Dignity and Protection of Vulnerable Population in Emergencies

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Saturday, 21 November 2015 - Last Updated on November 21, 2015


The past few years have brought the worst natural disasters we have experienced in recent history. Consequently, the government is investing significant resources in disaster preparedness initiatives. However, often disregarded in these initiatives are the special needs of vulnerable population (poor, disabled, pregnant women, elderlies, and certain members of ethnic minorities). These groups of people, who are physically, psychologically, and/or mentally challenged, face acute difficulties in understanding instructions and/or receiving orders during emergencies.

Below are some efforts executed by different governments from different nations that champion the dignity and protection of vulnerable population during disaster.

  1. Aid and resources should be consumer-oriented.

While there is a vast number of infographics disseminated through the Internet, the majority of these resources cannot be easily accessed by people who do not have access to the Internet and/or understood by other vulnerable groups including the mentally-challenged and people with different levels of literacy. The government should therefore identify these potential communication challenges, and then working with professionals/translators/special need experts, craft messages that can be easily accessed and understood. Materials that are free or with pictorial representations may be effective in reaching these groups, and can even reach out to a diverse population of elderlies and people with differences in language across countries and regions of origin. 

  1. There should be a collaboration between the government and community, faith-based organizations.

One lesson learned from Typhoon Lando is that community groups and faith-based organizations, and even local business owners were valuable assets in community responsiveness and recovery, particularly in small barrios. Collaboration and communication among these groups and the government, therefore, are critical pieces of the emergency preparedness because they can focus on their local and more likely to do immediate response and recovery of infrastructure during disasters. 


  1. Protection of Women and Adolescent Girls During Disasters

Women and adolescent girls have specific needs and concerns, and face much greater risk of violence, physical and mental trauma, and exhaustion during conflicts and calamities. Organizations and the government can consider deploying hygiene kits, obstetric and contraceptive supplies, trained personnel and other support to these groups during disasters. 

  1. Utilitarianism

This principle states that actions need to have a similar consequence or impact to the majority of beneficiary. However, the principle might also translate into a policy of attempting to save the greatest number of lives, and thus, direct treatment to those who are most likely to benefit from it. So for instance, emergency response teams and health care providers may withhold medical resources and procedures from individuals considered unlikely to benefit from them or who can prevent people from healing, complying with medical protocols, or caring for themselves after treatment (such as people with multiple illnesses, those who suffer from drug or alcohol abuse, or people with social or behavioral problems). Not all countries support the utilitarian principle as it raises many questions about distributive justice. The government should therefore find a balance in observing this principle: customizing care while still following ethical and moral values.

All of these efforts contribute to that one big goal of providing EQUAL CHANCES to all people, regardless of their background and state in life. This requires all people to give each individual an equal chance to survive and that each person’s life is equally valuable to him or her.

Images from Flickr.com ‘Zoriah’ and ‘Earthquake’ from Some rights reserved.

Lean Panganiban (31 Posts)

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