(Formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Namibia, Zambia on 2009 natural disaster hit list

Floods have devastated crops and cut off roads in Zambia
Zambia VAC

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
Guatemala                18,382
Namibia                    16,559
Philippines                15,002
Taiwan (China)         10,047
China, P Rep              5,183
Zambia                       4,872
Vietnam                      4,312
Honduras                   4,145
American Samoa         3,833
Paraguay                    3,416
Source: CRED

"But Indonesia is a country of ... [230] 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.

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