IRRC No. 301

The concept of vulnerability: beyond the focus on vulnerable groups

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The recent explicit focus on “vulnerable groups” by international assistance agencies — particularly those that respond to emergency situations around the world — reflects two important concerns. First, aid providers want to be able to identify potential victims of disasters in order to anticipate and mitigate such events, and second, they use the identification of vulnerable groups as a way of targeting assistance, which is always restricted by limited resources, towards those groups who most need it. However, vulnerability should be understood as a far more powerful concept in the design and implementation of aid operations than simply as a criterion for targeting aid. In fact, problems arise when the notion of vulnerability is used only or primarily to identify groups who should receive assistance.

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