Disaster Risk Reduction

American scientists work with Tanzanian counterparts to monitor volcanic activity. Monitoring hazards is an essential element of
American scientists work with Tanzanian counterparts to monitor volcanic activity. Monitoring hazards is an essential element of disaster risk reduction.
USAID/OFDA and U.S. Geological Survey

Investing in Programs to Save Lives and Resources

In 2013, natural disasters took the lives of more than 22,000 people, affected nearly 97 million others, and caused almost $118 billion in economic damages.

The impact of future disasters is likely to be even more devastating. Disasters are expected to become more frequent in the future and to take a greater toll due to climate change, a growing world population, and more people settling in hazard-prone areas. With each disaster, development gains may be lost as infrastructure is destroyed, poverty increases, and economic opportunities and livelihoods are interrupted or lost.

Disaster risk reduction is a broad term that includes anything we do to prevent or reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts, and storms. Investments in disaster risk reduction save lives, not just after the disaster occurs, but even as disaster strikes. USAID supports a range of disaster risk reduction activities:

  • Early warning systems notify people before a tsunami hits or before a volcano erupts, giving them time to move out of harm's way.
  • Analysis of hazards and vulnerabilities can help communities plan where and how to build.
  • Establishment and enforcement of building codes means structures are likely to withstand damage.
  • Trained first responders can immediately act to rescue trapped or injured persons.
  • A family with more than one means of support can be better protected against poverty in the event that its primary livelihood, such as raising cattle, is decimated by drought.

USAID has developed a strategic approach to disaster risk reduction to better guide its programming in the years ahead. The document outlines the three broad areas USAID, through its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, works to reduce disaster risk:

Since 1989 USAID has:

  • Supported disaster risk reduction efforts in 119 countries.
  • Trained over 70,000 people in emergency management and disaster response in Latin America and the Caribbean alone.
  • Helped establish 17 global, regional, or national early warning systems.
  • Brought the Incident Command System to more than 15 countries, 2 regional organizations, and 1 United Nations agency through an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service.

The growing risks posed by disasters have meant that new approaches are required to help countries cope more effectively. USAID recognizes that national and local entities can play a key role in responding to emergencies, so the main goal of our programs is not only to strengthen their ability to respond to emergencies, but also to make communities themselves more resilient to disasters and better able to handle their impacts.

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Last updated: July 24, 2014

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