Somalia, Afghanistan and Niger ranked the most vulnerable countries to ‘deadly duo’ of conflict and disasters

27 February 2013

People living in Somalia, Afghanistan and Niger are the most at risk from being affected by the often devastating combination of natural disasters and conflicts, according to a new report from the ODI.

In recent years, more than half of the people affected by natural disasters have lived in fragile and conflict-affected states, revealing a ‘deadly interdependence’ between conflict and disasters. High disaster risk, high levels of poverty and high vulnerability to climate change leaves Somalia, Afghanistan and Niger particularly exposed to situations where disasters and conflicts collide.

Conflicts and disasters are expected to coincide more often in the coming years as a result of climate change, financial shocks, food price fluctuations and continued urbanisation.  Experts are calling for a rethink of current spending on helping countries adapt.

The ODI report ‘When disasters and conflicts collide’ cites four ways that natural disasters can exacerbate conflict including:

  • By deepening grievances in areas where people compete for scarce resources
  • Creating economic opportunities for criminal activities
  • Creating political opportunities for advancing political or military objectives
  • By strengthening or weakening some groups in conflict over others

It goes on to outline how conflict increases vulnerability to natural hazards including:

  • Forcing people to live in areas at high-risk of natural hazards
  • Undermining government or NGO efforts to mitigate, prepare for, or respond to, hazards
  • Preventing the provision of adequate early warning systems

ODI Research Officer Katie Harris said:

“Current spending on disaster prevention and risk reduction accounts for less than 4% of humanitarian aid and less than 1% of development assistance. Without a greater priority being placed on preparing for the worst we’re unlikely to see levels of vulnerability fall.

Better risk management, prevention and preparedness efforts - for disasters and conflict - can help where it is supported by political prioritisation of these issues but we need to acknowledge that longer term solutions will require spending money in fragile states in ways which have previously been hard to justify to donors.”