Human Impact Variables
Five variables describe the human impact of disasters in the EM-DAT Public Table:
Human Impact Variables
Total Deaths, which includes reported deaths and missing people,
No. Homeless, and
Total Affected, which is the sum of
No. Affected, and
The reported total number of deaths (column
Total Deaths) includes confirmed fatalities directly imputed to the disaster plus missing people whose whereabouts since the disaster are unknown and so they are presumed dead based on official figures.
Aside from fatalities, the number of injured people (column
No. Injured) is entered when the term “injured” is written in the source. Any related word like “hospitalized” is considered as injured. If no precise number is given, such as “hundreds of injured,” 200 injured will be entered (although this figure is probably an underestimate).
The number of affected people (column
No. Affected) is often mentioned and is widely used by different actors to convey the extent, impact, or severity of a disaster in non-spatial terms. If only the number of families affected or houses damaged are reported, the figure is multiplied by the average family size for the affected area (×5 for developing countries, ×3 for industrialized countries, according to the UNDP country classification).
Calculation of `No. Affected` (Examples)
- Number of houses damaged: 50 × 5 = 250 affected (although this figure is probably an underestimate).
- If the value ranges from a minimum to a maximum: the average is taken.
- Thousands affected: 2,000 affected (although this figure is probably an underestimate).
Similarly, the indicator
No. Homeless is mentioned whenever it is found in reports. If only the number of families that are homeless or houses that are destroyed are reported, the figure is multiplied by the average family size for the affected area (x5 for developing countries, x3 for industrialized countries, according to the UNDP country list).
Calculation of `No. Homeless` (Examples)
- Number of houses destroyed: 50 × 5 = 250 homeless (although this figure is probably an underestimate).
- If the value ranges from a minimum to a maximum: take the average.
- Thousands homeless: 2,000 homeless (although this figure is probably an underestimate).
Finally, the indicator
Total Affected is the total of injured, affected, and homeless people. For each disaster and its corresponding sources, the population referred to in these statistics and the apportionment between injured, affected, homeless, and the total is carefully checked by CRED staff members.
Human Impact and Conceptual UncertaintiesThe terms “dead,” “injured,” and “homeless” are more straightforward than “affected persons.” The definition of “affected persons” varies across sources and lacks a universal standard. Besides, for disasters such as droughts or heatwaves, which have ambiguous spatiotemporal boundaries, determining the number of casualties can be challenging. CRED directly uses numbers in EM-DAT as they appear in original sources, even if there are uncertainties in these figures. More details on these uncertainties can be found in the section on General Issues.
Usually, at least the field
Total Deaths or
Total Affected are found in EM-DAT records as these numbers are involved as entry criteria. However, records often contain incomplete impact statistics (see Accounting Biases).