World Disasters Report 2007 - Focus on discrimination

"Hurricane Katrina is now symbolic of what happens even in the most 'developed' of countries, when disaster hits communities already disadvantaged by deeply rooted forms of discrimination. This vital report demands awareness of the reality of discrimination in the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance."

–Gay J. McDougall, United Nations Independent Expert
on minority issues

Gender, race, colour, religion, age – there are so many reasons why people can be excluded from their society. Those who are face an uphill struggle for equality, even if they have the strength and wherewithal to take the first steps. However many do not.

What, then, is the reality for these groups when disaster strikes? Hidden, ignored or simply invisible, the most vulnerable – and those potentially in the greatest need – are rarely, if ever, at the forefront of aid operations.

This report turns the spotlight on these groups, examining how and why they face discrimination. It calls on communities, governments and agencies to work harder to identify the most vulnerable and work together to ensure that their specific needs are addressed in an emergency.

The report by chapters

Disasters do not discriminate: people do
Disasters do not cause discrimination: they exacerbate it – and discrimination in an emergency setting can be life-threatening. The most marginalized and vulnerable risk not surviving the crisis or, if they do, they are then overlooked in plans to recover and regain their livelihoods. Read chapter 1

Overcoming multiple disasters: discriminating against minorities
There are minority groups in every society. They are marginalized to varying degrees due to nationality, race and traditional caste divisions, or simply due to the size of their population. Some, like indigenous or nomadic peoples, may have limited influence within local or national government. Read chapter 2

Older people and discrimination in crises
Few question why it is often the young and fit who join the queues for food and other essentials; they are there because they are young and fit, capable of taking the aid to their extended families. However, there is a pervasive and dangerous assumption that family ties and community structures will ensure that older people’s needs are met at times of emergency. Read chapter 3

Disability and disasters: towards an inclusive approach
Persons with disabilities are frequently and systematically marginalized in everyday life. At times of emergency, this marginalization is heightened. Someone who is blind or deaf may not be aware of any evacuation plan; someone who is immobile may not be able to flee danger; someone with learning difficulties may find themselves pushed to the back of the queue for food. Read chapter 4

The urgency of equality: ending discrimination against women and its consequences in emergency situations
Women and girls have long been the victims of discrimination in its many forms. It is these various layers of discrimination that put women in particular danger during times of emergency. Early warning systems may not take into account the fact that many girls are kept away from school and cannot read. Read chapter 5

Dealing with discrimination in disaster recovery
There are some positive steps humanitarian agencies can take to tackle discrimination. Initial assessments need to be inclusive and longer-term evaluations clearly defined and open. Representatives of all groups within affected communities should be involved in the recovery effort. Read chapter 6

World Disasters Report 2007
You can download the full version of the report here

Opinion piece - Press release

Addressing discrimination in disasters

Some 142 million people worldwide were affected by disasters in 2006.

World Disasters Report: tackling discrimination in disasters

This year’s annual World Disasters Report, launched today (13 December) by the International ...

Hard copies

A few copies of the 2007 WDR are still available. Please contact if you require a copy.