Newsletter No.1: Full Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

Dear readers and the ADN community,


Welcome to our first newsletter for the Avoidable Deaths Network (ADN). ADN is a global membership network, dedicated to finding theoretical and practical solutions to reducing deaths from disasters.


The newsletter will include: a) news of activities carried out by the ADN Regional Coordinators (RCs) located across five continents; b) original research papers that address ADN’s mission and objectives; c) transcripts or interviews with experts on the field of reducing disaster deaths; d) reflective notes from the practitioners from the front line; e) updates on the UN’s Sendai’s Framework’s first two Global Targets A and B; and f) a promotional page for events and announcements.


Disaster-related deaths can be from natural hazards, naturally triggered technological hazards, biological hazards and human-made hazards. In the past 50 years, hydro-meteorological hazards (storms, heat, cold, drought, floods) were responsible for 45% of all disaster deaths; geophysical hazards (landslides, earthquakes, tsunamis) caused 30% of deaths; and biological hazards (outbreaks and epidemics) caused 5% of all disaster-related mortality (Keim, 2016). Reducing disaster deaths is a global challenge. This global challenge cannot be addressed by one discipline or sector. It requires an examination at the seams of different disciplines (Midgley 2014; Ray-Bennett 2018) and trans-disciplines to resolve complex problems (Stock and Burton, 2011) such as disaster-related deaths.


Since 2005, the UN’s disaster risk reduction (DRR) framework has advocated inter-sectoral, multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approaches to disaster risk management. This framework is complex, and the complexity of this framework arises when the decision to save lives during and after disasters sits across different governmental departments and organisations (Grint 2008; Rittel and Webber 1973; Ray-Bennett, 2017, 2018; Ray-Bennett and Shiroshita, 2019). By engaging with government and non-government organisations, political leaders, civil society, at risk communities and researchers, this newsletter will highlight different perspectives on disaster management, development and sustainability as they related to avoiding disaster deaths. The central theme of this newsletter is to collect, share, reflect and advocate good practices (some of which are drawn from an understanding of bad practices) on how to avoid deaths.


Deaths in disasters can be direct deaths and secondary deaths. Direct deaths are caused by the direct impact of the disasters. Secondary deaths are caused as a consequence of injury, or morbidity arising from the impact disasters (IRDR, 2015; Ray-Bennett, 2017, 2018). In 2017, the UNISDR (based on the Open Report from the Open-ended Intergovernmental Expert Working Group (OIEWG)) recommended including the missing persons as direct deaths, however, direct deaths and missing/presumed dead are mutually exclusive. The missing person is one “whose whereabouts is unknown since the hazardous event. It includes people who are presumed dead, for whom there is no physical evidence such as a body, and for which an official/legal report has been filed with competent authorities” (UNISDR, 2017: 8).


Reducing deaths in disasters received important traction when the UN’s ‘Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction’ declared its first two Global Targets in 2015, which are to: (a) Substantially reduce global disaster mortality by 2030; and (b) Substantially reduce the number of affected people globally by 2030. In 2015, the UN also adopted the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDG). There are 17 Goals, and Goal 1 (No Poverty), Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), Goal 3 (Good Health and Well Being), Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) are directly connected in reducing disaster deaths and the number of people affected by disasters.


To the best of our knowledge, there are no existing national or international networks dedicated to finding theoretical and practical solutions to avoiding disaster deaths at the interface with sustainable development. This newsletter will bring the perspectives of grassroots practitioners and responders to the fore. It will also bring novel ideas, fresh stories and voices from the sector to inform, learn, educate and motivate our global and local readers, practitioners and followers.


The year 2019 has once again been challenging for the disaster risk reduction community.  Of the many small- and large-scale disasters seen so far, three are particularly noteworthy. Cyclone Idai in March and Cyclone Kenneth in April in Mozambique, Cyclone Fani in May in Odisha/India, and Hurricane Dorrain in September in the Caribbean. More than 2,000 people died in Cyclone Idai and 41 in Cyclone Fani. I am very proud to say that our Regional Coordinators (RCs) in Kenya and Odisha were at the front lines managing relief and rapid assessment in the aftermath of Idai, Kenneth and Fani. The reports on rapid assessments are available on the ADN’s website.


I would like to thank Dr Hideyuki Shiroshita, Mrs Denise Corsel, Mr Bede Wilson and Mr Matt Merry for their tireless efforts to put this newsletter together. I hope that you will enjoy reading it. I also welcome your comments and suggestions on our first newsletter, which we shall feature on our next edition, due in March 2020.


Yours sincerely,


Dr Nibedita S. Ray-Bennett

President and Editor-In-Chief for the Avoidable Deaths Newsletter



Grint, K. (2008) Wicked problems and clumsy solutions: The role of leadership. Clinical Leader, Vol. I, Issue II: 11–15.

Keim, M. (2016) How do people die in disasters and what can be done? Disaster Doc.

Midgley, G. (2014) An introduction to systems thinking for tackling wicked problems. M.Sc. in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management Study School, University of Leicester, 29 Sept

Ray-Bennett, N.S. (2017) Disasters, Deaths and the Sendai Goal One: Lessons from Odisha, India. World Development.  Vol. 103, Issue 2018: 27-39. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.10.003

Ray-Bennett, N.S. (2018) Avoidable Deaths: A Systems Failure Approach to Disaster Risk Management. Springer Nature: Switzerland. Environmental Hazard Series.

Ray-Bennett, N.S. and Shiroshita, H. (2019) Disasters, deaths and the Sendai Framework’s target one: a case of systems failure in Hiroshima Landslide 2014, Japan. Contributing Paper to Global Assessment Report (GAR) 2019.

Rittel, H.W.J. and Webber, M.M. 1973. Planning problems are wicked problems. Policy Science, Volume 4: 155–169. In: Developments in Design Methodologies, Cross, N. (ed.). Chichester, UK: John Wiley and Sons.

Stock, P. and Burton, R. J. (2011) Defining terms for integrated (multi-inter-trans-disciplinary) sustainability research. Sustainability, Vol. 3, Issue 8: 1090-1113.

IRDR (2015) Guidelines on measuring losses from disasters: human and economic impact indicators (IRDR DATA Publication No. 2). Beijing: Integrated Research on Disaster Risk.

UNISDR (2017) Technical Guidance for Monitoring and Reporting on Progress in Achieving the Global Targets of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction: Collection of Technical Notes on Data and Methodology. UNISDR.

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