The economic impacts of disasters on marginalised groups

12 October 2018

Kevin Blanchard, Executive Director, DRR Dynamics Ltd

Tomorrow is the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction 2018 and the theme this year is focused on Target C of the Sendai Framework, reducing disaster economic losses in relation to global GDP by 2030.

Economic loss and damage from disaster events reached over $300 billion globally in 2017 alone and with a figure of $2.9 trillion between 1998 and 2017, this is clearly a serious issue that requires considerable global action and focus, particularly as the scale of these losses is predicted to increase over time due to climate change and its exacerbating effects on the severity and frequency of some events. 

Whilst these losses have serious ramifications and impacts on the localised area and community, some groups within the affected community are more impacted than others.

Those of you who have read my posts before will know that my organisation, DRR Dynamics, has a specific focus on those groups who are traditionally marginalised in a disaster or humanitarian crisis (women and girls, older people, those with disabilities, ethnic minorities and LGBT+ groups). The economic impact of a disaster on these groups can often impact more severely than the average survivor.

The reasons for this are many:


These groups are often employed either in a less secure, lower paid position within the so-called ‘formal economy’ (zero-hour contracts, pay taxes etc) or often within the ‘informal economy’ (cash in hand, casual basis). This job insecurity can often mean that in the aftermath of a disaster, these groups will experience higher levels of debt, caused by either borrowing money for food, housing or falling behind on housing payments and bills.

Non-economic roles forcing suspension of economic activity

There is also growing evidence that suggests disasters can lead to the decapitalisation of women and girls. This is caused by the temporary suspension of normal economic activities and instead, a focus around tending for injured family or rebuilding & rehousing.

Lack of aid & response

A number of groups will often be overlooked or excluded from the response of governments and aid agencies due to their own personal situation. Evidence has often pointed to this exclusion, particularly within those who are less-able bodied or suffer from mental health issues.

Lack of recognition of family structure

Economic recovery often depends on the involvement of external sources providing financial assistance. In some cases, however, this isn’t provided due to the lack of recognition of the family unit applying for that aid. Same-sex couples and families are often the most impacted by this, especially in countries or regions whether LGBT+ groups are marginalised more generally. 

Lack of economic mobility

In the aftermath of a disaster, many leave the area impacted and search for economic opportunities elsewhere. But for some within the community, this is not an option. Older people, for example, are often unable to move to different towns or countries and as such, are often left within areas with a dwindling economic output. 

A way forward?

The inclusion of these groups within disaster and climate change related policy development is vital to ensure these types of issues and hurdles are recognised before an event occurs. This preparedness and recognition will not only help with the speed in which these groups are able to recover but also mean a more inclusive process across the many aspects of disaster risk reduction and recovery.

Kevin Blanchard is the Director of DRR Dynamics, a UK based research organisation focuses on ensuring the inclusion and empowerment of marginalised groups in the policy and practice of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian emergencies. Kevin has over 13 years’ experience in developing inclusive DRR and humanitarian policy for national governments, international agencies and NGO’s.

Kevin achieved an undergraduate degree in Environmental Management and a master’s degree in Environment, Politics and Globalisation at King’s College London. Kevin is also an Honorary Research Fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a visiting lecturer at Kingston University London and Lincoln Bishop Grosseteste University where he lectures on risk, emergency management and climate change. In addition, Kevin is also the communications coordinator for the Gender Disasters Network and runs a number of social media accounts on #InclusiveDRR and #NoNaturalDisasters.

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