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Differential Vulnerability to Hurricanes in Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic: The Contribution of Education

Adelheid Pichler, University of Vienna
Erich Striessnig, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID, WU), Vienna University of Economics and Business

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05774-180331

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Abstract

The possible impacts of the level of formal education on different aspects of disaster management, prevention, alarm, emergency, or postdisaster activities, were studied in a comparative perspective for three countries with a comparable exposure to hurricane hazards but different capacities for preventing harm. The study focused on the role of formal education in reducing vulnerability operating through a long-term learning process and put particular emphasis on the education of women. The comparative statistical analysis of the three countries was complemented through qualitative studies in Cuba and the Dominican Republic collected in 2010-2011. We also analyzed to what degree targeted efforts to reduce vulnerability were interconnected with other policy domains, including education and science, health, national defense, regional development, and cultural factors. We found that better education in the population had clear short-term effects on reducing vulnerability through awareness about crucial information, faster and more efficient responses to alerts, and better postdisaster recuperation. However, there were also important longer term effects of educational efforts to reduce social vulnerability through the empowerment of women, its effect on the quality of institutions and social networks for mutual assistance creating a general culture of safety and preparedness. Not surprisingly, on all three accounts Cuba clearly did the best; whereas Haiti was worst, and the Dominican Republic took an intermediate position.

Key words

adaptive capacities; Caribbean; education; vulnerability
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087