3rd Meeting of National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (NPDRR) - 2020

5th-6th May 2020, Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, India

Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India

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Thematic Session 6: Mainstreaming and Cross Cutting themes (Gender, PWDs, Aged, Poor & Children)


Disasters hit the vulnerable population in a non discriminatory manner. However, the impact of disaster is experienced differentially by different strata of the population depending upon their social environments. The more vulnerable group is referred to as a group which has some special needs in the wake of a disaster and cannot comfortable or safely access the standard resources offered in disaster preparedness, relief and recovery. The more vulnerable group in disasters include but is not limited to women, children, people with disabilities, aged and poor. Attention needs to be given on the way this group is affected differently by disaster, whether there needs are met in the post disaster scenario and the steps undertaken to ensure their participation in decision making.

What has been deliberated on the subject?

Women's vulnerability to the impact of disasters is increased by socially determined dif¬ferences in roles and responsibilities of women and men and inequalities between them in access to resources and decision-making power. They face the brunt of disasters in a severe and different way as compared to the other sections of the society. Their care giving responsibilities are increased along with the lack of privacy, cleanliness, sanitation and safety in the relief camps. They tend to bear greater stress under the increase workload of caring for the sick and injured. The majority of relief efforts are intended for the entire population of a disaster-affected area, relying on existing structures of resource distribution that reflect the patriarchal structure of society, and hence women are marginalized in their access to relief sources. They may face gender based violence as safety and security is already a challenge in a post disaster scenario. They may also face reproductive health issues which further aggravates their situation.

People with disabilities (PWDs) can have very specific needs according to their varying impairments. They may face difficulty in responding and understanding warning signals and evacuating Accessible modes of transportation and shelter may not be available to them. The food, clothing and medical services offered in a post disaster scenario may not be accessible to them. Provision of accessible communication for people who cannot hear properly and for people with severe speech disabilities is also a requirement for disabled people during disasters. They can become easy victims of violence and may not be able to express their needs. PWDs need supporting infrastructure to sustain their lifestyle. PWDs need to be informed about their vulnerabilities and risks, planning should be done for them and it should be ensured that they are involved while in the planning process.

The elderly population, on account of natural aging process has impaired balance, decreased motor strength, poor exercise tolerance, deterioration of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch may face difficulty in evacuation and locating avenues of escape. They may not be able to hear danger signals, alarms, etc. They may not want to evacuate on account of their attachment to their homes where they may feel more comfortable. Additionally, they may require special medical attention and more accessible services in shelters. They may face greater stress as they have to deal with the shock of losing all that they had attained in life such as home, family, security etc. Moreover, they may not have the enthusiasm to rebuild their lives at an elderly stage.

Children are also impacted by disasters in a differential manner. They may have witnessed close family members and friends dying. They may have to face loss of familiar environments which becomes a threat to their sense of emotional security. They may become fearful, anxious, exhibit childish or regressive behavior and face difficulty in sleeping and concentrating. They may have to sstruggle for food, clothing shelter and other amenities. They may be sitting idle with schools being suspended as schools have been destroyed or they are either being used as shelters. . Moreover, they are not able to comprehend the situation and express themselves. Disaster may affect the helath of children as they have to face undernourishment, malnutrition and inadequate hygiene and sanitation after a disaster. Children may also face social evils which may crop up after disaster. Children may start working after disasters to strengthen the hands of the parents who have lost their livelihood in disasters. There may be an increase in the rate of child labour after disasters. Anti social elements may throng the area and indulge in child trafficking.

Lastly, disasters tend to affect the economically deprived section of the society in a mores severe manner. The impact of disasters on the poor can, in addition to loss of life, injury and damage, cause a total loss of livelihoods, displacement, poor health, food insecurity, among other consequences. Poor people live in less well constructed houses than than others, and these are more susceptible to destruction by natural hazards. Poor people very often live on lands that are vulnerable to flooding or drought. They have few or no savings to protect themselves in crises; they cannot afford insurance. They have few options for escape when a natural crisis is predicted because such options cost money. They have less schooling than richer people and, thus, enjoy fewer employment options when a natural event undermines their livelihoods. They may suffer from ill health or malnutrition. Additionally, because of the marginalization of the poor they are not able to participate fully in decision-making structures and their interests tend to be relation to the interests of those who have power and access to decision-making.

Key issues

Mainstreaming the more vulnerable group in disaster management allows for a more accurate understanding of the post disaster scenario ensuring that the disaster survivors are acknowledged, their needs and capacities are taken into account, thereby, facilitating the design of more appropriate and effective disaster response and mitigation.The attention has also been drawn to the silence on the capacities and resourcefulness of the more vulnerable group. It is now recognized that the shift from the concept of vulnerability of women,children,aged,disabled and poor population , to the causes which make them women vulnerable and focus on their capacities offers opportunities to integrate their perspectives in disaster management policies and practices at both macro and micro levels.

As outlined and accentuated in the Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk reduction, 2030, mainstreaming the more vulnerable group in all phases of disaster management is required for adopting an integrated approach to respond to any disasters. The gaps, challenges and changes needed at the policy level to adopt ‘an all inclusive approach’ will be discussed in this thematic session. The recommendations flying out of this session can help to reduce policy gaps for ensuring that the more vulnerable group including women, children, aged, disabled and poor are mainstreamed in our initiatives to reduce and respond to disasters.

Objectives of the session:

The objectives of the session include:

  1. To discuss the current policy on the ‘more vulnerable group’ and their inclusiveness in the process of disaster preparedness and response;
  2. To highlight the gaps in the policy which lead to marginalisation of women, children, PWDs ,aged and poor, and;
  3. To suggest recommendations for mainstreaming the more vulnerable group in the process of disasters preparedness and response and adopting an ‘all inclusive approach’.

Likely delegates/ participants profile who would be attending

All the participants who have a keen interest in the thematic topic including practitioners, academicians, government officials, international and national organizations, NGo’s will be attending the session.

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