During 2010, there were 373 natural disasters worldwide that claimed over 296,800 lives and affected some 208 million people. It is estimated that costs related to these events approached $110 billion. For the first time, the Americas topped the list of regions most affected by natural disasters. The January earthquake in Haiti accounted for more than 75% of all disaster related deaths last year. The most costly single event also occurred in this region: losses from the 8.8 earthquake in Chile in February 2010 amounted to $30 billion.

These statistics were compiled by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). Founded more than 30 years ago in Brussels, Belgium, the Center promotes research, training, and technical expertise in humanitarian emergencies, with special attention to public health and epidemiology.

CRED provides statistics on disasters around the world and the ensuing losses. The Center’s goal is to disseminate information so that resources might be directed to preparing for disaster response and mitigation.

Since 1988 CRED has maintained the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) which provides direct access to statistics through its website. The database contains information on natural disasters worldwide from 1900 to present. It also offers an objective assessment of vulnerabilities and decision making in disaster situations. For example, it identifies the types of disasters that are most common in a specific country and that have had a significant impact on specific populations. In areas with limited resources, this information is important in saving lives.

Besides providing information about the human toll of disasters (number of dead, injured, or affected), EM-DAT is able to calculate economic effects of a disaster.

Another CRED product is the Complex Emergencies database (CE-DAT) which provides nutrition, health, and mortality indicators related to conflicts and other complex humanitarian emergencies. These evidence-based data are important for trend analysis and improving the effectiveness of international humanitarian response and prevention policies. The database provides access to a range of health indicators that have been collected in the field by humanitarian assistance agencies and research institutes.

CRED’s bibliographic database contains references for many aspects of disasters and conflicts around the world. It also maintains a multidisciplinary library with about 15,000 documents, articles, and books on these topics.

CRED has been a WHO Collaborating Center since 1980. It collaborates with the WHO Global Emergency Preparedness and Response Program, the U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs, ECHO, the IFRC, the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, as well as other agencies and NGOs. For more information about the Center and its resources, please visit: www.cred.be