Disasters can impede the effectiveness of development resource allocation. The damage sustained from an event can be classified into four categories: (1) Loss of resources; (2) Interruption of programs and switching of crucial resources to other, shorter-term needs; (3) Negative impacts upon investment climates; and/or (4) Disruption of the non-formal sector (local businesses). Disasters have a particularly destructive economic impact in areas in which there are few alternatives for assets that are destroyed or in areas in which the resources already are at critical levels. Development processes can both increase and/or decrease the vulnerability of a society to hazards. There are clearly established linkages between poverty, marginalization, over-population, and vulnerability. To a large extent, vulnerability derives from poverty. The poor are more likely to live in vulnerable areas (slopes prone to landslides, flood plains, marginal agricultural land), have difficulty accessing education and information, have fewer assets to invest in resources to reduce vulnerability, and are more prone to become malnourished and have chronic illnesses that predispose them to injury and death. Development may be associated with the production of new hazards accepted by a society because the perceived benefits of the development project far exceed the relative risk associated with the project. Therefore, risk assessments must be part of any program planning and evaluation. Training and education are of critical importance in preventing increased vulnerability as a result of development strategies.
Development also can progress in a manner that will result in mitigation of the impacts of an event on a given society (increase absorbing capacity and/or buffering capacity, elimination of hazards or the risk of them producing a disaster). Such mitigation measures can be either structural or non-structural. There exists a wide range of options for incorporating mitigation measures in development projects.
Two case studies provide exercises that incorporate the concepts provided in this discussion: (1) The 1985 earthquake in Mexico City; and (2) Agricultural development in northern Sudan.