Social Vulnerability: Gender

1. How does unequal access to resources influence the experiences of children and elderly before and after disaster?

Children and elderly are the most vulnerable groups of population; therefore, they require more care, support, and protection. However, most of all children and elderly who have unequal access to resources suffer after disasters. Poor and low-income children experience lower educational attainment, attend lower quality schools, and experience the lack of access to regular health care and health insurance, and food insecurity. Even before disaster, minority children and youth like Indians, Latinos, Asians, and African-Americans live below the federal level of poverty (Thomas et al., 2013).


The poverty and lack of social safety make children even more vulnerable after disasters.

  • First, after disasters, children can experience both physical and psychological ones, but because of the unequal access to resources, children’s families have no opportunity to help them to cope with post-traumatic stress disorders.
  • Second, after disasters, unequal access to resources can deprive children of the possibility to visit schools, get health care, put under a high risk of human trafficking, physical abuse, and sexual violence, and provoke hungry or malnourishment.

Elderly People

  • Poor elderly are vulnerable population because before disasters they need to struggle for their life with many diseases and disabilities like physical, go-outside-home, sensor, mental, and self-care. In the USA, approximately 80% of elderly have at least one chronic condition like respiratory disorders, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and arthritis (Thomas et al., 2013).
  • Moreover, all these health issues are reinforced by poverty and unequal access to resources. If elderly people have no access to resources, they are not prepared for disasters which put them the threat of injury and death. In most cases, after disasters, low-income seniors can fail to have their dwellings, medicine, and food because they have no resources to prepare themselves for disasters.
  • In addition, low-income elderly people are even more vulnerable to adverse psychological outcomes because of the lack of social support and deficits in coping tactics.

Consequently, unequal access to resources makes children and elderly even more unprotected and vulnerable as they are poor and socially defenseless to survive in the community hit by disasters.

2. Although an increasing number of studies have focused on the experiences of children and the elderly in disaster contexts, important gaps in knowledge remain. What do you see as the most pressing research needs in this subfield of disaster research?

The most pressing research needs in this subfield of disaster research are related to the lack of information on children, elderly, and emergency response and adequate analysis of risks for low-income children and seniors. The lack of information on children, elderly, and emergency response is obvious to the fact that researchers fail to respond what happens when children and elderly are not at home during disasters and when children are not with their parents (Thomas et al., 2013).

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Moreover, there is a need to conduct more disaster researches to understand whether child-care centers and schools are adequately prepared for disasters what factors are considered by child-care staff and school administration for decision-making and evacuation planning. When it comes to adequate analysis of risks for low-income children and seniors, researchers need to reveal the most vulnerable groups among elderly and children like socially and medically unprotected to avoid additional risks for them. Moreover, researchers need to focus on actions and factors which can minimize potential risks during disasters. Consequently, research studies should balance between protective measures and potential risks to respond to needs in adequate and objective information.

3. Write your own executive summary on Gender vulnerabilities, identifying common points of connections.

Gender vulnerabilities are issues that also can be revealed during disasters and prove that gender inequality exists. Not without a reason, gender differences are obvious during emergency preparedness, emergency communication, post-traumatic stress, application of coping strategies, the division of labor, and voluntary actions. Thus, the main problem is how to eradicate gender differences and prove that women can be proactive responders to disasters as well as men. Gender vulnerabilities are related to the fact that all heroism is prescribed to males, and women are perceived as victims who cannot care of themselves (Scanlon, 1996). Another gender issue is related to the highest death rate of males in comparison to women due to the fact that women are not seen as equal partners, helpers, and responders but as weak creatures that should be evacuated together with children and elderly. Thus, the main objective for emergency management and disaster management is to destroy the gender inequality by involving more females in this area and showing that they can be keys to prevention. The findings of research studies are that gender inequality put women under the threat as even if they can be active responders to emergency cases and disasters.

4. In your opinion what improvements could address the issues identified of gender differences?

I think that it is possible to address the issues indentified of gender differences by involving more women in emergency cases and disaster management, providing females with the possibility to evacuate elderly, children, and physically and mentally disabled people during disasters. Furthermore, women should also be shown in mass media as heroines who can save people’s lives in emergency cases. In addition, it is possible to address the issues related to gender differences through changes in family and community roles and female-dominated professions and jobs (Enarson, 2000). Moreover, the improvements are necessary not only in the emergency case and disaster area but in the community which should create social conditions for women by providing them with political voice, social power, equality, and economic security. Furthermore, I believe that women can increase their social and economic status if their payment is the same as men receive. Women should get their capacity to cope with disasters by putting them in leading and dominant positions and providing them with the right to protect themselves and not to rely on men.

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