Natural Hazards

, Volume 82, Supplement 1, pp 27–42 | Cite as

Contextualizing vulnerability assessment: a support to geo-risk management in central Africa

  • Caroline Michellier
  • Patrick Pigeon
  • Francois Kervyn
  • Eleonore Wolff
Original Paper


In central Africa, a combination of several types of major geo-hazards threatens the highly populated area centred on the Lake Kivu Basin and the Virunga Volcanic Province. Contributing to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) policies not only go through hazards mechanisms analysis, but also through vulnerability assessment. This paper stresses the methodological choices made to target vulnerability assessment in a context of scarce and unreliable data. We discuss here the various stages we have overcome and the analyses conducted at the local scale, i.e. on targeted urban sites. The cities of Bukavu and Goma (Republic Democratic of Congo) count about 800,000 inhabitants each, and catastrophic events are frequently recorded. As a result of our analysis, grounding vulnerability assessment exclusively on a general definition seems not appropriate. Relevant peculiarities of the studied area should also be taken into account in vulnerability and risk assessment. Our research contributes to increase the relevance of DRR policies for risk-exposed populations. Following, one of our main concerns will be to challenge stakeholders who have to face numerous other issues on a daily basis, such as security, land issue or resources.


Vulnerability Risk Geo-hazards Central Africa Contextualize Data scarcity 



Special acknowledgments to Théodore Trefon and Benoît Smets from the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA) for their critical comments. Thanks also to all the local contributors (scientists and representatives of local institutions and NGOs), as well as to the experts who participated in the Delphi survey. The current research is performed in the framework of GeoRisCA project (Geo-risk in Central Africa) funded by the Belgian Federal Science Policy (Research programme Science for a Sustainable Development, project SD/RI/02A).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caroline Michellier
    • 1
    • 2
  • Patrick Pigeon
    • 3
  • Francois Kervyn
    • 1
  • Eleonore Wolff
    • 2
  1. 1.Natural Hazards Service, Earth Sciences DepartmentRoyal Museum for Central AfricaTervurenBelgium
  2. 2.ANAGEO/IGEATUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Laboratoire EDYTEM (Environnements, Dynamiques et Territoires de la Montagne)Université de SavoieLe Bourget du Lac CedexFrance

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