Our planet is rapidly changing, and more often than not, it’s the poor and marginalized people of the world who struggle to survive when disaster strikes.

Over the last decade, India has endured cyclones, major floods, earthquakes, and a tsunami, all of which have contributed to significant human suffering and physical damage. In Bangladesh, a country that is prone to just about every known rapid onset natural disaster, populations along the coastal belt also suffer from a gradual sea-level rise that threatens sources of fresh water and cropland. In Ethiopia, communities continue to be highly vulnerable to famine, despite decades of international assistance.

The persistent vulnerability to and increasing frequency of these and other events is no coincidence. They are a result of multiple converging factors including climate change, environmental degradation, population growth, as well as economic and political policies that put people increasingly at risk. In addition, many more communities are finding themselves increasingly vulnerable to lower level shocks that are not publicized—from the whims of an increasingly interdependent global economy and increases in food prices, to changing weather patterns that devastate harvests and undermine livelihoods and hard-fought development gains.

The bottom line: disasters are more frequent and they promise to impact many of the most vulnerable regions of the world and undermine communities’ ability to develop and reduce their risk.

Who Is Most Affected? Disasters Do Discriminate…
Poor and marginalized populations are the most vulnerable to emergencies. Families living along unprotected riverbeds, on eroded hillsides and in adobe homes or precariously constructed urban slums feel the blunt force of floods and hurricanes (wet), droughts (hot), and earthquakes (wobbly) more that others and have fewer resources to cope with and recover from the shock. “Complex humanitarian emergencies” (emergencies often associated with conflict, disputes over limited resources, and displacement of high numbers of people from their land and productive assets) also have disproportionate effects on the rural poor. In the conflicts of the 1990s, 95% of the deaths were non-combatants, mostly from malnutrition and disease. Women and children are often the most affected by emergencies, particularly children under the age of 5 and single headed female households. Geographically, Africa and Asia are home to over half of all natural disasters and more than three quarters of all complex emergencies, while a number of Latin American countries such as Haiti and Guatemala continue to grapple with the combination of poverty and extreme weather-related events.

Reducing Vulnerability and Reinforcing Local Capacity to Respond to Emergencies
PCI provides humanitarian assistance to people affected by disasters and complex emergencies; helps governments, local organizations, and communities better manage risk and respond to emergencies when they arise; and integrates efforts to help reduce vulnerability to disasters into all of its ongoing programs.

PCI’s humanitarian assistance programs address protection for vulnerable populations; water, sanitation and hygiene; health; shelter and housing; livelihoods; and education in emergencies. We emphasize identifying the most vulnerable in remote, hard-to-reach areas or in difficult and crowded urban centers; and we engage children, youth, women, the disabled, the elderly and marginalized groups.