Discuss the Social and Economic Impact of Natural Disasters on the Caribbean.

Topics: Tropical cyclone, Hurricane Katrina, Haiti Pages: 7 (2519 words) Published: September 14, 2009
Natural disasters may be defined as natural catastrophes which cause great damage by disrupting the functioning of a society thus rendering the country incapable of coping through using its own resources as there is a need for outsider assistance in order to effectively preserve lives and the environment. Conversely, Natural hazards are natural phenomena that are potential threats to people within a society, structures or economic assets and may cause disaster. Natural disasters are inevitable and ubiquitous worldwide. Within the Caribbean, they are chiefly present in the forms of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, droughts, and volcanoes. The great damages caused by natural disasters may be divided into three categories: social, economic and environmental. However, this essay will address the social and economic impact of these natural disasters on the Caribbean. In regards to the essay, Hurricanes (with special emphasis being placed on Hurricane Ivan) and floods as well as two Caribbean territories, Jamaica and Haiti will be utilized respectively. The following points will be discussed in terms of hurricane: loss of lives and homelessness, disruption of communities, employment (social impact) process of money being diverted into relief activities and reconstruction, Gross Domestic Product (economic impacts). Conversely points that will be discussed for flooding are: food shortage and the contamination of water, loss of homes (social impacts) and the overall impact on the economy as well as assistance received from outsiders (economic impacts). A Hurricane is a low-pressure tropical cyclone which usually makes its first appearance in the eastern Pacific and in the tropical Atlantic. It commences its life as a rudimentarily defined weather system or as a cluster of thunderstorms. As long as converging winds, low wind shears and warm sea surface temperatures exist, the air is transmitted towards the edge of the system from the centre of the system. Subsequently, the central pressure falls resulting in an ongoing organisation of the system. Hence, the system becomes a tropical depression whenever there is a formation of a closed surface circulation. With the continued reduction in pressure the maximum sustained winds increase and as such results in the formation of a tropical storm with wind speeds of approximately 39 mph followed by the inevitable hurricane which tends to have wind speeds of 74 mph and above along with the well pronounced and needless to say developed eye. An example of such a hurricane is ‘Ivan the Terrible’. Ivan struck Jamaica on the 11th of September 2004 and has indubitably left its mark on the island ever since; marks which of course have left a dent in the country’s economy as well as wreaked havoc in the lives of its inhabitants. The Social impacts of a hurricane are that they lead to loss of lives and homelessness. It was reported that approximately seventeen (17) individuals lost their lives and around eighteen thousand (18 000) individuals were left homeless in Jamaica after the passing of Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Apparent reasons for this devastation are poverty, location of settlements in hazardous areas, environmental degradation and poorly constructed housing. This is understandable as these individuals are more often than not financially unstable and can only afford a very low standard of living. Consequently, in a bid to escape the expenses of buying a house or land they oftentimes turn to squatting or building their houses in hazardous areas. Normally, these houses are built in low lying areas, near water bodies such as rivers, gullies (and sometimes in dormant or dried up river beds), as well as on hillsides; hence, paving the way for the extensive damages that occurred as a result of the hurricane. The impact this had on the society is needless to say more negative than positive as the death of these individuals left family members mourning the loss of their loved ones and instead...
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