An epidemiological index for drought vulnerability in the Rio Grande do Norte State, Brazil

Int J Biometeorol. 2021 Feb;65(2):325-335. doi: 10.1007/s00484-020-02034-4. Epub 2020 Oct 30.


In the Northeast Brazil (NEB), the impacts of climate extreme events such as severe droughts are aggravated by poverty and poor socioeconomic conditions. In this region, such events usually result in the spread of endemic diseases, problems in water distribution, and agricultural losses, often leading to an increase in the population's vulnerability. Thus, this study aims to evaluate the microregions of the Rio Grande do Norte (RN) state, in the NEB, according to the Epidemiological Index for Drought Vulnerability (EIDV). We mapped and classified the microregions according to three dimensions of vulnerability: risk, susceptibility, and adaptive capacity. We also verified potential associations between drought risk and epidemiological vulnerability. The EIDV was calculated by considering the three dimensions of vulnerability as mutually exclusive events and applying the third axiom of probability. Then we carried out a cluster analysis in order to classify the microregions according to similarities in the EIDV. Odds ratio were also calculated in order to evaluate the odds of microregions having a high susceptibility to diseases and high vulnerability given the drought risk. Results showed that the Pau dos Ferros, Seridó Ocidental, Seridó Oriental, and Umarizal microregions were the most vulnerable, while Natal and Litoral Sul were the least vulnerable. Regarding the dimensions of vulnerability, we observed that almost the entire RN state exhibited high drought risk. Pau dos Ferros and Umarizal had the highest susceptibility and Litoral Nordeste presented the worst adaptive capacity to the effects of drought on health. The EIDV revealed that the population of the RN state needs improvements in living conditions and health, since socioeconomic status is one of the factors that most influence the vulnerability of microregions, which in turn is aggravated by drought risk.

Keywords: Cadaptive capacity; Drought risk; Population; Public health; Susceptibility.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Climate
  • Droughts*
  • Environment*