Disasters are as old as human history. However, whether an event qualifies as a disaster or not has often depended upon who is doing the definition. Individuals, governments and humanitarian agencies have attempted to define disaster in various ways depending on their roles, biases, interests and capabilities. The United Nations Development Programme has defined disaster as an occurrence of a sudden or major misfortune which disrupts the basic fabric and normal functioning of a society.
In some texts, it is an event or series of events which gives rise to casualties or damage or loss of property, infrastructure, essential services or means of livelihood on a scale which is beyond the normal capacity of the affected communities to cope with unaided. Disaster is sometimes also used to describe a catastrophic situation in which the normal patterns of life (eco-systems) have been disrupted and extraordinary, emergency interventions are required to save and preserve human lives and or the environment. Disasters are frequently categorized according to their perceived causes and speed of impact.
Yet in other sources like researchgate.com, it’s a natural or man-made hazard that causes significant physical damage or destruction, loss of life, personal injury and economic disruption of great magnitude or drastic change to the environment. All these definitions seem to agree however that disasters can cause serious disruption of the functioning of a society, widespread human, material or environmental losses which render the affected community unable to cope using its own resources. Disasters impact and affect the way in which people live.
They can be caused by the impact of a natural occurrence on human beings or by human beings themselves. They result from the combination of hazard, vulnerability and insufficient capacity or measures to reduce the potential chances of risk. A disaster happens when a hazard impacts on the vulnerable population and causes