Empower vulnerable groups (i.e. children, elderly, and people with disabilities) by including them in disaster management decision-making and actions


While everyone living in disaster-prone areas is vulnerable, some groups (e.g. children, elderly people, and people with disabilities etc.) have been proven to be more vulnerable than others. Research has shown both that marginalised groups are more likely to suffer from disasters and that disasters exacerbate vulnerabilities and social inequalities. To avoid this, vulnerable groups should be included in disaster preparedness and disaster resilience actions as active agents for resilience to be effective and equitable. They should always be included in disaster management decision-making, alongside other groups from that community, thus reducing their vulnerability in case of a disaster.

Applicable to:

Stakeholders: Policy Makers, Disaster Managers, Citizens

Disaster Phases: Prevention, Preparedness, Response, Recovery

Types of Actors Concerned: Non-active citizens, Active citizens, Red Cross, NGOs

Hazards: Natural hazards, Man-made non-intentional hazards or emergency situations, Man-made intentional hazards

Cultural Map Entries:

Links between age and gender and the vulnerability hypothesis

Danger in elderly people overestimating their physical abilities during a disaster

Children who are alone at home during a disaster see as a vulnerable group

Scouts as potential helpers in a disaster setting

Ethnic diversity contributes to collective community experience and knowledge on disaster preparedness and response

General association with cultural factors: Age-related roles, Ethnicity, Socio-economic status, Social exclusion

Implementation steps:

A. Identify individuals and/or groups who are vulnerable to disasters and individuals/organisations who are willing to volunteer in disaster situations to help them. Related cultural factors: Social networks, Social exclusion

B. Use the knowledge accumulated by the community on risks and vulnerabilities to facilitate the easier identification of vulnerable groups. Related cultural factors: Individual/collective memory, Local knowledge

C. Ensure a balanced representation of vulnerable people in discussions with the disaster-affected-population. Related cultural factors: Social exclusion

D. Develop specialized and detailed guidelines for working with socially vulnerable groups in that respective community. Related cultural factors: Social exclusion

E. Support the development of social capital as an effective approach that builds the resilience and capacities of the community to mitigate the impact of disasters in vulnerable populations. Related cultural factors: Social exclusion


Further reading:

Alsop, R., Frost Bertelsen M. and Holland J., 2006. Empowerment in Practice - From Analysis to Implementation, The Worl Bank, Directions in development serie, n. 35032, Washington DC.

Bookman, A. and Morgen, S. (eds.), 1984. Women and the politics of empowerment. Philadelphia: Temple University Press

UNDP 2006. Communication for Empowerment - developing media strategies in support to vulnerable groups – Practical Guidance Note. Available at: http://www.communicationforsocialchange.org/pdfs/communicationforempowermentfinal.pdf.