Whether it be an earthquake or a tsunami, a cyclone or floods, the risk of a natural event turning into a disaster always depends only partly on the force of the natural event itself. The living conditions of the people in the regions affected and the options available to respond quickly and toprovide assistance are just as significant.

Those who are prepared, who know what to do in the event of an extreme natural event, have a greater chance of survival. Countries that see natural hazards coming, that are preparing for the consequences of climate change and are providing the financial means required will be better prepared for the future. The WorldRiskReport should contribute to look at these links at a global level and draw future-oriented conclusions regarding assistance measures, policies and reporting.

As an essential part of the WorldRiskReport, the WorldRiskIndex, created by United Nations Universitys Institute for Environment and Human Security, indicates the risk of disaster in consequence of exreme natural events for 171 countrys.

Logistics and Infrastructure

Focus WorldRiskReport 2016

Dilapidated transport routes, unsafe power grids, buildings in a state of disrepair: During extreme natural events, a fragile infrastructure can have grave consequences for the local population, for whom it represents a direct threat. In addition, it delays the effective potential for those affected to help themselves and impedes humanitarian relief provided by the local authorities or from abroad. Usually, the difficulties that relief agencies face are on the “last mile” of the logistics chain: Organizing transportation despite ruined roads or bridges, and ensuring fair distribution when, for example, there is a scarcity of water, food and shelter.
This is where information technology like the Internet or mobile phones as well as more recent technology such as drones or 3D printers, can support humanitarian logistics – that is, if they have not been impaired by a collapsed local power supply. But technology-based solutions aside, there still remains a host of challenges: examples include supporting self-help measures, coordinating the involved actors, making use of local resources, and the controversial issue of cooperations with the private sector and armed forces.

Experts at topics of logistics and infrastructure

Humanitarian logistics to the “last mile”

Graphic in 3 steps

Topic overview 2011-2015

Food security and risk evaluation

Disasters can have devastating impacts on a country’s food security – not only in the short term, but also long after they have occurred. They destroy harvests, stocks, and transport routes, and therefore above all the livelihoods of those depending on agriculture. However, the reverse is true as well. It is not unusual for extreme natural events to turn into disasters because the population affected is particularly vulnerable due to a poor food situation. In the worst case, the combined effect of disasters and food insecurity leads to a fatal downward spiral, with the people hit slipping from one crisis into the next. A world without hunger would therefore also mean fewer disasters.

The city as a risk area

Urbanization is one of the megatrends of our times – and as such it bears a vast complexity. While the pull of the cities often creates problems for rural regions in the industrialized countries, massive urban population growth is posing great challenges for the metropolises in many developing countries. For often enough, the growth of cities exceeds the capacity of authorities to develop and maintain adequate social and physical infrastructure. One of the most pressing results is the formation of marginal settlements in which urban dwellers lack basic civil rights and often compete for ill-paid jobs and low food availability. They are especially vulnerable towards natural hazards. But urbanization does not produce exclusively negative effects on vulnerability, it can also create new chances for strengthening coping and adaptive mechanisms. Given the thematic focus “The city as a risk area”, the WorldRiskReport 2014 separately assesses the risk for urban areas.

Health and Healthcare

Whether it be drought, cyclone, earthquake or floods, when an extreme natural event hits a village or a town, the vulnerability of the society crucially depends on the population’s health status as well as the health care and its functioning in crisis and disaster situations. But in times of the global financial crisis, the health systems worldwide are being subjected even more strongly to economic principles. Often humans facing an already unacceptable vulnerability suffer the most from these austerity and privatization measures. The other way around extreme natural events can cause direct health problems like heart and circulation problems and contribute to an increase and spread of disease carriers. A comprehensive approach to strengthening health systems and care therefore shows to be indispensable for disaster preparedness and response.

Environmental degradation and disasters

Disasters can have considerable effects on the environment and cause damage for ecosystems. Cyclones can pull over thousands of trees and destroy coral reefs or floods can contribute to erosions and damage solum. In turn, the destruction of the environment and its natural protective function in pursuit of economic interests increases the risk of disaster in the wake of extreme natural events. Flooded coastal villages and washed away beaches whose natural protective belt of mangroves has been chopped down are just some examples among many others. This interaction between environmental destruction and disasters still gets too little attention by politics and science. Environmental protection and a sustainable handling of the environment should be strengthened from the local to the global level and included in disaster preparedness.

Governance and civil society

Humans can only influence to a limited degree whether, and with what intensity, natural events are to occur. But states can considerable influence the extent of a disaster by their governance in disaster preparedness and response. Especially states of weak governance are often not able to implement consistent strategies and measures and maintain mechanism to reduce the disaster risks. The vulnerability of the population is consequently high. In the complex interaction between governance and disasters, civil society can play an active role by demanding responsible and effective state policies and starting initiatives for disaster risk reduction.




Nature cannot be controlled. Humans can only influence to a limited degree whether, and with what intensity, natural events are to occur. But they can take precautions to help prevent a natural event from becoming a disaster. It is this vulnerability of a society that forms the basis for the WorldRiskIndex, which calculates the disaster risk for 171 countries by multiplying vulnerability with exposure to natural hazards (cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, and sea-level rise). The WorldRiskIndex 2016 shows that the global hotspots for a high disaster risk lie in Oceania, Southeast Asia, Central America, and the Southern Sahel. Thus countries like the Solomon Islands (ranked 6th), Papua-New Guinea (ranked 10th), and Guinea-Bissau (ranked 15th) are all very strongly exposed to natural hazards and, owing to their poor economic and social situations, particularly vulnerable. The example of Australia demonstrates how a low level of vulnerability can lower disaster risk. The country mitigates its exposure, which is mainly to drought, earthquakes and sea-level rise, and thus attains a ranking of 121st from 171 in the WorldRiskIndex. However, the example of Japan shows that a low level of vulnerability cannot fully compensate for extreme exposure. Despite its very low vulnerability, the country is in place 17 in the WorldRiskIndex because of its very high exposure, mainly to earthquakes and floods. In countries like Liberia (ranked 56th), Zambia (ranked 66th) and the Central African Republic (ranked 71st), the situation is the reverse of that in Japan. They are rather weakly exposed to natural hazards but very vulnerable. A total 13 of the 15 countries with the highest vulnerability are situated on the African continent. For these countries in particular, it is true that development helps.

Worldmap of Risk


  • very low
    0,08 - 3,46
  • low
    3,47 - 5,46
  • middle
    5,47 - 7,30
  • high
    7,31 - 10,39
  • very high
    10,40 - 36,72
  • no data


Reports as PDF

  • WorldRiskReport2016
  • WorldRiskReport_2015-prev
  • WorldRiskReport_2014-prev
  • WorldRiskReport_2013-prev
  • WorldRiskReport_2012-prev
  • WorldRiskReport_2011-prev

Graphics and illustrations

WorldRiskIndex 2016

  • WRR2016_Fig3-engl
  • WorlRiskIndex 2016
  • WRR2016_Fig1-engl
  • Humanitarian logistic to the last mile
  • Logistic and infrastructure
  • WRR2016_Fig7-engl


  • 2015-Emergency-ration-South-Sudan
  • 2015-Food-Insecurity-in-Exposed-Countries
  • 2015-How-Disasters-Amplify-Hunger
  • 2015-Securing-Food-Supplies---Preventing-Disasters
  • 2015-Share-Of-Undernourished-Worldwide
  • 2014-City-Growht-Worldwide
  • 2014-Distribution-of-World-Population
  • 2014-Total-Number-of-Inhabitants-in-Cities
  • 2014-Urban-Population-Growth-Until-2050
  • 2013-Hygiene-and-Child-Mortality
  • 2013-Money-and-Health
  • 2012-Reefs-at-Risk---People-at-Risk
  • 2012-Natural-Coastal-Protection