Bio-indicators as a Measure of Social Fragility

March 2017 (VOL. 35, NO. 1)

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Disaster risk results from the interaction between hazards and vulnerabilities, but there are considerable variations in how vulnerability and its three dimensions (exposure, fragility, and resilience) are conceptualized and measured. This study demonstrates how certain bio-indicators allow an objective, direct, and efficient measurement of a population’s social fragility. Using data available for 159 countries, we selected two bio-indicators, Low Birth Weight (LBW) and Life Expectancy at Birth (LEB), and developed the Social Fragility Index (SFI). We then analysed their effect on existing vulnerability indices: the Susceptibility Index (SI) and the Prevalent Vulnerability Index (PVI). Results showed that the selected bio-indicators and particularly the proposed index are efficient in measuring the fragility of a community before a disaster, and that they could also be used to measure the social impact caused by an extreme natural event, technological disasters, population displacement/migration, armed unrest, conflict, changes in political regimes, and economic crises.