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Global overview

'A disaster is a serious disruption of the functioning of society, causing widespread human, material or environmental losses which exceed the ability of affected society to cope on its own resources.'

- Source: UNDHA 2001

Disasters can occur as a consequence of the impact of a natural or a human-caused hazard. Natural hazards comprise phenomena such as earthquakes, volcanic activity, landslides, tsunamis, tropical cyclones and other severe storms, tornadoes and high winds, river and coastal flooding, wildfires and associated haze, drought, sand and dust storms, and infestations. Human-caused hazards may be intentional, such as the illegal discharge of oil, or accidental such as toxic spills or nuclear meltdown. All of these can expose people, ecosystems, flora and fauna to threats. The poor are the most vulnerable to disasters because they have fewer resources and capacity to prevent or cope with the impacts.