Hurricane damage harms the most vulnerable, reveals inequality and social divides

Resilience and the path to hope

The pandemic has given us each an opportunity to consider our own resilience in a new way. From navigating the disappointment of canceled travel and events, to missing face-to-face contact with loved ones, to financial upheaval and job loss, no lives have remained untouched by the challenges of COVID.

Though it demonstrated the disruptive potential of unexpected challenges in spades, it has also shown us that resilience is critical. Having the resources and skills to navigate the tough spots in our lives ensures that we can not only make it through, but emerge stronger…

Hurricane damage harms the most vulnerable, reveals inequality and social divides

Most of the burden had fallen to the poorest and most vulnerable families. The Puerto Rican government estimated 400,000 houses — one-third of all occupied homes on the island — were damaged by the storm.

We have learned from past disasters that the dominant social challenges include socio-economic status, race, gender and class, among more complex factors like health-care quality, the ability to prepare and having access to transportation

About 55 per cent of the island’s structures are built informally, without licensed contractors or permitting. Many poor communities are located in high-risk flood zones where land is affordable. In addition, areas of lowest socio-economic status experienced the highest rates of the estimated 2,975 excess hurricane-related deaths.

My own research into what influenced the impacts of Hurricane Maria shows that social factors, such as race, gender, income and education levels, played a larger role in determining residential damage than the physical impacts of the storm (strong winds, floods and landslides). This means that social and economic issues that arose long before the storm’s landfall were among the top predictors of damage — and can be addressed to limit the extent of future disasters…

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