Natural disasters in South Africa (e.g. droughts, floods, storms) have led to significant social and economic losses, which is anticipated to exacerbate as consequence of climate change. During the period of 1900-2017, above 100 disaster events were reported, resulting in 2200 death as well as 21 million affected and totaling roughly US$4.5 billion monetary loss. Fortunately, South Africa is estimated to have among the highest resilience to climate change in Africa due to its relative wealth and high adaptive capacity.

This section provides a summary of key natural hazards and their associated socioeconomic impacts in a given country. It allows for a quick assessment of most vulnerable areas through the spatial comparison of natural hazard data with development data, thereby identifying exposed livelihoods and natural systems.

Natural Hazard Statistics

The charts provide overview of the most frequent natural disaster in a given country and understand the impacts of those disasters on human populations.


Climate change is now recognized to have a significant impact on disaster management efforts and pose a significant threat to the efforts to meet the growing needs of the most vulnerable populations. The demands of disaster risk management are such that concise, clear, and reliable information is crucial. The information presented here offers insight into the frequency, impact and occurrence of natural hazards.

Natural Hazard / Development Nexus

Understanding natural hazard occurrence as well as historical climate conditions, in relation to development contexts, is critical to understanding a country’s historical vulnerability. This tool allows the visualization of different natural hazards or historical climate conditions with socio-economic and development datasets. Select the Development Context and either a Natural Hazard or Climate Condition and overlay horizontally by sliding the toggle left or right to gain a broader sense of historically vulnerable areas.



Data presented under Historical Climate Conditions are reanalysis products derived from ERA5-Land data. ERA5-Land is a global land-surface dataset at 9 km resolution, consistent with atmospheric data from the ERA5 reanalysis from 1950 onward. Climate reanalyses combine past observations with models to generate consistent time series of multiple climate variables. They provide a comprehensive description of the observed climate as it has evolved during recent decades, on 3D grids at sub-daily intervals. 

This data has been collected, aggregated and processed by the Climate Resilience Cluster of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) initiative.

Key Vulnerabilities
  • South Africa is a water-stressed country and droughts are regular occurrence. The latest drought in 2015 was recorded as the worst in a century and may have pushed over 50,000 people below the poverty line. Droughts significantly affect human health, destroy crops, and have a negative impact on other economic sectors like mining and electricity generation in South Africa. The likelihood of annual severe drought is projected to increase by 39% in the 2050s compared to 1986-2005 baseline under RCP8.5.
  • Floods are a recurring natural disaster in the country usually attributable to sudden heavy rainfall incidents. In 2011 sudden heavy rainfall caused flooding in the Orange river killing 91 people and causing damages of over $100mn. With rising temperatures, extreme weather events are expected to rise. Apart from severe economic losses floods are known to increase incidence of water borne diseases such as cholera.
  • Temperatures have been rising steadily in South Africa, with 2015 being the hottest year on record. Very high temperatures mean that parts of the country will be much drier and increased evaporation will cause an overall decrease in water availability in an already water stressed country. Frequent wildfires due to extreme temperatures are a major concern causing loss of life and damage to infrastructure.
  • Finance and staff the national and provincial disaster management centers; Coordination between national, provincial, district and local disaster management centers should be ensured;
  • Develop further early warning systems to prevent major impacts from climate-related disasters and to strengthen adaptive capacity across sectors extending to areas that do not currently have cover.
  • Prioritize and integrate disaster risk reduction, prevention and preparedness and climate adaptation into local integrated planning and design.
  • Enhance integrated drought planning and management to include long term systemic and structural changes as well as physical, ecological and/or engineering solutions.
  • Identify and establish short-term drought adaptation options that include developing and making available new drought-tolerant varieties for farmers (seed and livestock) as well as water-wise technologies.
  • Complete and operationalize the coastal management guidelines being developed by DEA’s Oceans and Coasts Branch.
  • Invest in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, including Ecosystem and Community Based Adaptation approaches.
  • Create new strategic partnerships between the insurance sector, civil society and government to support innovative insurance mechanisms that build adaptive capacity. Partnerships should be developed with the insurance industry to assess loss and damage threats, and assess opportunities for international support for loss and damage to these sectors from climate change.
  • Maintain and improve infrastructure for resilience for accelerated weathering and deterioration.
  • Support improved fire management and planning at the local and provincial level to control fires within urban and rural areas.