Figure 13: Estimated monetary loss due to three disasters
Figure13 indicates monetary loss estimated at US$’000 which translates into income loss that impacts directly on welfare delivery in the post disaster period.
There are overall financial impacts on the household and individuals that adversely impact on people’s welfare for example dwellings, homes, property, and other assets can be damaged, sentimental value of assets can be lost forever which imply investment loss and reduction in the quality of life for the communities affected. For example people whose livelihoods depend on crops and livestock will face income loss that may impact on their welfare and overall wellbeing. For the business community (retailing, services, industries, wholesaling), their loss of income is represented by ‘operational vulnerability’ that is, the estimated time any business can operate without infrastructure support. For instance a business cannot operate without electric power (which is 0 hours), but it can operate for a maximum of 4 hours without phones. For time periods exceeding the above, the business ought to suspend operations indefinitely. (Lindell and Prater, 2003).
Directly related to the immediate welfare needs of the victims/survivors are their food requirements. In this respect food assembling and distribution points have to be coordinated in such a way that is effective and efficient given the prevailing circumstances.
Perhaps the welfare impacts of disasters can best be summed up by differentiating between the direct effects on property, the indirect effects brought about by the decline in factors of production, and secondary effects in the post disaster period such as economic decline manifested in balance of payments problems.
Economic costs of disasters vary across space and time. Evidence suggests a strong correlation between a country’s level of development and disaster risk. On average, 22.5 people die per disaster in highly developed countries, 145 people die per disaster in countries with medium human development and 1,052 people die per disaster in countries with low levels of development (UNEP ). Sometimes the economic impacts can be difficult to calculate. The Western Indian Ocean islands experience more than ten cyclones a year between November and May: huge costs are incurred due to the destruction of income-generating activities including tourism revenues.
To illustrate the financial loss to an economy, a study by SOPAC and the USP on the impacts of cyclone Ami on Fiji’s agriculture sector estimated that 60-80% of subsistence crops were damaged at a cost of F$921,000, direct damage to commercial crops was estimated at FJ$39.2m, the sugar industry lost 150,000 tonnes in lost production, and FJ$6m was lost in damaged infrastructure and equipment.
In Bangladesh, floods during the Monsoon season destroyed crops and disrupted the non-farm economy of the country even after the flood waters receded. For instance, the average monthly working days fell in the period of the floods for farm workers. Day labourers for example were severely affected, their employment fell sharply from 19 days per month to 11 days per month, and as such, wage earnings also fell by almost 46%.
Another example is the great Hanshin earthquake in Japan in 1995 that caused $US 100 billion dollars damage which was equivalent to 2.1% of Japan’s GDP. Extensive damage to buildings, transportation facilities and utilities (gas, sewage, power) makes up 80% of this cost. Recovery and reconstruction activities may start immediately after the event beginning with the most damaged sectors, whilst services sectors such as manufacturing may take up to twelve months or more for full recovery.
It is understood by everyone that a community is referred to as the people who live in it. Out of the varieties of impacts, economic impacts are one of the major areas that need attention from the moment of any disaster.
Just like food and shelter, education also needs to be included in the list of areas that contribute to the economic impacts. Due to the loss of household belongings and perhaps the parents, there will be a loss of the family income. In these situations most people tend to ignore the importance of education for all ages. This also happens as a result of evacuating from the home land to different regions.
However, to get education, either the students need to be admitted to other schools, or should be provided with housing to come back. Whatever the conditions, education should not be interrupted as it is central to creating a new level of public awareness and preparedness. Attending school also keeps children away from parental issues back at home. Similarly, they will get opportunities to share their own situation with friends and elders at school which brings more liveliness for them. In addition to this, parents will find that their children are safe, and they too will have time to attend other activities. Hence, this is possible only if the community gets prepared to use the resources available in the community beforehand.
Evacuation planning by using the available resources is a critical component of safety, including for people with disabilities. This is applicable for all buildings, including those that are new and fully accessible. Evacuation planning should include a need of assessment to determine who may need what in responding to an emergency and evacuating a facility. Also, this will inculcate the understanding of best use of the resources in the situation. In most places, during natural disasters and terrorism, in the development of preparedness plans school buildings will be the target of evacuation. In evacuation drills like fire in school buildings, the nearby parks and sports fields are allocated. In preparedness it is also very important for every member of the community to be familiar with the contact numbers during an emergency. This may include the numbers of Fire Station, Police Station etc. In this way the community will be aware of the use of the available resources rather than depending on the special resources provided during an emergency.
Just like losing the household, death of children and adults also means the loss of future labour force, thus loss of future productivity. Hence, the regional economy and labour force is required to be maintained. This means for the recovery a labour force is needed to rebuild the infrastructure to replace places like houses, schools, utilities, etc. Whereas in severe disasters; there will be a higher unemployment rate than employment as the schools, factories offices are completely destroyed. This results in people having to attend to more than one job.
In this course you have learnt much about the tragic impacts of disasters on human life; but the often-forgotten victims are the animals that share the planet’s wild places, our farms and our homes. They are entitled to physical and emotional safety just like their owners – in fact they have millions of years more experience at surviving disasters than we have. And those that did not survive – the dinosaurs – can still warn us of the dangers of unpreparedness!
In spite of the evident negative consequences of disasters on animals in modern times, public and government concern in the wake of a disaster continues to be largely focused on its impact on humans. Reports in the daily press too are often restricted to whimsical accounts about the miraculous escapes of an occasional animal.
The more serious effects on animals arise from their extreme vulnerability. Animals are often confined by their human masters to a field, pen or cage – they can’t get away from a flood or fire unless we help them. At the other extreme, some animals normally kept in captivity are themselves a hazard if they suddenly find themselves roaming free in an unfamiliar situation. Another example that could constitute an economic disaster is an outbreak of an exotic disease in economically valuable livestock; it is estimated that an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in New Zealand could cost the country far more than an earthquake or tsunami, although not in loss of human life.
The relationship between animals and humans varies hugely across the globe, and is very dependent on cultural and religious factors. In developed countries, pet animals are very important to their owners. This is less so in developing countries, where human life may be dependent on production animals such as sheep and goats, or reliant on animals like horses for transport. As well, some religions affect our relationship with animals – in India, the wellbeing of the cow is vital to the Hindu population, while handling of dogs and pigs during a disaster would not be possible for a Muslim.
The same spectrum of hazards that you have already learnt about will, of course, affect animals; but there are some hazard factors concerning animals which we will discuss here. For example, animals may themselves create hazards for people, making an already bad situation worse. Animals that are used to confinement, suddenly finding themselves free in unfamiliar surroundings, can be terrified and dangerous – even animals which we usually regard as harmless can knock children over or cause vehicle accidents.
A zoonosis (plural zoonoses) is a disease of animals which is transmissible to humans. Zoonotic diseases can be increased during disasters because the normal protective measures are absent. A common example in developing countries is rabies, spread by dog bites – and a frightened dog is more likely to bite anyone in its surroundings.
The ownership of animals can increase the vulnerability of their human owners to disaster. Research has shown (Heath, 1999) that, in the United States, people with no children, but with one or more pets, are less likely to obey an evacuation order. In the developing world, this may apply to livestock owners – recently, during the severe flooding in Bangladesh, farmers refused to abandon their goats and cows by boarding rescue boats (World Society for the Protection of Animals, 2007). Occasionally, the media will highlight cases of animals helping to save humans in disaster situations: the recent New Zealand case of a woman farmer clinging to one of her dairy cows during a flash flood, dogs alerting owners to imminent earthquakes and the like. The most remarkable cases are associated with properly trained and expertly handled Search and Rescue dogs, with units at the ready in most areas of the world. They can be particularly valuable where people are trapped under collapsed buildings; the dogs can differentiate the living person from those already deceased, enabling frantic efforts to be prioritised.
Very few countries currently (2007) have a disaster plan for animals. The United States Federal Government has decreed that all states must include companion (pet) animals and “service” animals (e.g. guide dogs) in their overall EDM plans, but the only examples available online were that of New Mexico and California (see references) which are brief but adequate. The Humane Society of the United States has an excellent guide to drawing up such plans on their website, suggesting the following steps:
Factors to consider in a possible EDM plan for animals
Sir David Attenborough has joined environmentalists in condemning a $250 million plan by Tata, the Indian conglomerate, to build a soda ash plant on a lake in eastern Africa that is home to a million endangered Lesser Flamingos.
The naturalist and broadcaster said the development, due to be considered by Tanzania’s environment minister today, would be “an ecological disaster” and would deliver a “huge blow” to the $2bn-a-year tourism industry in the region.
Education, not only of the general public, but of other EDM organisations, is vitally important to mitigate the effects of a disaster on animals. At one level this will include informing householders of their responsibilities towards pets, and farmers to their livestock. School visits to raise the students’ awareness of how they can be involved will be helpful.
Educational materials would need to include practical steps that animal owners must consider and for which they need to prepare themselves and their animals. Assisting institutions like zoos with their own EDM plans, and provision of formal training programmes for volunteers would be the next step.
Evacuation plans. Small pet animals will require carry cages or boxes lined with layers of newspaper. There should be one per animal, and they need to be sufficiently sturdy to contain the animal for several days, rather than made of thin cardboard. Dogs will need to be restrained with a collar and lead. Horses should have a halter or head-collar already on, or available quickly. Sheep and goats in small numbers may be led by ropes, but larger numbers of farm animals will need to be moved in the farmer’s usual manner. He or she will need to plan where the animals should be moved to, whether high ground in the case of a flood, or bare ground away from trees in the case of fire. Delivery of emergency food, or complete relocation, should be considered – the animals are best confined close to a road if possible. The availability of horse trailers or trucks may need to be planned. Zoos and other facilities may need help to prepare their own evacuation plans. Wildlife can be very unpredictable during disasters, and planning may need to consider protection for the human population.
Emergency kits for pet animals and horses could include vaccination certificates, medications, and a photograph to assist in identification if the owner becomes separated from the animal.
People can be a hazard to animals in disasters. Human safety is paramount during disaster and emergency situations, but sometimes decisions can be taken which are not favourable to animals due to lack of knowledge or training – for example, abandonment, seizing, confinement in unsuitable conditions, or even unnecessary destruction.
Communication is vital, using all human resources with animal-related skills identified during the planning process. In particular, the deployment of trained veterinary, paraveterinary and animal control staff where they are most needed is the controller’s priority. Volunteers should only be used to the limits of their knowledge, and the responsibility of the general public is to alert trained staff of animals in need.
Veterinary response, whether at organised centres or individually, is to co-ordinate activities of less trained staff, such as animal handling, triage, first aid, euthanasia, disposal of carcasses, and advice on risk to humans. Record-keeping is a vital task that lesser trained staff can help with, to facilitate returning animals to their owners.
Economic loss due to reduced animal products may have a huge impact on human recovery after a disaster, both as direct loss of human food supplies and as a loss in income. There may also be a loss in animal food supplies which can result in reduced production for prolonged periods.
Re-unification with owners is particularly important for pet animals, and, understandably, often takes a back seat to the re-unification of people. However, the recovery of traumatised people can often be greatly assisted by re-unification with their pets – this is especially so for children.
Rehabilitation of animals may be an issue after traumatic experiences, and may require behaviour management techniques which can be supplied by specialists.
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