As our global ecosystem changes, the risk of natural disasters increases. Some countries are especially vulnerable to these strikes, such as low-lying island countries or countries with poor infrastructure and low income levels. The countries on this list have been selected from the United Nations University for Environment and Human Security’s 2015 World Risk Report. The report ranks countries by their imminent vulnerability to an impending disaster. It includes earthquakes, floods, droughts, and sea level rise, among other factors, to determine a country’s risk. Beyond the natural likelihood of a disaster, the report also factors in a country’s ability and preparedness to deal with its aftermath.
There are a few global risk hotspots throughout the world and most of the countries on this list fall into those zones. Areas such as the Southern Sahel, Central America, Southeast Asia, and Oceania make up these disaster prone regions, mostly located near the equator. Beyond geography, poverty has been classified as the largest contributor to natural disaster risk. This is due to poorer countries’ inability to develop infrastructure capable of handling the risks and their lack of capital to cope with the disasters. See if you live in one of the danger zones in our list of 25 Countries Most Likely To Experience The Devastation Of Natural Disasters.
The first country with a serious natural disaster risk on our list is the Dominican Republic. A Caribbean country, the DR is highly susceptible to hurricanes which can batter the country from June to November and beyond. The torrential rains often cause flooding and landslides, especially in the more mountainous western parts of the country. Located on the border of the North American and Caribbean plate, the Dominican Republic also sees its fair share of earthquakes, notably a rather strong one in 2003 which received the third strongest (out of 12) classifications on the Mercalli scale.
The West African country of Benin may not immediately seem like a natural disaster hotspot until you dig into the countless devastating floods it has seen over the past century. Floods in 2008 were some of the worst to ever hit the country, displacing over 150,000 people. Even weeks after the initial July floods, Benin’s biggest city, Cotonou, was not fully drained. While the country was still recovering, floods hit again in September, causing what one mayor called, “the largest humanitarian crisis in the region to date.”
The 2008 flooding in Benin may have seemed bad, but it pales in comparison when, in June 2009, flooding in West Africa affected nearly a million people. Flooding and drought are the major risks in neighboring Niger, caused largely by rising temperatures and erratic rainfall. The bipolar combination of these two is disrupting food production and making it difficult for farmers to survive, causing massive famine and food crises throughout the country.
Located in the northeast part of South America, Guyana is a relatively mountainous country. Its position near the equator means it sees a high amount of rainfall, much of which triggers landslides and leads to intense flooding. During the dry season, the country can experience severe droughts – seemingly contradictory to the wet times of only months before. Furthermore, Guyana has some of the most unspoilt rainforests in South America. While they harbor extensive biodiversity, they are also susceptible to fire.
If it seems like Haiti is being constantly battered by natural disasters, you’re right. Haiti has the perfect formula when it comes to disaster vulnerability. The combination of extreme poverty, deforestation (a result of poverty), resulting landslides, poor or non-existent building standards and codes (also a result of poverty), and its positioning along a plate fault line puts the country at risk for hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, and landslides. When Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti in 2012, the country lost 10% of its GDP nearly overnight.