What Are Natural Disasters?
Natural disasters are severe weather events that threaten life and the structural integrity of surrounding property and land. Natural disasters like floods, droughts, storms with extremely strong winds, and erosion-inducing landslides have costly repercussions, especially for countries that are financially developing.
While financially stable countries with varied economic industries are able to rebuild quickly following a natural disaster, those with fewer resources to fall back on face significant aftershocks if they are unable to rebuild, such as mass population displacement due to lack of housing or employment.
The effects of natural disasters can be financially and culturally devastating to a country. Proper preventative measures are necessary to mitigate the level of destruction that occurs.
Types of Natural Disaster in Africa
Africa is comprised of 54 countries and four major climate zones: deserts, grasslands, tropical forests, and semiarid lands. This diverse range comes with a variety of natural disasters. Floods, droughts, and landslides are the most commonly occurring.
Natural Disasters in African Regions
Due to the immense size of the continent, each African region is susceptible to certain types of natural disasters, though droughts and floods are certainly the most prevalent.
While the coast of northern Africa is more moderate and experiences regular rainfall, the sunny desert space of North Africa, which contains the Sahara, is extremely dry. Precipitation is sporadic and rare, resulting in damaging droughts that cause crops like wheat to die and cities to ration their water supply.
Due to the dry conditions resulting in a decreased agricultural yield, some countries in the region may be forced to rely on foreign aid to stay fed, which is not only expensive but potentially unreliable. The lack of a stable food supply and the reduced ability to farm stands in the way of dreams of financial development and independence.
In 2019, at least 1200 lives were lost in countries in East Africa due to flooding, cyclones, and landslides, while 33 million were considered to be at emergency levels of food insecurity—over half of those being children.
In addition to lacking nourishment, many people also found themselves being displaced from their homes. In 2020, at least 1.6 million Somalian, Sudanese, and Ethiopian people were forced to evacuate their homes due to intense flooding. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes the devastating flooding is a direct result of climate change.
Countries in West Africa are no stranger to floods, droughts, cyclones, storm surges, and landslides, though in recent years, flooding has caused the most severe problems. In August of 2021, it was reported that flooding in Gambia had killed at least 12, while over 100,000 were significantly affected by food insecurity. Farming was difficult to count on with sporadic heavy rainfalls, and many public structures were compromised.
Niger, another West African country, saw at least 158,000 individuals from over 400 villages impacted by heavy floods. Over 60 people died from being unable to escape the rushing floodwaters or due to building debris from collapsed structures.
In 2021, almost 300,000 people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were affected by heavy floodwaters. The capital of Bangui, which is home to almost 1 million in the Central African Republic, faced massive flooding that destroyed homes and structures important to their municipality. This was extremely devastating to this developing country, which as of 2019 was noted to be the most food insecure country in the world.
South African countries are experiencing global warming at an alarming rate—twice as much as the rest of the world. This has caused flooding to greatly increase. In January of 2022, record rainfall caused the government to declare a national disaster to receive help with flood-damaged infrastructure. The floodwaters have also made it difficult for farmers to produce crops—South Africa is the continent’s largest exporter of corn.
Causes and Effects of Natural Disasters
There are many causes of extreme weather disasters, both natural and human-exacerbated, as well as a plethora of damaging effects to the environment, life, and infrastructure.
- Climate change: Africa is being disproportionately affected by climate change. It is estimated that by 2050, the gross domestic product will be reduced by 3%, further driving countries into poverty—over 400 million people living in Africa live below the global poverty line.
- Deforestation: Maintaining African rainforests is crucial to mitigating the severity of natural disasters. Forests help to reduce the damage floodwaters can have by acting as natural sponges. Cutting down trees increases carbon into the atmosphere, further increasing the temperature, increasing the effects of climate change, resulting in more extreme weather patterns.
- Erosion: Land erosion from heavy floods or deforestation can increase the likelihood of landslides, which not only can claim lives but also causes infrastructure and the environment to deteriorate, requiring costly repairs to be done.
- Movement in the Earth’s crust: Seismic activity, the natural shifting of tectonic plates, can induce earthquakes, sinkholes, and tsunamis. While not as common or severe as the flooding and drought that plagues many African countries, earthquakes do occur in all parts of the continent.
- Changing ocean currents: As ocean currents change, the water can become warmer, providing ideal conditions for a tropical storm to form. In January 2022, Tropical Storm Ana smashed into Madagascar, Mozambique, and Malawi, claiming the lives of at least 70 while homes, public buildings, and infrastructure like bridges collapsed due to the high winds and heavy rains.
- Loss of life: It was reported that between 1970 and 2019, over 730,000 people in Africa were killed as a result of natural disasters. Droughts were responsible for most of those, with flooding accounting for a smaller percentage.
- Food insecurity: Both droughts and floods can wreak havoc on a country’s food supply—too much water or a lack of water can wipe out crops and livestock.
- Exacerbation of disease: Standing floodwaters and contaminated stormwater increase the chance of populations contracting waterborne diseases.
- Erosion: The extreme flooding, high winds, and landslides associated with many kinds of natural disasters can devastate land that many people in Africa rely on for agricultural purposes. Drought can also exacerbate erosion, as dry land cracks and weakens without water for stabilizing vegetation.
- Community displacement: Both droughts and floods greatly reduce food sources, forcing people to leave their homes and communities in search of more reliable areas. In 2019, 3.4 million African people were displaced as a result of disaster-related famine.
- Public property damage: Africa’s financial development is heavily reliant upon reliable, durable roads and bridges. Flooding can set efforts back immensely.
- Private property damage: Tens to hundreds of thousands of African homes have been destroyed in recent years due to record levels of rainfall, which cause huge rivers like the Nile to flood.
- Economic loss: Many industries in Africa are impacted by natural disasters. In addition to preventing people from engaging in their means of employment, like fishing, tourism, and agriculture, flooding causes all kinds of public infrastructure to be demolished, leaving expensive repairs to be dealt with. After Cyclone Idai hit Zimbabwe in 2019, $1.1 billion was needed to rebuild infrastructure before some sense of normalcy could be regained.
How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster
Preparation is the most important aspect of protecting your community from the effects of a natural disaster. In addition to reliable forms of protection, like flood barriers, set funds are necessary to allow areas to be rebuilt in a timely manner.
The African Risk Capacity (ARC) created a program that makes it easier for impacted countries to receive insurance money, allowing them to stay afloat when their means of making money or acquiring food has been temporarily stopped due to natural disasters.
Sometimes, impoverished countries may need to rely on foreign aid to get through a natural disaster. Japan, for example, allocated at least $500,000 to eastern Africa to help strengthen their disaster prevention approach.
The phases of governmental disaster management provide a framework to deal with the reduction of and response to natural disasters.
- Mitigation of effects: Ensure your community is equipped with effective forms of flood barriers, erosion control, and landslide diversion strategies. TrapBag® barriers are an incredibly durable form of protection that can be applied in a variety of ways to reinforce infrastructure, homes, riverbanks, and mitigate the effects of flooding.
- Preparation: Alert and inform people residing in areas more prone to flooding that they may need to evacuate to higher elevations. Stress the importance of having a supply of non-perishable food and drinking water in the event they are unable to leave their homes.
- Response: After a natural disaster occurs, identify regions that most require assistance, whether through rescue efforts, medical attention, or food and water supply.
- Recovery: Rebuild the community’s infrastructure and create a plan to better prepare for future events.
Prevention of Natural Disasters: TrapBag Barriers
To mitigate the damage natural disasters can have on a community, effective barriers, like TrapBags, are vital.
- Flood barriers: When rainfall is exceptionally intense, TrapBag flood barriers can divert the damaging flow of water away from at-risk areas like farmland and infrastructure. TrapBags can also be arranged as a seawall alternative, providing necessary protection to coastal communities experiencing tropical cyclones or rising sea levels.
- Erosion control: Extreme winds, rising water levels, drought, earthquakes, and landslides can destabilize land. TrapBag barriers offer incredible protection from erosion, ensuring property values do not drastically decline, and the ecosystem stays intact.
- Infrastructure support: TrapBags can provide reliable stability to bridges, dams, highways, and other forms of infrastructure during floods and storms, mitigating extensive damage, expensive repairs, and loss of employment. This is especially important in areas working towards economic development.
- Diversion walls: During landslides and mudslides, displaced earth can smash into buildings and homes, injuring people and causing huge amounts of structural damage. TrapBags can be filled with concrete to build incredibly sturdy protective walls that block and divert debris, saving thousands of people from facing homelessness and displacement.
- Dams: Reliable dams are essential in preventing catastrophic flooding. TrapBags block and redirect water, saving lives as well as saving communities from costly, difficult-to-fund repairs.
- Levees: TrapBag levees are water barriers that prevent floodwaters from infiltrating elevated surfaces, like roadways and agricultural plots. These could be incredibly beneficial to African countries, especially those in the sub-Saharan region, where 61% of people are farmers.
- Stormwater containment: Natural disasters often result in contaminated runoff—large amounts of floodwater pick up debris from roadways and landfills. If not properly handled, this toxic water can destroy land and pollute water sources, which would be extremely detrimental in areas already plagued by drought. TrapBag stormwater detention basins help keep the inhabitants and environment safe and healthy.
- Spill control: Chemical and/or oil spills, like stormwater runoff, can be extremely detrimental to the environment, especially agricultural plots. Due to their incredible strength and durability, TrapBags are a great solution to retaining toxic chemicals.
Beneficial Properties of TrapBags
TrapBags are superior forms of protection and prevention during natural disasters.
- Versatile: TrapBags can be filled with a variety of substances including sand, washed gravel, and concrete. They can be arranged to form many kinds of flood barriers and protection.
- Durable and dependable: The strength of TrapBags geotextile exterior, along with the engineered leakproof, accordion structure, makes them extremely reliable forms of protective and preventive barrier. TrapBags ensure expensive infrastructure and pillars of communities like large plots of farmland are not compromised during natural disasters.
- Easily installed: Many forms of effective flood protection are difficult to deploy—TrapBags are not. They do not require heavy machinery to be placed. Installation is very simple due to the interconnected structure of the barriers; they can be laid and arranged on a variety of landscapes, whether it is flat or sloped.
- Quick to deploy: Natural disasters can happen quickly. TrapBags are rapidly deployable, offering a quick and strong form of protection that anyone can set up.
Use TrapBags for Protection from Natural Disasters
Reliable, cost-effective protection from natural disasters can minimize loss of life and mitigate damage to integral structures as well as means of income, like farmland. TrapBag barriers are the most cost-effective, versatile, dependable barrier on the market.