Saturday, January 5, 2013

Who is Vulnerable?

It is important to understand that to be young or old, a woman or a person with a disability or HIV does not, of itself, make a person vulnerable or at increased risk. Rather, it is the interplay of factors that does so... (The Sphere Project- Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response)

I find I am often in conversations about how to serve people after a disaster and I hear planners talk about vulnerable populations; I wonder through what lens they are looking through?
In most cases it is often new immigrants, people with obvious disabilities and the poor.  While those are the usual suspects as the movie line goes, I believe it is important realize being from one of those categories is not what makes you vulnerable, it is the addition (or subtraction) of something.
Our daily lives are fairly comfortable by most means in the first world, but when something happens like Sandy, it quickly can become a 3rd world working area.  And with the subtraction of electricity, and easy access to the grocer, doctor and other support systems we depend on, someone can quickly become vulnerable.
As you look at your community whether you are a Emergency Manager, a CERT leader, an MRC member or any neighborhood program, look deeper than the pre identified "Vulnerable Pop" look at the family with a single parent, look at the older couple down the street who walk their dog, and seem to get along pretty well for their age, look at the new comer who just moved here and doesn't have connections to the community yet. Look at the UN definition above and as you view your population through that lens ask yourself " If that person (family) lost one of the following - power for a week, or access to the grocery store, drug store, or clean water or anything we take for granted would they become vulnerable?"  If the answer is yes, you have some more planning and teaching to do.


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