The double bind of poverty and community disaster risk reduction: a case study from the Caribbean

Idelia Ferdinand, Geoff O'Brien, Phil O'Keefe, Janaka Jayawickrama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Disaster risk reduction (DRR) at the community level is usually addressed by forming community based disaster organisations and training persons in disaster management courses. The focus is mainly on the response phase of a disaster, but understanding the overall impact of disasters requires a more comprehensive approach. This paper assesses the level of vulnerability and capacity in four Windward Island communities. This assessment is based on a questionnaires survey, of some 400 householders across four island States and 24 semi-structured interviews with key informants involved in community development and disaster management. The findings show that, in general, there is a sense of community in the Windward Islands but a general lack of coordination and collaboration on issues related to disaster management. Where community organisations exist, they tend to work in isolation. Isolation exacerbates vulnerability. Poor communities have strong mechanisms to manage disaster but these strong internal ties militate against broader community efforts to address DRR. Essentially poverty acts as a double bind. The double bind of poverty is the bind that ties poor people together in coping while simultaneously the coping mechanisms make a barrier for engaging with other organisation. The conclusion is that there is need for multi-stakeholder partnerships to reduce vulnerability and build resilience in communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-94
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


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