Why are some people more vulnerable to flooding than others?

Why are some people more vulnerable to the impact of floods than others?

Why are some people more vulnerable to the impact of floods than others?

The impact of flooding on a community, group, or individual isn’t only determined by the severity of the inundation they experience. Flooding affects people differently depending on their pre-existing vulnerabilities. 

All communities are different and people within any given community have diverse capacities, experiences, and barriers that affect their ability to prevent, prepare for, and cope with floods.

Certain factors make specific groups structurally and systematically more vulnerable or exposed to disasters, putting them at a higher risk. Examples of characteristics that are likely to increase someone’s vulnerability to floods are: 

Gender

Women and marginalised gender groups generally experience flooding differently from cisgender men, especially in settings with a high level of gender inequality. Traditional dresses with heavy skirts make it harder to swim, cramped evacuation centres make it difficult for women on their period to maintain good hygiene and for transgender people to feel safe, girls are more likely than boys to miss out on schooling in the aftermath of floods.

Find out more about the gendered experience of flooding, and flood resilience building, in these resources from across the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance:

Age

500 million children live in extremely high-risk flood zones. Unless we act now, climate change will harm the poorest and most vulnerable children first, hardest and longest. Zurich Flood Resilience Partner Plan International work specifically with children to build resilience against floods.

Poverty 

Poverty is a key cause of vulnerability. The World Bank’s report Unbreakable found that “When poor people are affected, the share of their wealth lost is two to three times that of the nonpoor, largely because of the nature and vulnerability of their assets and livelihoods”.

Urban poor people, especially people living in slums and informal settlements, face marginalisation, insecure accommodation, limited access to life-sustaining services, higher proportionate costs of living, food insecurity, and greater health risks.

Lack of resources makes it harder to prepare for and bounce back after a flood.

Disability

About one billion people globally live with disabilities. That’s about 15 per cent of the world’s population. This makes people with disabilities the world’s largest disadvantaged minority.

They may face social, economic, and cultural barriers limiting their access to full and effective participation in a society, including economic development, education, employment, and health services.

These challenges are exacerbated where disability intersects with other characteristics that increase vulnerability. Women and girls with disabilities are 4 to 10 times more likely to experience gender-based violence than those without disabilities. Children with disabilities are more than twice as likely not to attend school.

What can be done to reduce people’s vulnerability to floods?

Governments need to prioritise the most vulnerable in their budgets and policies and donors must ensure their funding targets those most at need.

If you want to learn more and ensure that your work is inclusive of marginalised groups and contribute to reducing the kinds of systemic vulnerabilities covered above a good place to start is the resources below.

Relevant resources

In this episode of Disasters: Deconstructed Podcast we are talking to Sarah Brown, Alison Sneddon and Mirianna Budimir from Practical Action about the

This paper reviews different approaches to incorporating gender equality objectives into resilience projects and to monitoring gender equality outcome

Flooding is among the most prevalent natural hazards affecting people around the world. This study provides a global estimate of the number of people

This policy brief accompanies, and summarises the report with the same name. The study explored the connection between gender and age inequality and d