The increased media coverage of the impacts of disaster events has caused a renewed interest in natural disasters (Hamilton and Press, 2009). This paper endeavors to show that what masses perceive as natural disasters are because of an array of factors. The focus is on human activities that create a fovourable environment for drought to become a natural disaster in arid areas (Giorgis, 2005). Socio-economic and environmental exposure can lead to disastrous consequences from even unpretentious vulnerability. Koffi Annan (Alexander, 2009) agrees with this. He states that human behaviour mainly results into what we call natural disaster. The research paper looks at evolution of the disaster field and illustrates the contributing factors to drought conditions in North Eastern regions of Kenya.
The evolution of the disaster field
Alexander (2009) defines natural disaster as extraneous elements within the environment that are harmful to human beings. This is in agreement with the traditional view of hazards as “acts of God”, against which man has no control (Alexander, 2009). Human beings were believed to carry no blame in enabling the occurrence of natural hazards and equally thought to have no power to mitigate them (Hamilton and Press, 2009). In the 20th century, the development of technologies to mitigate disaster impacts resulted in a desire to re-look at naturalness of disaster events (Giorgis, 2005).
Research focused on the study of environmental triggers of natural disaster such as “geo-tectonics, climates, and biological factors” (Boonzaier et al., 2007). However, with time has come a realization that the bulk of disasters are because of interactions among human beings. This has led to the emergence of new theories like the ‘structural’ approach, coined to explain disaster in Third World (Giorgis, 2005). It identifies social, political, and economic factors as the main roots of disasters. These create fovourable conditions for hazards to thrive. The theory shows that the relation between poverty and human susceptibility to hazards is true (Giorgis, 2005). Poor people faced with disasters have no way or resources to minimize the impact of hazardous events (Bryant, 2006).
The African context
The extent to which human populations are exposed economically, socially and politically is directly proportional to the occurrences of disasters. Researchers have shown that the worldwide increase in the number of disasters leading to both life and material losses is directly proportional to the man-made triggers (Alexander, 2009).
In Africa, most of the natural disasters are not spontaneous events, but rather progressive occurrences. Drought, land degradation, and desertification are identified as some of the factors accountable for vast human and environmental losses (Bryant, 2006). The application of the new technologies in Africa has not been fully been able to stop or lessen natural disasters, frequently caused by the socio-economic...