Skip to main content

In the Path of Disasters: Psychosocial Issues for Preparedness, Response, and Recovery

  • Carol A. Amaratunga (a1) and Tracey L. O'Sullivan (a1)

The psychosocial impacts of disasters are profound. In recent years, there have been too many reminders of these impacts and the dire needs of the people involved. The purpose of this article is to present the following themes from the psychosocial literature on disasters and emergency management: (1) differential impacts of disasters according to gender and age; (2) prevention efforts to reduce racial discrimination, rape, and other forms of abuse; (3) readiness for cultural change toward prevention and preparedness; and (4) the need to involve aid beneficiaries as active partners in relief strategies, particularly during reconstruction of communities and critical systems. Psychosocial needs change throughout the disaster cycle, particularly as social support deteriorates over time. It is important to anticipate what psychosocial needs of the public, emergency responders, support staff, and volunteers might emerge, before advancing to the next stage of the disaster. Particular consideration needs to be directed toward differential impacts of disasters based on gender, age, and other vulnerabilities.

Corresponding author
Carol Amaratunga, Director Women's Health Research Unit, Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa, 1 Stewart St., Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6N5, Canada E-mail:
Hide All
1.McAllister I: Sustaining Relief With Development: Strategic Issues for the Red Cross and Red Crescent. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1993.
2.Wood-Heath M, Annis M: Working together to support individuals in an emergency or disaster: Project Final Report. British Red Cross, 2004. Available at Accessed 26 October 2005.
3.Enarson E, Morrow BH: The Gendered Terrain of Disaster Through Women's Eyes. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 1998.
4.Comerio MC, Landis JD, Rofe Y: Post-Disaster Residential Rebuilding. Berkeley: Institute of Urban and Regional Development, University of California, 1994.
5.Wiest R, Mocellin J, Motsisi T: The needs of women in disasters and emergencies. Technical Report for the UN Disaster Management Training Program, Winnipeg MB: University of Manitoba, 1994. Available at Accessed 02 November 2005.
6.Scanlon J: Human behaviour in disaster: The relevance of gender. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 1997;11(4);27.
7.Fothergill A: The Neglect of Gender in Disaster Work. In: Enarson E, Morrow BH. (eds), An Overview of the Literature, The Gendered Terrain of Disasters. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 1998.
8.O'Sullivan T, Amaratunga C: Psycho-social and Gender Support for Public Health Care Workers in Bioevent Disasters. In: Burkle FM, Cahill JD, Barbisch D (eds), Bioevent Disasters and Public Health. New York: Springer/Klewer, (in press).
9.Oxfam: The tsumani's impact on women. Oxfam Briefing Note March 2005. Available at Accessed 26 October 2005.
10.MacDonald R: How women were affected by the Tsunami: A perspective from Oxfam. PLoS Med 2005;2(6):e178.
11.Amaratunga C., Smith Fowler H, Sawada M, Jones L, McLaren K: Report on the National Tsunami Forum from Aid to Capacity Development: Fostering Research Alliances for Medium to Long Term Tsunami Rehabilitation and Reconstruction—National Forum Final Report. Ottawa: University of Ottawa, Ocean Management Research Network, CSIH, 2005.
12.Neergaard L: New Orleans floodwaters riskier than feared: EPA tests New Orleans authorities to step up evacuation efforts. Available at Accessed 26 October 2005.
13.National Advisory Committee on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Public Health: Learning from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome: Renewal of Public Health in Canada. Ottawa: Health Canada, 2003.
14.Armstrong P, Armstrong H: Planning for care: Approaches to health human resource planning, Ottawa: Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, 2002. Available at Accessed 26 October 2005.
15.Ottawa Public Health: Ottawa's Interagency Pandemic Plan, version 1.0, Ottawa: Ottawa Public Health, 2005, Available at Accessed 26 October 2005.
16.UNAIDS/World Health Organization: AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2002.
17.Matlin S, Spence N: The AIDS Pandemic and its Gender Implications. In: Gender Mainstreaming in Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: Taking a Multisectoral Approach. Commonwealth Secretariat: London, 2000, p 8.
18.Commonwealth Secretariat: Gender Mainstreaming in Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: Taking a Multisectoral Approach. London: Commonwealth Secretariat, 2002, pp 2146.
19.Commonwealth Secretariat: Gender Mainstreaming and Conflict Transformation. London: Commonwealth Secretariat, 2005, pp 2227.
20.Commonwealth Secretariat: Gender Mainstreaming in Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: Taking a Multisectoral Approach. London: Commonwealth Secretariat, 2002, pp 4850.
21.Wilson P, Neal D: Domestic Violence After Disaster. In: Enarson E, Morrow B (eds), The Gendered Terrain of Disaster. Miami: Laboratory for Social and Behavioral Research, 1998, pp 115122.
22.Leung C: Yellow Peril Revisited: Impact of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome on the Chinese and Southeast Asian Canadian Communities. Toronto: The Chinese Canadian National Council-National Office (CCNC-National), 2004.
23.Health Canada (2004): Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan, Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control (CIDPC), Ottawa: Health Canada, Available at Accessed 26 October 2005.
24.Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Ontario (2004): Ontario Health Pandemic Influenza Plan, 2004. Available at Accessed 26 October 2005.
25.Williamson M: Catch the wave, IEE Review, March 2005. Available at Accessed 03 November 2005.
26.Aguirre B, Dynes RR, Kendra J, Connell R: Institutional resilience and disaster planning for new hazards: Insights from hospitals. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management 2005;2(2):116.
27.Hampson AW: Surveillance for pandemic influenza. J Infect Dis 1997;176:s8–s13.
28.Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) (2002): Canada making a difference in the world: A policy statement on strengthening aid effectiveness, Ottawa, 2002. Available at:$file/SAEENG.pdf. Accessed 02 November 2005.
29.Chemtob CM, Nakashima JP, Hamada RS: Psychosocial intervention for postdisaster trauma symptoms in elementary school children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2002;156:211216.
30.The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF): Tsunami disaster—Countries in crisis: Children go back to school in tsunami-affected countries, 2005. Available at Accessed 24 October 2005.
31.Rush J: Myanmar: Many Still Rely on Tsunami Relief Supplies from 6 Months Ago. In: Tsunami disaster–Countries in crisis. UNICEF: Available at Accessed 24 October 2005.
32.Kweit MG, Kweit RW: Citizen participation and citizen evaluation in disaster recovery. American Review of Public Administration 2004;34(4):354373.
33.Moore S, Daniel M, Linnan L, Campbell M, Benedict S, Meier A: After Hurricane Floyd passed: Investigating the social determinants of disaster preparedness and recovery. Fam Community Health 2004;27(3), 204217.
34.City of Ottawa: Are you ready? (Emergency Preparedness Planning Kit), 2005. Available at Accessed 02 November 2005.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Prehospital and Disaster Medicine
  • ISSN: 1049-023X
  • EISSN: 1945-1938
  • URL: /core/journals/prehospital-and-disaster-medicine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 24 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 149 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.