Introduction and background
Worldwide, natural disasters have increased over 200 percent in the past decade, affecting over two billion people (Guha-Sapir, Vos, Below, & Ponserre, 2011). In 2010 alone, natural disasters affected more than 200 million people and cost more than $100 billion USD worldwide (Yonetani, 2011). The rise in natural disasters highlights the ever increasing demand to understand the physical, mental, social, and economic needs of these populations. Researchers who study this hard-to-survey population, often in regions of the world with already limited research infrastructure, face many challenges and have few methodological resources to guide their efforts. This chapter discusses the difficulties in designing and conducting research in areas affected by disasters, provides practical recommendations for conducting such research, and makes recommendations for future research and development.
The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) defines a disaster as meeting one of the four following criteria: (1) ten or more people reported killed; (2) 100 or more people affected; (3) declaration of a state of emergency; or (4) call for international assistance (www.emdat.be/criteria-and-definition). Areas of war and conflict are also covered under this broad definition. These latter topics are covered in Chapter 7 and will not be discussed here. CRED further classifies disasters into five distinct natural disasters groups: geophysical (e.g., earthquakes, volcano), meteorological (e.g., storm, blizzard), hydrological (e.g., flood, storm surge), climatological (e.g., extreme temperature, drought), and biological (e.g., epidemic). In addition to natural disasters, CRED includes technical disasters in its classification framework (e.g., industrial accidents, transportation accidents) and complex or multiple disasters such as the 2011 event in Japan (i.e., earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident).