India: How to help communities break the vicious "disaster-poverty" cycle


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Disasters caused by natural hazards push the near poor to below the poverty line and contribute to more persistent and severe poverty, creating poverty traps. As they own very few assets, these impacts to their livelihood push them further down the poverty line - making it is very difficult for them to break this cycle.
Because the poor are caught up in this vicious “disaster-poverty cycle” they are more likely to reside in hazardous locations and in substandard housing - exposing them even more to the impacts from disasters.  In the aftermath of a disaster, these families try to cope by making choices that are harmful in the long term –spending less on food, health and education, or putting their children to work.



In a Bank project in India, inclusive post disaster strategies have been adopted with focus on vulnerable groups, including women, tribal population, migrant workers, old age population, etc. Taking into account the culture and context, initiatives have been implemented for vulnerable groups as per their needs and priorities.


  • Owner Driven Construction houses in UDRP in Uttarakhand Disaster Risk Project- Special attention was given to women’s inclusion and participation in housing construction activities.
  • Fish Kiosk Entrepreneurs in Coastal Disaster Risk Reduction project (CDRRP) in Tamil Nadu- The initiative is directed at widows of fishermen. 
  • Seaweed Farming for women in Tamil Nadu. 
    • WB supported TN to strengthen social program for the coastal people
    • Women in the coastal area were trained to cultivate seaweeds and were encouraged to form Self Help Groups (SHGs).
    • They were taught to manage the value chain and were provided with saplings

In this video blog series on Adaptation and Resilience as part of our Sustainable Communities blog series, we’ll explore some of these initiatives

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Harjot Kaur

Senior Social Development Specialist

Join the Conversation

March 08, 2019

Would suggest trying in the short to medium term, CCTs which might help affected populations to cope with post disaster situations in a faster way than normally perceived. Though this may not be a long term strategy, it will at least help disaster affected populations get them on their feet again even quickly while thinking of sustainable recovery and reintegration strategies. Creating such social safety nets will help them recover from shocks. Pip O’Keefe who you all may know and us at UNICEF copioneered first of few CCTs in India.