Natural disasters: take precautions, provide emergency aid

Destructive natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes cause thousands of people to lose their homes or even their lives each year. Especially in economically weak countries anyway Countries in Africa, South America and Asia partly unpredictable natural events threaten the lives of numerous people and can develop into a humanitarian crisis. Climate change has The frequency of natural disasters has increased significantly in recent years and more and more people, including those in Europe, are becoming victims of these tremendous natural events.

Often, communities and institutions in high-risk areas are not adequately prepared for natural disasters, making the impact all the more devastating. Malteser International supports people with aid programs on the ground to take precautionary and protective measures for future natural disasters. Not only do we provide rapid emergency aid in the event of a disaster, but we also raise awareness among the population as part of Training and exercises for the imminent dangers and in this way help to reduce damage and suffering in the event of a catastrophe.

What is a natural disaster?

Effects of a tsunami in Indonesia

Natural disasters can be of extreme proportions, causing devastation and destruction that require immediate emergency assistance.

As soon as a Violent natural events, such as floods, forest fires or volcanic eruptions, If the event has destructive and far-reaching effects on the earth’s surface, people and other living creatures, it is referred to as a natural disaster. In contrast, an environmental disaster occurs when the event is caused by humans themselves, such as the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl or an oil spill in the open sea.

However, a natural event alone is not a disaster, especially if the event occurs far from populated areas. For example, a glacier collapse or an avalanche in uninhabited areas do not pose an immediate threat to humans. However, since such huge events difficult to control, and their high energy can quickly turn them into a hazard, nevertheless, these are forces of nature that must be taken seriously.

Natural catastrophes are also so devastating because they are mostly occur unpredictably and the consequences are incalculable. Some natural events, such as hurricanes, can be recognized earlier than others. As a rule, however very difficult to take precautions for such exceptional situations. Although there are early warning systems that can detect specific natural events, such as earthquakes. In most cases, however, these only take effect immediately before the disaster. In this short time, only warnings can be issued and first protective measures can be initiated.

Types of natural disasters we are involved in

Natural disasters occur in natural disasters occur in various forms, each of which requires different emergency measures. People need different supplies after a flood than after or during a drought. Natural events do have one thing in common, however: They have devastating consequences. People often lose loved ones and all their belongings. Malteser International works on the ground to provide people with the help they need in their particular situation.

Flood relief in Vietnam

Emergency aid after a flood disaster

Flood disasters hit people in already weak regions of the world particularly hard: many families lose all their possessions. Fields, crops and whole villages are destroyed and the inhabitants have to flee to higher parts of the country. In addition to acute emergency aid, we are particularly concerned with preventive flood relief in communities at risk.

Learn more about flood disasters

Emergency relief and reconstruction after earthquakes

Massive destruction after earthquakes

earthquakes are almost unpredictable and particularly dangerous due to their destructive effect. Depending on the magnitude and location, the quakes cause great damage and often claim numerous lives. Houses, crops, livestock and drinking water sources are destroyed, the supply of essentials to the population collapses.

Read more about earthquakes

Ongoing drought in Kenya

Water shortages due to droughts

Long-lasting droughts are a disaster for the population of the affected countries: Important sources of drinking water dry up, animals die and many people lose all means of subsistence. Water shortages and food shortages lead to famines, the consequences of which often affect children in particular.

Learn more about droughts

Destruction by hurricanes such as cyclones

The power of hurricanes

Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are tropical cyclones that hit the coasts of North and South Africa, Africa and Asia with wind speeds of up to 380 kilometers. The devastating hurricanes kill hundreds of people every year, wreak havoc on infrastructure and destroy important food sources.

Read more about hurricanes

The most common natural disasters worldwide

There are several types of natural disasters, some of which vary greatly in frequency. The most common natural disasters include floods, storms, earthquakes and droughts. Forest fires, volcanic eruptions and landslides are also natural catastrophes, even if they occur less frequently. Due to climate change, natural disasters such as floods and droughts are on the increase, whereas tectonic events like volcanic eruptions or earthquakes remain constant in their occurrence.

In recent years, the frequency of annual natural disasters has increased sharply: According to the World Meteorological Organization, the Number of annual natural disasters increased fivefold in the past 50 years. Since 2012, there have been over 700 natural disasters worldwide in almost every year.

According to CRED (Centre for Research on the Epidemology of Disasters) the following natural catastrophes occur most frequently:

  • Floods (the most common natural disaster overall)
  • Storms
  • Earthquake
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Landslides
  • Droughts
  • Forest fires
  • volcanic eruptions

While destructive natural events occur rather rarely in many countries, others are particularly prone to disasters and weather extremes. Mainly Countries in high-risk regions of Africa, South America and Asia or regions that lie along coasts are repeatedly threatened by disasters such as floods, droughts, earthquakes and tsunamis. For example, long periods of drought are a major threat to the population, especially in Africa, while hurricanes and earthquakes are on the increase in Central America and Asia.

Increase in natural disasters due to climate change

Debris after tsunami in Indonesia

An earthquake in Indonesia triggered a tsunami in 2018, resulting in major destruction. Photo: YAKKUM

In recent decades, the number of climate-related natural disasters has increased significantly. Scientists agree that this is largely due to the Man-made climate change which amplifies the factors that cause natural disasters to occur.

According to a study published in 2021 by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research the risk of extreme temperatures, for example, rises continuously and, according to calculations, will result in a child born in 2021 experiencing about 19 heat waves over the course of his or her lifetime.

The number of floods has also increased significantly in recent years as water levels rise rapidly due to climate change, human intervention in natural watercourses and heavy rainfall. Warming of the atmosphere allows greater amounts of water to be stored, increasing the risk of increasingly frequent heavy rains.

In addition, extreme heat waves cause the soils to dry out severely and, as a result, they are unable to absorb the masses of water caused by the heavy rainfall. The result is flooding and landslides – even in Europe, as the floods in Germany in July 2021 has shown.

By means of so-called Attribution studies it is possible to illustrate the causal relationships between human-induced climate change and the occurrence of extreme weather events and to assess future developments. In this context, attribution research is based on a A large number of realistic climate simulations, which can be used to study the development of extreme natural events. For direct comparison, the simulations twice: once with completely natural climatic conditions, as they would have developed without human influence, and once with climatic conditions influenced by humans. In this way, variations in the frequency of natural disasters can almost certainly be attributed to human activity.

Devastating consequences and extent of natural disasters

Reconstruction after an earthquake in Nepal

When international aid is requested after a natural disaster, we help directly on the ground. Photo: Jana Asenbrennerova/Malteser International

The impact of a disaster depends primarily on the type, intensity and place of origin of the natural event. In most cases, natural disasters result in massive damage to infrastructure and the economy; and claim casualties and fatalities.

The consequences are devastating for the people: floods or earthquakes cause Fields and livestock, water sources, houses or entire villages destroyed, so that numerous people lose their livelihoods. droughts and extreme temperatures deprive the affected people of their food resources leading to water shortages and famine.

The worst natural disaster in recent decades was the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004. The earthquake, the triggered tsunami and several aftershocks resulted in a total of around 230.000 people killed. Over 100.000 were injured and more than 1.7 million coastal residents lost their homes.

Not all countries are in a position to provide for people after such events, to repair the damage on their own and to better prepare for future disasters. If international aid becomes necessary after a natural disaster, we help directly on the ground to support the people and accompany them in the reconstruction process. We also frequently become active on site in the event of a disaster through our local partners.

Protection through disaster preparedness: Preparing for emergencies

In many countries, especially in economically weaker states, there is a lack of preparedness and protection measures in the event of a natural disaster. Disaster preparedness is particularly important in preparing people for threatening natural events and thus limit damage and suffering.

With targeted measures, we are helping people on the ground to identify risks and develop appropriate emergency plans. We pay special attention to vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and people with disabilities, for whom we offer specially designed training. Disaster preparedness includes in addition to these training and education measures, construction measures as well as programs to strengthen the local community. We create awareness among the population of potential disasters so that rapid action can be taken in the event of an emergency.

By implementing protective and evacuation measures and installing early warning systems and contingency plans, the impact of disasters can be mitigated and the number of fatalities and injuries, as well as the extent of damage to infrastructure, can be greatly reduced.

Acute emergency aid: our work after natural disasters

Food delivery after floods in Myanmar

In the aftermath of natural disasters, we provide rapid and effective assistance. Among other things, we take care of the initial supply of food and other relief goods.

Malteser International works worldwide in areas affected by natural disasters to supply and protect the population. To this end, we provide on-site assistance – often together with our local partner organizations – after natural disasters fast and effective Emergency aid. This includes Provide initial medical care and distribute food and relief supplies.

In acute crisis situations, such as after the tsunami in Indonesia in 2018, we take action together with our partner organizations on the ground Measures for immediate relief. Together we provide Repair and reconstruction of medical facilities, destroyed by earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters. To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programs enable people in affected areas to have access to clean drinking water and sanitation.

In the framework of flood relief after the flood disaster in Germany, Malteser Germany has assisted the affected people among others with Food, electricity and urgently needed equipment such as building dryers, heat generators or washing machines supports. Families whose homes were completely destroyed or who were otherwise particularly hard hit by the floods received financial aid to help them get a start on their lives after the disaster.

The goal of our efforts is to help survivors of natural disasters recover quickly, resume their lives, and better prepare the population for future disasters.

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