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Over the years, new concepts and knowledge on the topic of disasters have become available. In order to facilitate dialogue and common understanding of the subject, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has developed Terminology on Disaster Risk Reduction. Below are some of the common definitions found on this portal:

  • Disaster: A serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses and impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.

  • Disaster risk reduction: The concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyze and manage the causal factors of disasters, including through reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness for adverse events.

    According to the United Nations Development Program, disaster risk reduction is the systematic development and application of policies, strategies, and practices to minimize the vulnerabilities, dangers, and impact of disaster by the entire society in the broad context of sustainable development. Reducing Disaster Risk. A Challenge for Development is a publication that argues for risk reduction


  • Hazard: A dangerous phenomenon, substance, human activity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.

  • Health sector: The health sector encompasses all the entities that generate actions, services, goods, opportunities, and knowledge that in one way or another contribute to the maintenance and improvement of individual and collective health. It also includes the economic and productive activities of other sectors that have an impact on health, policy decisions and their legal and administrative expressions, and environmental and educational interventions that have an influence on health determinants.

  • Mitigation: The lessening or limitation of the adverse impacts of hazards and related disasters.

  • Preparedness: The knowledge and capacities developed by governments, professional response and recovery organizations, communities and individuals to effectively anticipate, respond to, and recover from, the impacts of likely, imminent or current hazard events or conditions.

  • Prevention: The outright avoidance of adverse impacts of hazards and related disasters.

  • Response: The provision of emergency services and public assistance during or immediately after a disaster in order to save lives, reduce health impacts, ensure public safety and meet the basic subsistence needs of the people affected. 

  • Risk: The combination of the probability of an event and its negative consequences.

  • Vulnerability: The characteristics and circumstances of a community, system or asset that make it susceptible to the damaging effects of a hazard.