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Compendium on methods and tools to evaluate impacts of, and vulnerability and adaptation to, climate change

Handbook for Estimating the Socio-Economic and Environmental Effects of Disasters

One of the problems following disasters is that damaged areas are often reconstructed quickly and without adequate resources. The result is that vulnerability is reconstructed rather than reduced. This tool helps to assess the direct and indirect socio-economic impacts of disasters, and to identify the most affected areas and priority areas for recovery. It outlines the conceptual and general methodological aspects of estimating the asset damage, losses in the flows of goods and services, as well as any effects on the macroeconomy. The handbook is divided into five sections:

  1. Methodological and conceptual framework;
  2. Assessing impacts in social sectors;
  3. Assessing impacts on infrastructure;
  4. Assessing impacts in economic sectors;
  5. Assessing impacts in cross-sectoral areas, such as the environment, gender, and employment.
Appropriate Use

This type of assessment should follow the emergency phase of a man-made or natural disaster, so it will not interfere with urgent humanitarian activities. Sufficient quantitative information on damages is also more likely to be available after that period. The tool is good for organizations that want to understand a wider range of disaster risks. By assessing the direct and longer-term indirect socio-economic impacts, organizations then have a better idea of how to reduce the risks in future programs that may have development or environmental goals.

The tool can be adapted to comprehensively assess socio-economic impacts of climate change. Sections 2-5 include a definition of the sector, an overview of likely direct and indirect damages, the quantitative and qualitative information needed, possible information sources, general instructions on analyzing the data, and issues to consider in assessing macroeconomic impacts arising from damages in that sector. It is not a step-by-step guide, but rather gives an overview of general steps to be taken in each assessment.

Scope National or sub-national level; sectoral.
Key Output

A measurement, summarized in table form and in monetary terms where possible, of the impacts of disasters on the society, economy and environment of the affected country or region. Results are divided into direct, indirect and macroeconomic effects (employment, the balance of payments, public finances, and prices and inflation).

The disaster may also have benefits, so the assessment refers to the net effect. The assessment identifies the key geographical areas and sectors affected, together with corresponding reconstruction priorities. It can provide a way to estimate the country’s capacity to undertake reconstruction on its own and the extent to which financial and technical cooperation are needed. For the longer term, it may identify the public policy changes and development programs to address these needs.

Key Input Quantitative and qualitative information on conditions both before and following the disaster. The assessment team must decide on the balance between precision and speed in conducting the assessment. “Shadow prices” may be used to try to take into account the indirect effects and externalities of disasters.
Ease of Use Experience with economic valuation and assessing damage in specific sectors required. The use of market vs. social prices will depend on the availability of information and time to conduct the assessment.
Training Required Specialist knowledge in each sector
Training Available Instituto Latinoamericano y del Caribe de Planificación Económica y Social (ILPES), ECLAC’s training division, offers courses on various economic and social issues of the region. ILPES, Av. Dag Hammarskjöld 3477, Vitacura, Casilla 179-D, Santiago, Chile; Tel: +; Fax: +; e-mail:
Computer Requirements Various software programs are recommended for some assessments, e.g. Redatam by CELADE (see References) or other GIS programs (ArcView, MapInfo, IDRISI, or GISMAP).
Documentation ECLAC. 2003. Handbook for Estimating the Socio-Economic and Environmental Effects of Disasters. Santiago, Chile: Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Hardcopies available at: ECLAC Publications, Casilla 179D, Santiago, Chile;
Fax: +; e-mail:

The handbook has been used throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Assessments following the Indian Ocean disaster also used the methodology, particularly in the cases of Indonesia and India.

Contacts for Framework, Documentation, Technical Assistance

Ricardo Zapata-Martí

Focal Point for Disaster Evaluations, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Av. Presidente Masaryk 29, 11570 México, D.F., Apartado Postal 6-718, México D.F.; Tel: +52.55.5263.9600; Fax: +52.55.5531.1151; e-mail:,

Cost Free

Redatam software: