Dear Dusan Zupka
Your point is critical and important. A hazard becomes disaster due to the combination of vulnerability and capacity. I will try to cover your query in short by adopting theoretical framework of vulnerability by Ian Davis, Ben Wisner, Piers Blaikie,Terry Cannon and John Twigg.
Vulnerability has different dimensions such as social, political, economic, physical/geographical, etc. All of these play critical role in progression of vulnerability; reduce people’s coping capacity and increase risks to disasters. To me the critical dimensions of vulnerabilities are - social, political and economic. And these three are interlinked.
Critical Areas of the Social vulnerability: Exclusion
Exclusion is a process within state, society and communities which make people most vulnerable to disasters. There are number of people who are excluded within the community activities due to their gender, age, ability, ethnicity, religion, color. They receive limited knowledge, skill and resource to learn about hazards, risks and risk reduction in the name of social norm and taboo. Their voices are not heard, their experiences are not given value and they are left behind in social decision making process. As result women, children, disabled, ethnic and religious minorities, these groups are always most affected
Theoretically there are many steps and propositions. From my experience, following steps are useful to address these critical areas and reduce vulnerability:
Conduct participatoryvulnerability and risk analysis at rural and urban communities, using tools like focus group discussion, key informant’s interview, well being ranking, cause-effect analysis, social map, institutional map, livelihood matrix, seasonal calendar etc., involving representation of local authorities and elected local governments and ensuring participation of excluded groups in the analysis. Sometimes, it is better to have separate sessions with women,children, disabled, elders, and any other excluded groups to understand the level of vulnerability and associated risk exposures. The analysis and group discussions are useful to open up the eyes of the society, make them aware about ‘why and how’ the excluded groups are vulnerable.
Work with the community to convince them (where society are too rigid) and organize women-led, disabled-led, children-led or elder-led volunteer groups, train them on disaster preparedness, early warning dissemination, disaster risk and vulnerability reduction, and, support them to transfer the information to the communities through locally adopted cultural tools, events, etc.
Work with the education experts to integrate the vulnerability-risk analysis information in curriculum to build a inclusion aware future citizens. It is a longer term investment to remove the historical vulnerability of a large segment of population within the society.
Critical Areas of the Economic vulnerability: Livelihood Insecurity
Livelihood is the most important factor that makes a significant difference in the life of vulnerable people. Most of the vulnerable people do not have livelihood security. They have to depend on daily wages, subsistence income, seasonal migration etc., to survive with families. And most of the cases the livelihoods are not resilient to disaster risks. The agriculture wage labors indirectly affected when a landowner lose his or her crop but the impact is direct to the wage labors as they lose income for an indefinite period. When a small grocery shop owner lose her/his shop due to tidal wave or flood or cyclonic storm, she/he cannot recover as no one covers her/his initial investment. When women lose their livestock or poultry they cannot pay the education fees of their children and dropout rate increase. Thus vulnerability progressed and risk to disaster increased.
From my experience, following steps are useful to address livelihood insecurity:
Identify disaster resilient livelihood for the vulnerable communities during the vulnerability & risk analysis. Alternative livelihood needs to be identified in similar way.
Provide capacity building support to the vulnerable communities so that they can adopt the alternative livelihoods. For example, a female agriculture daily wage earner goes to urban areas or cities for income when she does not have any job in her area. Learning a skill relevant for city jobs will make her resourceful and ensure sufficient income, help her to save money for future, repair her house before hazard season, send her children to school and thus progressively reduce her vulnerabilities.
Introduce low-cost technology and create market access to the small holders and producers so that they can avoid the vicious circle of middle-men and get maximum profitfor their products and labor.
Critical Areas of the Political vulnerability: Lack of participation in decision making process
Most vulnerable people are always excluded from the decision making process. They are not included or represented in the local committees, their voice are not heard in the community discussion, their role is not recognized in the maintenance of infrastructure and prevention of disaster risks. Women, disabled and elders are not included in the local disaster management committees. Plans for risk reduction remain inclusion-blind. The communities become risk-blind due to lack of their participationin analysis of disaster risks and ability to make decision timely. In many cases embankment collapsed during tidal surge or flash flood or flood due tolack of repairing and maintenance. Vulnerable communities are not involved inthe maintenance of the embankment.
Following steps areuseful to reduce these vulnerabilities:
Advocacy with national and local government to make inclusive disaster risk reduction policy, ensuring at least fifty percent representation of women, disabled, elders and other most vulnerable groups in local and national disaster management committees.
Ensure participation of the vulnerable communities in designing, implementing and maintaining of embankments and other critical infrastructure which prevent disasters and monitor the maintenance process. This is not a physical perspective, rather a political process because the decision to include vulnerable communities in maintenance of the infrastructure in the important issue. These are part of strengthening localization to make communities resilient.
I would be happy to make more in-depth reply to your question. Thank you.