Poverty and Countries with the Most Disasters
According to a 2017 report from the World Bank, the link between poverty and natural disasters is simple: “natural disasters increase global poverty,” sending 26 million people into poverty each year and generating annual losses of $520 billion. Countries with the most disasters are spread around the globe, and the extent of the impact of natural disasters like hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes depends on where they strike.

The World Bank notes that a flood or earthquake can be disastrous for those in poverty while having a negligible impact on a country’s aggregate wealth or production. Impact on aggregate wealth has traditionally been the measurement for natural disaster severity. Measuring the severity of natural disaster based solely upon economic loss often means the poor are overlooked.

The top five countries with the most disasters are China, the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia and India. The list of countries with the most disasters is different than that of countries with the most deaths caused by natural disaster. Of the top 10 countries with the highest disaster mortality in 2014–China, India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Peru, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Japan and Indonesia–seven have low-income or lower-middle-income economies. There seems to be a correlation here, as  46.1 percent of disaster-related deaths in 2014 occurred in these seven countries.

The global average for socioeconomic resilience, defined as a country’s ability to bounce back from events such as natural disasters, is 62 percent. Low to middle-income economies generally have lower socioeconomic resilience rates than high-income economies. This means that after a natural disaster they struggle more than high-income economies to recuperate. For example, Guatemala, a lower-middle income economy, has a socioeconomic resiliency of 25 percent, while Denmark, a high-income economy, sits at 81 percent.

Measurement of natural disaster impact is changing to account more for those living in poverty. In a 2017 report, the World Bank addresses this issue by providing new strategies for determining natural disaster impact. These account for disaster impact in terms of loss of well-being rather than loss of financial assets alone.

Implementation of disaster management procedures in low- to middle-income countries can help protect against economic loss and reduce the likelihood of people falling into poverty. The World Bank estimates that policies targeting disaster response can save governments $100 billion dollars per year. Unlike in the past, the World Bank adds that “disaster risk management can be considered a poverty reduction policy,” providing a window into the future where resources are available to lessen the impact of these unavoidable phenomena in countries with the most disasters.

Cleo Krejci

Photo: Flickr

Helping Vulnerable Communities Survive Disasters
Sparked by humanitarian organizations like the American Red Cross, backed by companies like JP Morgan Chase & Co., and enhanced with data sharing from Facebook, vulnerable communities now have a better chance at surviving disasters thanks to a program called Missing Maps.

A disaster can devastate any community, but historically, the damage is considerably more widespread in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities. For example, on October 4, 2016, when Hurricane Matthew made landfall on the southern peninsula of Haiti, over 3,200 homes were destroyed and more than 15,000 people were displaced. In Haiti alone, over 1,000 people died because of this storm.

Many times, if a disaster occurs in a vulnerable, unmapped location, first responders lack the information necessary to make valuable decisions regarding life-saving relief efforts. Missing Maps is a collaborative project that literally puts these vulnerable communities on the map. This way, humanitarian organizations can better meet the needs of the communities and people they are trying to help.

Digital volunteers working with Missing Maps have helped map the homes of 8 million people worldwide. Data from the program has already begun to enhance disaster response efforts — examples include Typhoon Haiyan that struck the Philippines in 2013, and the Nepal earthquake, in 2015.

JP Morgan Chase and its employees are supporting Missing Maps by participating in “mapathons,” where volunteers create digital maps for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities. Kathy W., a Business Operations Executive at JP Morgan Chase, commented on the effectiveness of the program, stating, “The work we’re doing really helps to build more resilient communities and helps save lives.” Chase employees have held 22 official “mapathon” sessions and have helped put vulnerable communities in South Africa, Vietnam, Colombia and Peru on the map.

Recently, Facebook joined the efforts and began sharing its population density data with Missing Maps in hopes of putting 200 million more people on the map. This will help the Red Cross and other organizations on the forefront of this project to reach their mapping goals.

Earlier this year, Facebook began applying techniques from computer vision satellite imagery to generate high-resolution population maps that indicate how and where people are aggregated in communities throughout the world. Originally intended to aid in developing geographically specific communications technologies, Facebook decided to publicly share this data in hopes of helping first responders and humanitarian organizations increase efficiency with disaster planning and disaster response.

As part of its work with Missing Maps, the American Red Cross has already implemented data from Facebook, mapping more than two million people in Malawi alone. The humanitarian organization plans to continue to use this data to map vulnerable communities in other disaster-prone areas, like Haiti.

Ashley Henyan

Photo: Flickr