Social Dimension of Disaster

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The Social Dimensions of Disasters
Julie Dekens, ICIMOD
Prepared for regional training course on “Recent Developments in geo‐hazard disaster management;  focusing on earthquake vulnerability reduction in mountain  regions.”

Peshawar University Summer Campus, 21st August 2008

Disasters are too often conceived as being  i f i d b i purely technical, physical issues, whereas they  are fundamentally associated with social and  f d ll i d ih i l d governance issues.


• A potentially damaging  p y g g physical event,  phenomenon or human  activity that may cause  activity that may cause the loss of life or injury,  property damage, social  and economic disruption  and economic disruption or environmental  degradation.  • Potential threat to  human and their welfare

• The conditions  determined by physical,  social, economic, and  environmental factors or  processes, which  h h increase the  susceptibility of a  community to the impact  it t th i t of hazards. 

V = f (Exposure + Sensitivity)

• A combination of all the  strengths and resources  available within a  community, society or  organization that can  h reduce the level of risk, or  the effects of a disaster.  • E.g., physical, institutional,  social or economic , skilled  personal or collective  attributes such as  leadership and  management. 

Risk =    Hazards x Vulnerability capacities

• A serious disruption of the  functioning of a community or a  f ti i f it society causing widespread  human, material, economic or  environmental losses which  exceed the ability of the  affected community or society  to cope using its own resources.  • Th The realization of the risk li ti f th i k • The failure of development:  result of socio‐economic and  political structures and  political structures and processes. • Reducing disaster means  mitigating the hazard AND/OR  dealing with  vulnerability/capacity


Why people are living at risks? Why people are living at risks? • Lack of knowledge or lack of  options? ti ? • Risk trade‐offs: People are often  facing multiple stresses. For  example, they often have to make  example they often have to make difficult choices between long‐term  protection against natural hazard  risks and immediate livelihood gains  such as income and food security. h i df d it • Need to consider the multiple  stresses people face (from  ‘extraordinary’ to ‘everyday’ risks)  extraordinary to everyday risks) rather than focussing solely on the  natural hazard

What are the key factors that influence  people’s vulnerability to disasters? l ’ l bl d • Various factors acting at Various factors acting at  different scale (time and  space) simultaneously or  not – physical , socio‐cultural,  institutional, historical,  i tit ti l hi t i l economic, and political  factors 

Example: social variables Example: social variables
• Social variables such as class, caste,  ethnicity, gender, disability, health  status, age and immigration status  contribute to influence:  o Access to resources (including  information, knowledge, and technology) o Access to political power and  representation p o Social capital, including social networks  and connections o Beliefs and customs o Attit d t Attitudes towards change d h o …

Each new flood weakens the economic  ( status of this dalit women (Eastern  Terai, Nepal)

Who are the most vulnerable to disasters?
Those who are socially excluded and  economically insecure, those  who are less empowered and  who are less empowered and have fewer assets will bear the  highest costs of disasters. Women Children Elders Disabled Ethnic minorities Ethnic minorities Poor DRR must focus on the needs of  the most vulnerable.

Why vulnerability to natural hazards is  rising?
• Vulnerability is dynamic. It is  constructed simultaneously  on more than one scale. • Changing risk factors •...
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