Heavy rains in early 2009 caused one of the worst floods in four decades to hit Namibia, pushing the semi-arid Southern African country into second place in a list of countries most affected by natural disasters last year.
The only other African country on the list, released by the Belgium-based Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), is Zambia, where vast tracts of agricultural land were flooded by the bloated Zambezi River.
The list is based on a scale measuring the impact of the disaster according to the number of people killed and affected per 100,000 inhabitants.*
"Remember that the number of dead in the tsunami [caused by an undersea quake in 2004] in Indonesia was 135,000 or so, and the numbers in Haiti [hit by an earthquake in January 2009] will probably also be that," said CRED director Debarati Guha-Sapir.
|Total killed and affected by natural disasters in 2009 per 100,000 inhabitants|
|•||Taiwan (China) 10,047|
|•||China, P Rep 5,183|
|•||American Samoa 3,833|
"But Indonesia is a country of ...  million people and Haiti has ... [around] 10 million. The burden is much higher for Haiti than it is in Indonesia for the numbers of dead - that is why we need to standardize before we compare."
The floods in Namibia - with a total population of 2.2 million - destroyed the livelihoods of least 350,000 people. The Zambian floods disrupted at least 600,000 lives in a population of 12.9 million people.
Guatemala, in Central America, tops the list; it was hit by the worst drought in 30 years, affecting 2.5 million of its 14 million people.
*The population figures in this IRIN report are those used by the UN Population Fund in its report, State of the World Population 2009.