The re­al­ity is that low-in­come house­holds and those liv­ing be­low the poverty line have very lit­tle re­sources needed to ad­e­quately pre­pare and re­cover from hur­ri­cane dam­age

Nas­sau, The Bahamas — Since the end of the 2017 hur­ri­cane sea­son, the re­gion has been ac­tively de­vel­op­ing mit­i­ga­tion strate­gies to ad­dress cli­mate-re­lated vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. The lack of ac­cess to post-dis­as­ter re­lief fund­ing and the in­creas­ing need for cli­mate-re­lated as­sis­tance from de­vel­oped coun­tries have been hot top­ics of dis­cus­sion, as gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials through­out the re­gion at­tend a plethora of in­ter­na­tional and re­gional sum­mits on cli­mate change. With the many con­ver­sa­tions be­ing had, along the way we have some­how for­got­ten to ad­dress the so­cial wel­fare of cli­mate change and how it shapes low-in­come re­silience. Back­track to Septem­ber 2004 when Gre­nada was hit by Hur­ri­cane Ivan, a Cat­e­gory 3 storm with gusts up to 135 mph that caused a tremen­dous amount of dam­age: Ivan dras­ti­cally im­pacted the econ­omy of Gre­nada which was pro­jected to grow by 4.7 per cent that year as a re­sult of an in­crease in agri­cul­ture, tourism and con­struc­tion de­vel­op­ment pro­jects. Fol­low­ing Ivan, which left 28 peo­ple dead and 90 per cent of homes and ho­tel guest rooms dam­aged, there was an eco­nomic pro­duc­tiv­ity de­cline of -1.4 per cent, rep­re­sent­ing a 60 per cent loss in em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. Eric Lind­berg wrote in Jan­uary 2017 that cli­mate change was a ma­jor is­sue for so­cial work­ers – that is, cli­mate change is not just an en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue but it is also a so­cial and eco­nomic is­sue. Re­view­ing the de­struc­tion caused by Ivan, its af­fect on poverty rate, health care avail­abil­ity and un­em­ploy­ment were ev­i­dent. Post-eco­nomic as­sess­ments con­ducted by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) re­vealed that 52 per cent of the house­holds in Gre­nada were headed by men and 48 per cent by women, but among those liv­ing be­low the poverty line, women ac­counted for 52 per cent of house­hold head­ships. At lo­cal shel­ters, of­fi­cials also found that those fam­i­lies who lived be­low the poverty line had more chil­dren within a sin­gle house­hold than their coun­ter­parts, and were im­pacted the most post-storm by the slow food dis­tri­bu­tion oper­a­tions. Com­plex link­ages be­tween poverty, high crime rates, low eco­nomic growth and di­ver­sity, en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion and skewed fam­ily struc­tures have all been in­ves­ti­gated from a so­cial as­pect, but rarely within the con­text of im­prov­ing cli­mate re­silience. At­tend­ing the Com­mon­wealth Heads of Gov­ern­ment Meet­ings in Lon­don (April 2018), lead­ers noted that with­out “ur­gent ac­tion to mit­i­gate cli­mate change, re­duce vul­ner­a­bil­ity and in­crease re­silience, the im­pacts of cli­mate change could push an ad­di­tional 100 mil­lion peo­ple into poverty by 2030.” Due to the re­gion’s small economies, so­cial in­equal­i­ties re­main, but in the wake of cli­mate change and the in­creas­ing oc­cur­rence of hur­ri­canes, one must take the time to re­think re­silience in the con­text of low-in­come com­mu­ni­ties and their so­cial wel­fare. The re­al­ity is that low-in­come house­holds and those liv­ing be­low the poverty line have very lit­tle re­sources needed to ad­e­quately pre­pare and re­cover from hur­ri­cane dam­age. While at the na­tional level we speak about im­prov­ing re­silience and post-re­cov­ery time, there is a pro­por­tion­ate part of our pop­u­la­tion that will con­tinue to fall deeper into the con­straints of poverty if we fail to in­te­grate cli­mate-re­lated strate­gies in the con­text of on­go­ing so­cial ills.

Low-in­come com­mu­ni­ties are hard­est hit by hur­ri­canes. (Source: Food for the Poor)

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