The Disaster Management Act (Act 57 of 2002) instructs a paradigm shift from preparedness,
response and recovery towards risk reduction. In order to plan for and mitigate risks, all spheres of
government must firstly assess their hazards, vulnerabilities, capacity to cope and therefore risks.
Studies in this regard, in South Africa, have however only focussed on current risks. Climate
Change has now been accepted by leading international studies as a reality. Climate change can
impact upon many aspects of life on earth. Studies to quantify the impact of climate change on
water resources, biodiversity, agriculture and sustainable development are steadily increasing, but
human health seem to have been neglected. Only general predictions, mostly regarding vector-borne
disease and injury related to natural disasters are found in literature. Studies in South Africa have
only focussed on malaria distribution. Most studies, internationally and the few in South Africa,
were based on determining empirical relationships between weather parameters and disease
incidence, therefore assessing only the hazard, and not the disaster risk.
This study examines the impact of climate change on human health in the Western Cape, within the
context of disaster management. A qualitative approach is followed and includes:
· A literature overview examining predicted changes in climate on a global and regional scale,
· A discussion on the known relationships and possible impacts climate change might have on
· A disaster risk assessment based on the status quo for a case study area, the Cape Winelands
· An investigation into the future risks in terms of health, taking into account vulnerabilities and
secondary impacts of climate change, resulting in the prioritisation of future risks.
· Suggestions towards mitigation within the South African context.
The secondary impacts of climate change were found to have the larger qualitative impact. The
impact of climate change on agriculture, supporting 38% of the population can potentially destroy
the livelihoods of the workforce, resulting in poverty-related disease. Other impacts identified were injuries and disease relating to temperature, floods, fire and water
Risk is a function of hazard, vulnerability and capacity to cope. The impact of an external factor on
a ‘spatial system’ should be a function of the impacts on all these factors. Disasters are not
increasing because of the increase in the frequency of hazards, but because of the increasing
vulnerability to hazards. This study illustrated that the major impacts of the external factor could
actually be on the vulnerabilities and the indirect impacts, and not on the hazard itself. Climate
change poses a threat to many aspects of the causative links that should be addressed by disaster
management, and its impacts should be researched further to determine links and vulnerabilities.
This research also illustrates that slow onset disasters hold the potential to destroy just as much as
extreme events such as Katrina, Rita or a tsunami. It also reiterates that secondary impacts may not
be as obvious, but are certainly not of secondary importance.||en_ZA