The Relationship between Socio-Economic Conditions and the Impact of Natural Disasters on Rural and Urbanized Regions Level of Preparedness and Recovery

By Burney, DeAnna M.; Simmonds, Keith et al. | Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview
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The Relationship between Socio-Economic Conditions and the Impact of Natural Disasters on Rural and Urbanized Regions Level of Preparedness and Recovery


Burney, DeAnna M., Simmonds, Keith, Queeley, Gilbert, Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table


Introduction

The poor, children, and individuals with disabilities are the most vulnerable to nature's wrath when hazards such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and tornado occur. The socioeconomic conditions worsen after the disaster leaving the already impoverished poorer than they were before the natural disaster. The last few years have demonstrated that no place or no one in the world is immune from natural or created disasters. From the tsunami in India, from the devastation caused by hurricanes, fires, flooding, and cyclones in the United States, grave flooding in Europe and Asia, terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe, and wars in Iraq. Millions of people have lost their lives, and experienced devastation in their socio-economic stance due to disasters, natural or man-made. The poor are the most vulnerable and suffer the most under these conditions. During disasters, the level of adequate services and infrastructure further complicates the survival efforts for those most impoverished. Transportation is a major resource and used to evacuate. For the poor, lack of transportation, financial inability to purchase city or public transportation makes evacuation impossible and leaves the poor at greater risk for fatalities during hazards turned disaster. Cities are highly vulnerable to natural crises and disasters. A sudden supply shortage of disaster safety supplies such as shelter, food, water, and medical resources, can leave a city and its citizens with many environmental and social burdens which can quickly lead to more serious medical, mental health, and social protective emergencies. The consequences of such crises are multiplied by poorly coordinated administration and planning. Natural disasters have become more frequent and more severe during the last two decades, affecting a number of large cities (see Figure 1). The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reports that, between 1980 and 2000, 75 per cent of the world's total population lived in areas affected by a natural disasters. (1) In 1999, there were over 700 major natural disasters, causing more than 100 billion dollars in economic losses and thousands of victims, mostly poor. Further, over 90 per cent of losses in human life from natural disasters around the world occurred in poor countries. Lately, most poverty conditions result from natural disasters due to limited level or preparedness to evacuate and preparedness to recover from a natural hazard turned disaster. The purpose of this study is to examine levels of preparedness and capacity to rebuild after a disaster has occurred.

Conditions of Poverty and Defined Poverty

There are a number of direct and indirect causes of poverty in the United States. These are mental health and disability conditions, lack of education attainment and skill, substance abuse, domestic abuse, crime, limited job opportunities, and especially, natural or created disasters. Of the poor, most represent a significant subgroup of race and ethnic group, such as African American, Latino, and Hispanics. The salary of low-income families with children are used to measure the economic standards for this statistic which indicate that 21% of all children in the United States live in poverty, but 46% of African American children and 40% of Latino children live in poverty. (2) Compared to other countries, New Mexico presents the highest level of poverty, followed by Slovakia, and the United Kingdom. The United States ranks 5th in levels of poverty compared to other countries (see Figure 1). The poverty rate in the United States is one of the highest among the industrialized developed world (3). However, careful analysis shows that this is due to different measures of poverty in these nations.

In 2001 the poverty rate for minors in the United States was the highest in the industrialized world, with 14.8% of all minors and 30% of African American minors living below the poverty standards.

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