Factors contributing to Vulnerability

  • Poverty:

The widening gap between rich and poor, rural and urban incomes and hence the disparity in living standards can be witnessed in the flood plains of developing countries. For small landowners with marginal, degraded land, frequent flooding can decrease the returns from cultivating the land, thus reducing food security. The rural poor who depend on incomes from farming or other agricultural activities, with no reserves to help them them get back on their feet after a disturbance or pay for basic needs, are often obliged to migrate to the cities and are driven into debt. Newcomers to an urban setting, not being able to afford safe locations in the city, are obliged to settle in makeshift dwellings in informal settlements on marginal lands near the river or other drainages where they are extremely vulnerable to flooding.

  • Livelihoods:

The principal livelihoods of communities living in rural flood plains are mainly farming and fishing. However, recurring floods threaten their stability of the their livelihoods owing to the loss of farm products or limited access to the markets for their products in the absence of adequate transport infrastructure. The landless poor, working as hired labourers, particularly during long flood seasons, have trouble finding jobs to meet their basic needs.

  • Cultural beliefs:

Some cultural beliefs and fatalistic attitudes contribute to a community’s vulnerability. In some societies, natural disasters are considered to be acts of God and taken as if there is nothing human beings could do to prevent hazards from turning into disasters. Lack of faith in the social system and lack of confidence in the ability to manage flood risks manifests itself in resistance to any such change. 

  • Equity:

Unequal distribution of resources and access to human rights can lead to conflicts and discontent, and in turn, the deterioration of social systems. For example, individuals who are denied the right to freedom of association and access to information may be precluded from discussing issues related to flood preparedness and mitigation planning, receiving essential fundamental services and taking preventive measures to protect themselves from flood hazards.In areas where flood diversion works are in place it may so happen that flood water are redirected into areas where poorer sections of the society with less political influence settle.

  • Gender:

In societies where the decision-making power resides solely with the men of the family, ignoring the wisdom and experience of women and denying or limiting them the adequate access to knowledge and capacity development schemes, which otherwise may be available to men, can deny the society the use of such human resources and contribute to women’s vulnerability in terms of personal security, health and well being, economic security and livelihoods.

  • Weaker social groups:

In a society made up of various social groups, the needs of each group differ. Children, women, elderly and disabled people have unique group features that may add to their vulnerabilities in particular situations, such as during evacuation, sheltering, relief distribution and the rehabilitation process.

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