Natural disasters

Natural disasters can cause widespread poverty and illness and are particularly damaging in developing countries where people are already prone to illness and exposed to poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. The most common forms of natural disaster in the developing world are flooding and drought:


In dry areas, growing crops and raising livestock can be extremely difficult; this task is made even harder during droughts, which regularly affect some of the poorest parts of Africa.

Drought causes crop failure and animals perish from a lack of food and heat exhaustion; people are left with nothing to eat or drink and farmers lose their livelihood.

Severe droughts can cause widespread malnutrition and starvation and a spread of illnesses resulting from a lack of sources of clean water.


Flooding can also cause widespread chaos; effects of flooding commonly include damaged infrastructure, damage to homes and businesses and damage to the environment. Often, flooding can cause widespread starvation and disease, as crops are washed away and water supplies become contaminated with human and agricultural waste.

Preventing natural disasters and aiding recovery

Many natural disasters are not preventable; however there is technology available to prevent some forms of natural disaster and help to reduce the damage caused by others. In the developing world, the finances and technology needed to deal with natural disasters effectively are not available and consequently the effects can be horrific.

Damaged infrastructures mean it is difficult to distribute much-needed aid packages and there is a widespread lack of basic healthcare resources.

UNICEF has established several projects to improve sanitation and water supplies following a natural disaster; these initiatives aim to ensure people have access to clean water and are able to recover quickly in the wake of a disaster; examples of this programme include building facilities to enable people to wash and the distribution of water purification tablets.