Comparing Organizational Structures In Disaster-Prone Countries: the Philippines and Nicaragua

The Philippines and Nicaragua are both in the top 15 most natural disaster prone countries in the world, ranked number 3 and 14 respectively (World Risk Report, 2017). Both nations experience hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and landslides every year that require national disaster agencies to support the mitigation and relief efforts. Nicaragua’s National System for the Prevention, Mitigation and Attention of Disasters (SINAPRED) was formed in 2000 as the governmental department solely dedicated to disaster preparedness and response (Disaster Risk Management in Central America, 2009). In comparison, the Philippines’ National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) was formed in 2010 as a national council consisting of members from 44 different governmental agencies to make decisions influencing disaster preparedness and relief (Philippines Disaster Management Reference Handbook, 2018). Both nations are at extremely elevated risk of being affected by natural disasters, however, the vastly differing structures of their management systems have had noticeably different effects on the timing and quality of relief received by the affected populations.

SINAPRED is an independent government agency in Nicaragua who is solely dedicated to the management of natural disasters. While Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and relies heavily on international aid during disasters, they have established themselves as the primary coordinator during natural disaster recovery efforts (Disaster Risk Management in Central America, 2009). Due to SINAPRED’s established leadership role and concentration only on disasters, Nicaragua has a concrete evacuation system in place for most regions of the country and can give out emergency aid in an effective and timely manner (Disaster Risk Management in Central America, 2009). While underfunding still creates significant long-term problems, SINAPRED is highly regarded as one of the best disaster agencies in Central America (Silva, 2013).

In comparison, NDRRMC in the Philippines is structured as a council that is made up of the heads of 44 different governmental agencies that are not primarily dedicated to their positions in the disaster management group. Once a disaster happens, the national council meets to decide what relief is needed based on damage assessment reports presented by the local councils through the regional councils (Philippines Disaster Management Reference Handbook, 2018). The local disaster management councils do the majority of the work to assess damages and distribute domestic and international aid to the affected population. However, the local councils must obtain direction and approval from the national council before conducting any relief work. Therefore, the bureaucracy of getting approval from the regional and national councils severely slows down the process of helping the affected population (Philippines Disaster Management Reference Handbook, 2018).

While both the Philippines and Nicaragua suffer from extremely high exposure to natural disasters, the varying organization of their national disaster management agencies have proven to directly affect their communities. Neither SINAPRED or NDRRMC are perfect, however, SINAPRED’s exclusive commitment to disaster management allows Nicaragua help their affected communities immediately. The complicated bureaucracy structure of the NDRRMC furthers challenges the Philippines due to labor and time intensive administrative rules. The main focus of both SINAPRED and NDRRMC is to help the affected populations of natural disasters through being prepared and providing relief. However, the bureaucratic organization of a national disaster agency can have vastly different effects on a country’s ability to help their communities affected by natural disasters.

-Bridget, Project: Ptolemy Policy Research Intern


“Disaster Risk Management in Central America.” World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery , 2009,–1319570618921/Nicaragua_DRM.pdf.

“Philippines Disaster Management Reference Handbook.” Relief Web, Center for Excellence in Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance, Mar. 2018,–0318.pdf.

Silva, José Adán. “Beefing Up Disaster Response in Nicaragua.” Inter Press Service, Inter Press Service, 3 May 2013,

“WorldRiskReport.” Relief Web, 2017,