November Theme: Disaster Relief

The term disaster, in a broad sense, refers to both human-made and natural catastrophes. Human-made disasters include civil disturbances (riots, demonstrations, etc), warfare-related upheavals (guerrilla activity, terrorism, etc), refugee crises, and other accidents (transportation, mining, pollution, chemical, nuclear, etc). Natural disasters can be divided into three categories: meteorological (such as hurricanes, hailstorms, tornadoes, typhoons, snowstorms, droughts, etc), topological (which includes earthquakes, avalanches, landslides, and floods), and biological disasters (like insect swarms and disease epidemics). Disaster is used in sociology as a “major disruption of the social pattern of individuals and groups.”

Relief offered in the wake of these types of calamities typically takes the form of monies or services made available to affected individuals and communities. Federalism at work, these efforts show the various levels of government (local, state, and national) taking on various responsibilities. For the purposes of this post, we will delve deeper into the minutia of natural and human-made disasters, both on a local and international level, and the types of relief that have been provided to offset their effects. In order to properly understand the widespread effects of any disaster, we will also look at different statistics and charts providing quantitative data with which to think through. Because the information available is extensive, links at the end of the articles will provide more details to those interested in learning more.


A report given by the International Federation of Red Cross pays special attention to the risks and impacts of disasters on cities and urban areas - warning that the world's 2.57 billion urban dwellers living in low and middle-income countries are particularly exposed to disaster risk. Those worst-affected by the world's disasters are vulnerable city dwellers living in slums and unplanned settlements. The statistics on lives lost and money spent in correlation to these disasters are staggering.

China has experienced a number of the world’s most deadly disasters. In 1976, an earthquake claimed the lives of 242,000 people, making it the most deadly earthquake since 1900. The country was also the victim of the most deadly flood since 1900 when 3.7 million people lost their lives in 1931. In certain countries the frequency of natural disasters gives the perception that their occurrence is somehow normal. However, in others it creates the perception they live in a thoroughly dangerous place. For example, 69 percent of Italians thought the country was the most environmentally dangerous country in the world in 2017. Fortunately for the Italians, this claim is not backed up statistically. China is often the most affected country, such as in 2015 when 36 natural disasters occurred.

Although natural disasters are largely seen as out of human control, human actions are at times responsible for the extremity of such events. Land use can influence the ability of an area to deal with the heavy rains that result in flooding. On a larger scale, the adverse effects of rising global temperatures may result in increasing frequencies of hurricanes and other extreme weather events in the future.

This month, the Ecclesia Project will be focusing on raising awareness about people and organizations who work to relief the pressure and effects of these devastating disasters. Through carefully planned procedures carried out by the United Nations and the relief and education provided by various organizations, people can become more prepared for an event such as those discussed today.

More links:

Disaster Relief Definition

Statistics and Charts about Disaster Relief

Additional Infographics on Disaster Relief

Details on Specific Events + Types of Disasters

Red Cross Information

Populations Affected by Disasters


Emma Wright