Communicable Diseases Following Natural Disasters: Risk Assessment and Priority Interventions.

Publication language
Date published
01 Jan 2006
Research, reports and studies
Disasters, Epidemics & pandemics, Health, Water, sanitation and hygiene

Natural disasters are catastrophic events with atmospheric, geologic and hydrologic
origins. They include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, tsunamis, floods and
drought. Natural disasters can have rapid or slow onset, and serious health, social and
economic consequences. During the past two decades, natural disasters have killed
millions of people, adversely affecting the lives of at least one billion more people and
resulting in substantial economic damage (1). Developing countries are
disproportionately affected because of their lack of resources, infrastructure and disaster
preparedness systems.
The potential impact of communicable diseases is often presumed to be very high in the
chaos that follows natural disasters. Increases in endemic diseases and the risk of
outbreaks, however, are dependent upon many factors that must be systematically
evaluated with a comprehensive risk assessment. This allows the prioritization of
interventions to reduce the impact of communicable diseases post-disaster.
The Communicable Diseases Working Group on Emergencies (CD-WGE) at WHO/HQ
has developed this document to describe the communicable disease risks in populations
affected by natural disasters. It is hoped that this document, by detailing the priority
measures that are necessary to reduce the impact of communicable diseases following
natural disasters, will help to protect the health of disaster-affected populations.