Understanding Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a community’s or an individual's susceptibility to flood hazards; its proneness to be impacted adversely by flooding and is represented by the inability or incapacity of a community or a group to anticipate, cope with, resist and/or recover from its impacts.


Vulnerability conditions can be divided into three major groups as follows:

Physical/material conditions

  • Initial well-being, strength and resilience (high mortality rates, malnutrition, disease)

  • Financial resource and asset base (poverty conditions, marginal income, lacking savings or risk sharing mechanisms such as insurance, access to loans)

  • Weak infrastructure, such as buildings, sanitation, electricity supply, roads and transportation

  • Occupation in a risky area (insecure/ risk-prone sources of livelihood)

  • Degradation of the environment and inability to protect it

Constitutional/organizational conditions

  • Lack of leadership, initiative, or organizational structure

  • Lack of or limited access to political power and representation

  • Lack of or poorly resourced national and local institutions

  • Unequal participation in community affairs

  • Inadequate skills and educational background

  • Weak or non-existent social support networks

  • Limited access to outside world

Motivational/attitudinal conditions

  • Lack of awareness of development issues, rights and obligations

  • Certain beliefs and customs and fatalistic attitudes

  • Heavy dependence on external support

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Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (2004)