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Different types of disasters will require different intervention approaches. Disasters in the humanitarian sector are classified into the following three broad categories: 


  • Complex humanitarian emergencies


Understanding Disasters 

Understanding disasters can help reduce the risk of future disasters. Disasters occur when communities' coping  coping mechanisms are partially or completely destroyed and therefore people are unable to cope with the effects of natural or man-made hazards made hazards thus making them vulnerable to suffering.

Understanding Vulnerability 

Hazards present potential threats which may be natural (hurricanes or earthquakes) or man-made (industrial accidents, war, civil conflict).

Disasters occur when the poor and vulnerable are unable to cope with a major hazard due to underlying social, economic, environmental or political pressures.

Causes of vulnerability include poverty or social exclusion, force people to live in unsafe locations (i.e. prone to earthquake, landslides or flooding) or in an unsafe manner (i.e. poor housing or wholly reliant on subsistence agriculture).The diagram below provides examples of sources of vulnerability and potential hazards for a population.


Hazard + Vulnerability= Disaster


Humanitarian Logistics Context 

A hazardous situation in a country becomes a disaster when the affected region cannot cope by using only its own resources. Under such circumstances, when During a disaster when lives and property are at immediate risk, humanitarian organisations may deploy emergency teams. Clusters are activated in the case of large-scale emergencies which exceed the in-country capacity of those agencies and other humanitarian organisations that are active in the area on a routine basis. Example: Disaster Statistics - Deaths - Rapid and Slow Onset (Yr: 1900 to 1999). See CRED (EM-DAT) statistics: the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters: A good source of detailed information on disaster statistics can be found at

Wild fires
7 million2.40%
Road accidents32.0 million7.7%
Epidemics / aids50.7 million11.6%
Famines / Droughts70.0 million16.10%
Wars / civil strife / genocide270.7 million62.2%
TOTAL434.10 million100.00%

Typical disaster cycle

Types of Emergencies


Disaster risk refers to the chance of negative consequences when a particular hazard affects vulnerable people or locations.

Risks can be reduced through measures that mitigate the effects of disaster: