Concepts, Research, Policy
Elgar original reference
Edited by Sylvia Chant
Chapter 96: Women, Poverty and Disasters: Exploring the Links through Hurricane Mitch in Nicaragua
Sarah Bradshaw What is interesting about disaster writing in the developing world context is that while ‘natural disasters’ are such a common occurrence for so many Third World countries, the topic is generally not discussed within mainstream development literature, and disasters are noticeable by their absence from development textbooks and courses. Despite the regularity with which they occur, disasters are conceptualised as extraordinary events that break the ‘normal’ routine of everyday life, including the established process of development. For example, immediately after an event it is not unusual to hear commentators talking of how the disaster has ‘set back’ development by five or more years. Nor is it unusual to still hear the expression ‘natural disaster’. Disaster academics have long pointed out that the natural hazards that may potentially produce a disaster are not unusual or even surprise events.1 They have also pointed out that a hazard does not automatically lead to a disaster, and a disaster only occurs when there is an inability to respond to, cope with, or recover from the event resulting in significant loss of life and/ or property. That is, disasters are a product of both the natural hazard and the relative vulnerability to the hazard, where the latter is determined by socio-economic factors. As such, disasters should be better understood, not as interrupting development but as the outcome of historical processes that create vulnerability (Bankoff, 2001). An outcome of the ‘development’ to date that has not improved the ability of the population to respond...
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