The Foundation has supported nearly a dozen research projects on the topic of natural disasters. This research primarily responds to pressing operational questions regarding the effectiveness of the prevention and perception of risks. Objective: to improve population resilience in the face of crises.

Humanitarian and social actors are increasingly preoccupied by natural disasters. Climate hazards—floods, cyclones, and storms—are becoming more frequent and more violent. Over the past two decades, there have been twice as many as in the previous two decades[1]. Each year, natural disasters affect nearly 200 million people and cause 67,000 victims. Climate change exacerbates this trend and the risk of future crises.

It is vulnerabilities that make disasters. Climatic, geological or other events, sometimes spectacular, become catastrophes when they encounter the most exposed, fragile or poorly prepared human societies. For many years, NGOs have been striving to carry out information and prevention campaigns to help people to prepare, adopt the right behaviours and better cope with the shock when the event occurs. However, the effectiveness of these campaigns is still insufficient. Messages are delivered and heard, but they are not powerful enough to alter decisions, behaviours, or perceptions.délivrés, entendus, mais ne modifient pas suffisamment les décisions, les comportements, les perceptions.

Researchers in the social sciences are mainly called upon on this specific issue, in particular by the Red Cross’ regional intervention platforms (PIROI and PIRAC) which carry out prevention actions in the overseas territories of the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. How to fight against harmful prejudices? How to develop a culture of risk? How to keep the memory of disasters alive? How to make prevention messages intelligible, acceptable, and effective? How to strengthen population resilience? These are the very concrete questions addressed by the research carried out by a dozen post-doctoral students accompanied by the Foundation, including Yves Mazabraud, a Doctor of Environmental Sciences, in Guadeloupe, the sociologists Francisca Espinoza in Réunion and Aude Sturma in Mayotte, and the geographers Annabelle Moatty in Saint-Martin and Djiby Sambou in Senegal. Although their objective is primarily to respond to the demands of operational staff by giving them ideas for action, their work also offers a broader perspective on the effectiveness of public policies, the impact of the local context, and even new issues linked to digital technologies. As is often the case, action research and basic research complement each other to help address the causes of vulnerabilities and improve responses to natural disasters.

[1] Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, « Economic Losses, Poverty & Disasters, 1998-2017 », 2018.

Photo above: © IFRC