Events are Natural, Disasters are Not: Lessons from 6th GPDRR

As the GPDRR was taking place from 12th – 17th May in Geneva, Switzerland thousands of people from South of Africa were either recovering orbs reconstructing from the events of  Cyclone Idai, that ravaged 3 countries, Malawi, Mozambique and parts of Lesotho. As the Kenya4Resilience Network we managed to have 4 people attend the 5 day conference which was attended by both state and non state actors, drawing the following lessons from the event

Disasters are increasing in both frequency and severity. According to UNDRR 2017 estimates, disasters claimed deaths of more than 10,000 people and economic damage of about USD 306 Billion. Low lying countries, small island states including mostly developing countries are at the greatest risk of being affected by disasters including negative effects of climate change.

As part of the growing reporting of both online and offline on disasters, it is imperative that we distinguish between disasters and events and how  the two correlate with each other. bringing these two totally different issues into perspective will enable us comprehend disaster and events and how best to approach, report and act on them going forward. The use of language strips disaster of their social, political and economic contexts, making injustice to be pervasive


An event is a natural occurrence that humans have no control of. Be it typhoon, heavy rains and earthquakes, these events have been happening for a long time, however, when they get into contact with human beings including settlement is when a disaster occurs.

  • The term natural disasters have been used time to equate to a  natural event. Natural disasters is a term that is incorrectly used and it continues to absolve public officials of their responsibility in planning and ensuring that both flora, animals and human lives are protected from such events. “Natural” triggers the idea that event will eventually happen and humans have no control to predict and protect themselves from such events.
  • When a natural event hits an area of human habitation, our decision can exacerbates the severity of that event to become a disaster. In fact some definitions of disaster can be quantified i.e. en event can qualify to be a disaster if the affected community requires external capacities to handle its effect including if it has killed more than 10 people
Floods in Northern Kenya

Reporting disasters should be factual, independent and most of all reliable as it affects risk peoples perception on risk including shaping public perception of how  disasters are affected by issues such as climate change, rapid urbanization, high population growth and ecological degradation.