EM-DAT and the CRED

The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED)

The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) is currently a research center that is part of the Institute Health and Society (IRSS) based at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain) in Brussels, Belgium. The CRED was established in 1973 and has since become one of the world’s leading research centers working on the epidemiology of disasters.

The CRED’s main focus is on studying the impact of disasters on populations and on ways to improve the effectiveness of disaster response and risk reduction. The CRED’s research includes collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data on disasters caused by natural and technological hazards, within the EM-DAT project, as well as data on conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies.

The CRED’s research findings are used to inform policy and practice in disaster management in Belgium and internationally. In addition to its research activities, the CRED provides training, consultancy, and technical support to governments, humanitarian organizations, and other stakeholders involved in disaster risk reduction and emergency response.

The Joint History of CRED and the EM-DAT International Disaster Database

In the 1970s, the approach to disaster management was predominantly reactive, emphasizing immediate rescue and relief operations. Recognizing the imperative for a more proactive, informed, and systematic approach to disaster management, Professor Michel Lechat (UCLouvain) established the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in 1973. One of the primary challenges faced by the emerging field of disaster epidemiology was the absence of comprehensive global data. A holistic perspective on disasters was essential not only to solidify the foundations of this nascent scientific domain but also to ensure evidence-based disaster management strategies.

In 1984, Debarati Guha-Sapir joined the UCLouvain CRED team and collaborated with Prof. Lechat to initiate the development of the EM-DAT database. This endeavor built upon the foundational efforts of a prior database project spearheaded by the United States Agency for International Development/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA). The CRED then embarked on the meticulous task of data aggregation from diverse sources, including UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, and media outlets. The CRED has been managing the EM-DAT database since 1988. After Lechat, Prof. Guha-Sapir assumed the directorship of CRED in 1992, a role she held until 2021 when Prof. Niko Speybroeck took on the role of director.

Thanks to the support of USAID, EM-DAT has evolved into a public database and became an valuable unique resource for disaster research and management.