Some vulnerable groups can be traditional rain-fed farmers and pastoralists, groups least resilient to climate-related shocks, Landlessness returnees, land-mine disables, migrant herdsmen tendering other people’s herd, unemployed people, people living in slums on city outskirts, homeless people in urban areas, ethnic minority, subsistence or small scale farmers, children under age 5 especially infants, disable and sick people, etc. Ortiz (2007) suggests that these people are vulnerable because they are exposed to hazards and are faced with the likelihood that their welfare would fall below minimum consumption levels and/or living standards. The people who are vulnerable are exposed to risks which may include natural disasters, financial crises, harvest failure, war, and serious illness, among others. Different causes of vulnerability and needs of populations living below the poverty line are crucial starting points for understanding vulnerability and these different categories require different policies (Ortiz 2007).
Source: World Bank 2003
1. The most vulnerable groups in the population (at country, regional or local level);
- Complex: It is influenced by a wide range of factors that together constitute the causes and effects of the livelihood of people making them prone to risks and shocks;
- Context Specific: The understanding of the issues of vulnerability is subjective to the values, norms, beliefs, cultural practices and ideologies of the study population. Similarly, it is subjective to the geographical location of people. Thus to critically appreciate issues of vulnerability of people demands a critical appraisal of the particular environmental, socio-cultural, economic and political characteristics of the situation in a given area;
- Relative: Exhibited in its subjectivity to events and situations;
- Dynamic: That the situation where someone is vulnerable is never permanent. Thus people can move in and out a vulnerable situation. For this reason, it means that through conscious and concerted efforts whether internal or external can influence the state of a person’s or group’s vulnerability.
In sum, because the poor lack the means to manage risk and to cope with external shocks, the first step in analyzing poverty is an assessment of the vulnerability of the (poor) populations that are mostly affected with natural and artificial tendencies. Thus assessment of vulnerability issues is critical for poverty reduction and the promotion of sustainable development.
Mainstreaming Issues of Vulnerability in Development Planning
Five mainstreaming issues have been identified as eminent to development planning. These issues relates to both appraisal of data on vulnerability, participation of individuals, capacity and empowerment and policy formulation.
Data and Information management
Empowerment and Capacity Building
Source: ADB 2001
The Way Forward
Vulnerability is a complex issue; the generalization of which would elude us from understanding those who are at risk of losing their livelihoods. This would make mitigation measures non-responsive to the needs and aspiration of those mostly at risk. Financial commitment becomes inefficient and ineffective as they may be directed to the wrong beneficiaries.
In analyzing and mainstreaming vulnerability in development planning therefore requires the identification and definition of parameters for assessing vulnerability, complete disaggregation of data and information on vulnerability to understand those at risk, why they are at risk and the consequences (effects) of this on their livelihoods, and identification of the formal and informal mechanism to mitigating these risks and assess their capacity to perform these functions. The result of which must inform policy action to mitigating the issue of vulnerability. In all these, the involvement of all stakeholders both primary and secondary is fundamental to the development planning process if interventions are to be responsive, comprehensive and sustainable.
ADB (2001): Social Protection in Asia and the Pacific. Manila
ADB (2007): Handbook on Social Analysis; A Working Document. ADB, Philippines.
Conway R. and G. Conway (1992) Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: Practical Concepts for the 21st Century. IDS Discussion Paper 296. Brighton: IDS.
National Development Planning Commission; NDPC; (2005): Guidelines for the Preparation of District Medium Term Development Plans under the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy 2006-2009. Volume 2, Accra
Ortiz Isabel (2007): Social Policy; National Development Strategies Policy Notes, UNDESA
Turton, C (2000): The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach and Programme Development in Cambodia, Overseas Development Institute, London.
World Bank (2003): Social Analysis Sourcebook: Incorporating Social Dimensions into Bank-Supported Projects, Social Development Department, Washington, D.C.