Colombia is widely recognized as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. According to the World Bank, at least 85% of its population and its assets are exposed to two or more natural hazards. Due to Colombia’s diverse geography, this exposure is to both low-frequency/high-impact events (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, Atlantic hurricanes) and to high-frequency/lower-impact events (floods and landslides).
Even though Colombia is a large territory, the population is unevenly distributed with most Colombians living in urban centers in the mountainous western portion of the country and along the northern coastline. Less than 3% of the population lives in the savanna east of the Andes or in the far south east, in the Amazon rainforest. Unplanned urban growth has created challenges such as sharp rises in informal settlements and environmental degradation that have disproportionately increased Colombia’s vulnerability to hazards. The number of urban dwellers in Colombia is 32,319,000 out of a total country population of 42,803,000, representing 75.5%. An estimated 7,057,000 people (21.8% of the urban population) live in slum conditions, where risks associated with climate-related and natural hazards are exacerbated. In addition, climate change is not only already attributed to exacerbating flooding and landslides in large parts of the country, but the average rainfall in Colombia is projected to increase over the course of the century, futher enhancing flood risk.
In response to its high risk profile, Colombian leaders are taking concrete actions to reduce vulnerability. In fact, Colombia is known as a role model in the Americas region for its progress in establishing a strong institutional and legal framework for disaster risk reduction through law 1523, signed by President Juan Manuel Santos in 2012. Law 1523, established a “National System for Disaster Risk Management,” putting into place national public policy not only for natural disaster response but also prevention. This was a key indicator that lessons learned from the 2010 floods, which affected almost 3.5 million people, were taken seriously. In addition to the Colombian national government, many partners in Colombia, both public and private, are committed to finding better ways to help Colombians prepare for and face the consequences of natural disasters.
- Colombia 2005 Census Report
Past disaster events
- EM-DAT listing of disaster events for Colombia
- Risk country profile from Index for Risk Management
- Damage and losses statistics from Disaster Information Management Systems
- Disaster statistics from UN-ISDR and CRED
- Disaster response and management data from ReliefWeb
Colombia’s risk rankings
Risk profiles and data
- Climate Change – IPCC Climate Assessment Report – Regional Climate Projections for Colombia page 895 - http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter11.pdf
- Earthquake hazards in Colombia – National Seismological Center of Colombia
- Urban Risk – Urban risk profiles for Bogota
- UN-ISDR overview of disaster risk in Colombia
- HFA Progress Reports, government plans, and government statements and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper – http://www.unisdr.org/partners/countries/col
- National Policy on Climate Change by Colombia’s Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development
- Departmental plans and other risk reduction strategy documents and trainings, produced by Colombia’s National Disaster Risk Reduction Division (“SIGPAD”) – http://www.sigpad.gov.co/sigpad/index.aspx
Red Cross + civil society
- IFRC appeals and info bulletins for Colombia
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