The occurrence of lightning in time and space around the world is well known. Lightning fatalities and injuries are well delineated in the United States; however, there is much less information about lightning impacts on people in the developing world. It is estimated that between 6000 and 24,000 people are killed globally per year, and 10 times as many are injured. The fatality rate per capita has become very low in the developed countries during the past century due to the availability of lightning-safe structures and vehicles, less labor-intensive agriculture, and other factors, but this reduction has not occurred where people continue to work and live in lightning-unsafe situations. Lightning safety advice often mistakenly expects that the direct strike is most common, but ground current, direct contact, side flash, and upward streamers are much more frequent mechanisms. In developed countries, the injury:death ratio is approximately 10:1, meaning that 90% survive but may have permanent disabling injuries. The proximate cause of death is cardiac arrest and anoxic brain injury at the time of the lightning strike, and, at this time, the damage from a lightning strike cannot be reversed or decreased in survivors. Lightning vulnerability in many developing countries continues to be a major issue due to widespread exposure during labor-intensive agriculture during the day when thunderstorms are the most frequent and while occupying lightning-unsafe dwellings at night.
Part of the book: Atmospheric Hazards
Lightning injuries, deaths, and the economic consequences of lightning damage to property and infrastructure continue to be a significant public health challenge and economic development issue in many tropical and subtropical areas of the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa. This chapter will discuss the scope of the hazard, known risk factors including common cultural beliefs that inhibit public education, existing data sources, medical effects and long-term disability, lightning formation and detection, injury mechanisms, existing lightning safety programs and their challenges, and the work being done to decrease injuries, death, and property damage from lightning in Africa by the African Centres for Lightning and Electromagnetics Network (ACLENet).
Part of the book: Public Health in Developing Countries