Thursday, August 29, 2013

Susceptibility and Consequential Vulnerability

As I continue to work on the Social Sector Plan for the most affected villages in five districts  of Uttarakhand, along with lots of inputs and preparatory works from my colleagues in the districts and in the State, I began to wonder about one thing. What are we really focusing on? Or rather, what are all the humanitarian agencies focusing on in their emergency response in Uttarakhand. As I kept pondering through these questions, in one of the daily mails that I share with my colleague (and mentor ) Sarbjit Singh Sahota of UNICEF, wrote " Response to Event Vulnerability will happen, but what about our response to Consequential Vulnerability?"

The people who were most vulnerable and highly exposed at the time of hazard striking them are dead and gone. Families have have lost their loved ones, bread winner, cattle, shops, valuables, almost everything ! The humanitarian agencies continue to respond with food baskets, clothes, temporary shelter, medical camps etc. There is an attempt to strengthen the emergency response system, the critical infrastructure and life line services which have been highly impacted in these districts. So, we are taking care of the "event vulnerability", i.e. people and resources who were vulnerable and have been affected by disaster are taken care of temporarily.

But what about Consequential Vulnerability -- vulnerability that is born of a disaster? People who were better off or in lower middle class, now have become poor. People who had land have now become landless and homeless as their houses and land were carried away. People who had a bread winner at home have become widows, father or motherless, orphans. People who could cultivate some grains have become paupers. Those who earned from shops and cattle have now come to seek asylum. 

The way we treat consequential vulnerabilities today will have an impact on event vulnerabilities and susceptibility of these people to disasters tomorrow.

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