Data gap for disaster losses in African Cities

A recently published paper from the Urban Africa Risk Knowledge Group examines the availability of data on disaster losses in African urban areas. The authors draw attention to the accumulation of risks (human and economic) in many African cities, especially for low income groups lacking “risk reducing infrastructures” (p:4).

The study suggests that in African Cities, major losses in urban disasters come from flooding, epidemics, fires, accidents and industrial disasters, among others (p:18). Thus, the authors advocate for a holistic approach that incorporates all types of risks that have implications on populations.

Although the authors show that there is actually some data available about disasters –they use data from Desinventar[1] and EM-DAT[2] – they emphasize the lack of collated data ready for analysis and policy-making. This is in part due to the fact that most of the data on disasters is collected from episodes or events but not in a continuous way. It renders difficult the understanding of some “everyday health risks such as death related to malaria or maternal health”(p:29), which are often not comprised in the methodologies.

Besides, within countries, small and medium size cities are rarely well documented. Though disaster risks are particularly increasing for them. Also, there appears to be a lack of disaggregated data for urban areas. This lack of data rather comes to a lack of collation rather than a lack of collection, as a lot of information on disaster losses can also be made available from census data. It is therefore researchers and practitioner’s role to be able to combine different data sources, “from demographic surveys (…) to newspaper archives” (p:30), and not only describe loss and damage as an end in itself but rather to understand its drivers.

Download paper: ARK Background paper – loss section note 7 July 16.pdf



Photo credit: Stefan Magdalinski


Publication Type Paper
Publisher Urban ARK
Year 2016
Author(s) Emmanuel Osuteye, Cassidy Johnson and Donald Brown
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