Between 1994-2003 in Latin America and the Caribbean, natural disasters:

  • Damaged 2,100 urban water systems
  • Affected 4,500 rural aqueducts
  • Destroyed 28,000 wells and 173,000 latrines
  • Generated losses of US$650 million in the water and sanitation sector

This past March, at the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico, risk management was one of the themes around which priorities and strategies were defined to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Within the framework of this meeting, PAHO/WHO, the ISDR, UNICEF and the Red Cross brought together a variety of actors in the water and sanitation sector—public and private, rural and urban—to define how each institution can contribute to the Hyogo Framework for Action, the global blueprint for building disaster-resilience.

The incorporation of risk management strategies into new water and sanitation infrastructure projects is key to reducing the vulnerability of these systems to natural disasters. This, in turn, will increase coverage of these critical services and contribute to achieving the MDGs. Water and sanitation agencies must take a more active role in national and local risk management discussions and in particular, define what constitutes an acceptable minimum level of service, thereby finetuning an appropriate disaster preparedness, mitigation and prevention strategy.

For more on the World Water Forum, visit

A Target of the Millenium Development Goals:

To cut in half, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.