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Over the last few years there has been an increasing awareness that some kind of disaster management should be possible. The emphasis is now moving from post-disaster improvisation to predisaster preparedness. The League of Red Cross Societies has increasingly encouraged predisaster planning in countries at risk. A new United Nations agency - United Nations Disaster Relief Office (UNDRO)- has been set up with headquarters in Geneva. Coordination and exchange of information between agencies engaged in disaster relief are becoming the rule rather than the exception, and a number of groups have started with the specific objective of making professional expertise available to disaster management. A number of private initiatives have been taken, meetings have been organized, research centers set up, and research projects launched. The study of disasters needs to be approached on a multidisciplinary basis, the more so since the health component is only one part of the broad disaster problem and, perhaps not the major one. Social scientists, psychologists, administrators, economists, geographers, have been or are conducting a number of studies on natural disasters. These studies have provided new insights and have proved most useful in preparing for disasters and increasing the effectiveness and acceptance of relief operations. This is a vital and challenging field, wide open for research. It is now time for epidemiologists and community health scientists to enter the fray and provide much needed information on which a rational, effective and flexible policy for the management of disasters can be based.