Nepal's vulnerability to disasters

Published: 26th July 2011 18:55Last Updated: 20th June 2016 10:15
17309578152 21175482de h - climate adaptation.

Photo: Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi / UNDP Nepal.

According to the 1994-2003 EM-DAT data, weather related disasters (flood, storm, landslides and avalanches) in the LDCs accounts for 23% of average people killed, 49% of average number of people affected and 97% of total amount of economic damages reported due to natural disasters (UNSIDR, 2005). Nepal is one of the LDCs and experiences landslides and floods during monsoon every year. Among all types of natural disasters, the overall impact caused by weather related disasters (WRD) like floods, landslides and avalanche are most severe. Between 1983 and 2006, an average of 299 people was killed annually these WRDs, which is 33% of the deaths caused by all types of natural disasters per year. Similarly, about 27150 families are affected annually from these WRDs. It represents about 71 percent of the total families affected from all types of natural disasters in the country. Similarly, about 5852.413 Ha of agricultural land is affected by these WRDs, which is about 100% of the land affected by all-types of natural disasters. These WRDs claim 53% of estimated loss per year by all type of natural disasters (DWIDP, 2005). Figure 1 presents the district-wise distribution of estimated loss due to these WRDs. The figure shows higher damage in the eastern Nepal than in western Nepal.

During January 2007, the World Food Programme undertook a household survey that provides insights into the effects of drought and other adverse weather conditions on the local food security situation in affected areas (see Emergency Update, February 2007). The fragile food security situation in many rural areas becomes immediately apparent when looking at the results of this survey. Almost 94 percent of households responded that external shocks (drought, hailstorms, lack of employment, illness, landslides and death of family member) immediately result in household food shortage. Within drought-affected areas, more than 85 percent of households claimed that the food shortages were more severe than last year and that the majority of households within these areas have depleted most of their food stocks. The survey estimates that in drought-affected areas, average household food grain stocks would be depleted within 15 days as compared to 3 months in non-drought-affected areas.

The resilience of a household to external shocks, such as drought and other adverse weather conditions, depends on its socio-economic status. Poor and socially excluded groups will be less able to absorb shocks than well-positioned and better-off households. The Far- and Mid-West regions in Nepal are generally considered as the poorest parts of the country, which would indicate a limited resilience to external shocks and thus a higher incidence of households using irreversible and damaging coping strategies, such as extensive borrowing and sales of productive assets.

The survey shows that almost all households (96.6 percent) in the drought-affected areas shifted their consumption to less preferred and expensive food. More than three-quarters had to borrow money for consumption purposes and almost 73 percent reduced their food intake. More worrying is the fact that half of the affected population had no meal at all at least one day a week and almost 37 percent relied on the collection of wild foods as a source of food. More than half of the households have one or more family members who have migrated in search of jobs. Irreversible coping strategies were also widespread, with over one-third of the households selling agricultural and household assets. A very high number of households (18.5 percent) reported sale of land.