THE NEXUS BETWEEN NATURAL DISASTERS AND SECURITY
Occurrences of natural disasters is of no question a security concern due its impacts that comes fourth to all forms of security when disasters struck ranging from human, environmental, societal and national security. Situations have shown that, natural disasters can be very difficult to predict and fully prepare against hence the fear of its impacts. People today are confronted with a number of threats and fear which among of these include; conflicts and terrorism, environmental degradation, economic crises including natural disasters. This essay is going to give an insight of the link that exists between disasters and security. Basically the context will dwell much on the necessity of conflict management as vital to security. According to DKKV (2002) defined a disaster as an unusually severe and or extensive event that usually occurs unexpectedly and has such a severe impact on life and health of many people and or causes considerable material damage and or impairs or endangers the life of a large number of people for a long period of time to such an extent that resources and funding available at local or regional level cannot cope without outside help. Whereas according to Oxford dictionary defined the term security as “the condition of not being threatened, especially physically, psychologically, emotionally, or financially”.
To begin with in a narrower perspective of the link that exists between disasters and security are generally the impacts directly affecting people on the scene before the effects spillover. Disasters can damage people’s livelihoods; assets, safety and health, and can lead to increased displacement. This can lead to tensions between those displaced and the host communities. When disasters hit, for example; floods, people are displaced making them settle in places where they will be job insecure, insufficient food probably as result of the washing away of the crops during the floods, living in unsafe and conditions. All these can lead people to involve in violent actions in an attempt to better living standards.
Despite naturally occurring disasters, the actual threats that people struggle with following a natural disaster are similar to those of a human-made crisis such as armed conflict where people live in constant fear which its impacts and weaken social order. Lack of food, water and shelter as a result of human made disasters like wars, the actors are involved in the response, particularly the United Nations and humanitarian non-governmental organizations are involved in natural disaster relief are works to protect human security, even if they don’t label their work as such.
Another situation that entails disaster management as a security concern is the 2000 Mozambican floods. It is said that; despite its economy growth rate by then, it had no disaster management unit to play some relevant roles when disasters strike. It is further said that, they failed to effectively manage the floods due to their fewer and inadequately trained soldiers and other rescuing mechanisms from their military mostly were in bad shape. Following the blows, it led the government to begun put into place disaster preparedness mechanisms as a way of trying to manage disasters that may particularly raise government insecurity and instability.
Not only that, as according to the international alert (2015) suggests that “Natural disasters can create power vacuums and can lead to increased criminal activity”. Natural disasters weaken state capacity and legitimacy by reducing state resources while increasing the demands placed on it. By weakening the state, natural disasters can create power vacuums and spaces for new political leaders to take part in conflict and take power. They can also present economic opportunities for criminal activity encouraging the appropriation of resources by some groups, which can lead to violence since natural disasters can affect the availability, access and distribution of natural resources, which in turn intensifies competition over them, potentially leading to violence and instability. In certain contexts, disasters can contribute to the risk of instability and conflict by creating competition for scarce resources, exacerbating inequality through the unequal distribution of relief aid, which results in disaster-related conflict risks to arise.
In a related point of view with regard to the relationship between disaster and security is that, disasters pose direct and indirect threats to the livelihoods and food security of smallholder farmers. The number of people in need of food assistance often increases after the occurrence of disasters, especially when vulnerable populations are affected. According to FAO, (2016) report states that “the 2015–2016 El Niño-related droughts and floods, for instance, heavily affected the food security and nutritional status of more than 60 million people globally”. Cole et al., (2013) cited in FAO also suggested that, “the insecurity associated with the observed increase in the frequency and intensity of disasters in many developing countries can drive poor farmers to invest in low-risk but low-returning agricultural production technologies and techniques. In turn, low investments can lead to lower future farm profits and increased food insecurity.
The involvement of government military forces in disaster relief effort need needs careful review, while the military is frequently the most effective tool and plays a significant role in providing such assistant, and none of the cases studied revealed security related problems in this area, there is still a need to bear in mind its sensitiveness in terms of long term political implications of such military use. Providing military sponsored disaster relief within a country where there is happening of insurgency activities in some regions is more likely to pose a threat to security of the people and is dangerous.
Despite the negative links that exists between natural disasters and its impacts on security, other scholars like Mandel (2002), on the contrary suggests that; “natural disasters tend to strengthen national governmental stability by increasing domestic unity as everyone bands together in the face of common destruction”. This is to say communities or states join together in a peaceful manner to deal with the disaster situation at hand rather than conflicts or being involved in hostilities which impacts on the security of the people. At the international level he further argues to say, “Natural disasters tend to strengthen international governmental cooperation by increasing the bonds between donor and recipient countries as recipient feel grateful towards donors and they feel compassionate towards recipient”, this is believed to have in return one way or the other have an influence in avoiding conflicts.
In conclusion, natural disasters and security mutually has an impact towards each other in the sense that, natural disasters poses threat to human security through the displacement of people to vulnerable and instable areas, live in constant fear due to human made disasters such as wars and other military related threats like insurgency where there is involvement of military relief assistance. On the other hand, when disasters hit people come together towards management of a common destruction hence disaster management a security concern.
DKKV (German Committee for Disaster Reduction) (2002): Journalist’s Manual on Disaster Management 2002. 7th revised and supplemented edition, DKKV, p. 216.
Cole et al,. 2013. Barriers to Household Risk Management: Evidence from India. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 5: 104–135.
FAO. (2015b). the Impact of Disasters on Agriculture and Food Security. Rome, FAO. 54 pp.