Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Public Health

pp 269-284

Disaster Aftermath

  • Zbigniew W. KundzewiczAffiliated withResearch Centre for Agricultural and Forest Environment, Polish Academy of SciencesPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research


A disaster (catastrophe) can be interpreted as event that causes great destruction/damage and human suffering. The term literally means – ill-starred event, i. e. misfortune, bad luck. A disastrous event may hit anywhere at any time. It may build up over time or strike suddenly. A notion of risk embraces a possibility (chance or degree of probability) of such an adverse event.

We are living with hazards and risks of natural and man-made disasters which may cause severe human and material damage. They may seriously, and in an adverse way, affect life, livelihood, and property, possibly resulting in permanent changes to human societies and the environment. Disasters may exacerbate vulnerable conditions and exceed individuals' and communities' means to survive and thrive. Even if in the 20th century the health care has become effective and the average length of life and health status have dramatically improved, ...

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