands, physical infrastructure, poly-houses, livestock shelters, agricultural tools, equipment, and machinery. It can cause unemployment or a decline in wages and therefore affect on income among farmers and farm labourers. Some impacts of floods are intangible and are hard to place a monetary figure on. Intangible losses also include increased levels of physical, emotional and psychological health problems suffered by flood-affected people. In rural areas, farmers strongly rely on natural resources and have no alternative source of income or employment, making them more vulnerable to a crisis. Agriculture sectors face many risks, such as climate and market instability, pests and diseases, extreme weather events, and an ever-increasing number of extended crises and conflicts. They lower the availability of food commodities in local markets, leading to food inflation. These pressures reduce households’ purchasing capacity, restrict access to food, deplete savings and can force the sale of vital productive assets and erode livelihoods. The quantity and quality of food consumption are reduced and food insecurity and malnutrition increase, particularly among the most vulnerable households. The emotional cost of flooding is long lived.
Physical damage to property is one of the major causes for tangible loss in floods. This includes the cost of damage to goods and possessions, loss of income or services in the floods aftermath and clean-up costs. Damages caused to public buildings such as hospitals and clinics with significant reduction in the capacity for providing both immediate and long-term healthcare and support, educational buildings disruption academic sessions by creating an ongoing low literacy rates, witnesses unusable and or partially destroyed roads due to flood which create barriers to commute. Most of the damages are irreplaceable leaving humanity in distress. The most taxing of water related natural disasters to humans are material assets as well as to cultural and ecological resources affecting people and their livelihoods and claiming thousands of lives.
Floods also cause loss of soil fertility which lessen future harvests. In the long-term, affected areas has to deal with the spread of infections and water borne diseases, cholera, dysentery and diarrhea which increase the need for safe drinking water and the provision of water purification.
Landslides are the other major and significant natural form of disaster that affects millions of people worldwide. The frequency of landslides has increased. It is another naturally occurring phenomenon that may induce floods, but it may also be caused by floods, as well as by earthquakes and soil erosion.
Regardless of the actual occurrence of a landslide, the mere presence of its risk can affect income by influencing the behaviour of the household. Landslides often destroy crops and productive assets, essentially soil quality and livestock, and thereby cause a shock. The severity of the impact on household income is highly dependent on the percentage of the land affected by a landslide. They disrupt livelihoods, cause loss of human lives and damages to properties and infrastructure. They disrupt livelihoods, cause loss of human lives and damages to properties and infrastructure.

The agriculture is carried out on the land that has a set of vulnerabilities including the hilly topography that covers the steep slopes. Houses located in steep mountain areas, where gravity is pronounced, weak soil cohesion, the lack of rain water collection, rapid population growth, environmental degradation, use of poor farming techniques on these fragile slopes, and many others, are the sources of landslides cases. All these challenges regarded as vulnerabilities will be combined with the natural hazard to result into landslides disasters.

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