Impacts of Natural Disasters on Public Health and the Envrionment
March 31, 2014
The occurrences of natural disasters have been increasing over the years (Laframboise, M. N., & Loko, M. B., 2012). The impacts of natural disasters can vary widely with the type and severity of the disaster as well as with the preparedness of the affected populations. According to Laframboise, M. N., and Loko, M. B. (2012), “Disasters are classified as geophysical (earthquakes), meteorological (storms), hydrological (floods), climatological (droughts), or biological (epidemics) (p.6).” Disasters affect communities in various ways and can include short and long term effects. There may be physical impacts, public health and environmental impacts, social and psychosocial impacts, demographic impacts, economic impacts, and political impacts (Lindell and Prater, 2003). Natural disasters have been shown to disproportionately affect low income communities and countries more heavily than wealthier areas (Lindell and Prater, 2003). Noji, Eric K. (1996) states that, “from 1965 to 1992, more than 90% of all natural-disaster victims lived in Asia and Africa (np.).” Lindell and Prater (2003) provide further statistics and explain that low-income countries suffer approximately 3,000 deaths per disaster while high-income countries suffer approximately 500 deaths per disaster. According to the book; The Impacts of Natural Disasters: A Framework for Loss Estimation (1999), the environmental impacts of natural disasters are relatively short and many natural disasters in the long term can even be beneficial (Appendix A: Environmental Impacts of Natural Disasters, 1999). Laframboise, M. N., and Loko, M. B. (2012) explain that natural disasters are expected to continue to increase in frequency. If this is the case disaster management and planning by individuals, businesses, communities, and countries will become more important than ever before. However, there continues to be a lack of adequate planning in this area.
The physical impacts of natural disasters include immediate casualties and injuries to persons directly affected by natural disasters as well as secondary health impacts due to damaged infrastructure or loss/contamination of resources. After a natural disaster there may be damage to properties and infrastructures as well as loss of resources needed to survive. This can include loss of crops and safe drinking water or there may be multiple hazards from downed power lines, damage to infrastructure, and debris as well as possible long term health impacts if people are exposed to hazards or unsanitary living conditions for long periods of time (Lindell, M. K., & Prater, C. S., 2003). Watson, J. T., Gayer, M., and Connolly, M. A. (2007) state that “diarrheal disease outbreaks can occur after drinking water has been contaminated and have been reported after flooding.” and that, “In...