Assessing socioeconomic vulnerability after a hurricane: A combined use of an index-based approach and principal components analysis

Neiler Medina, Yared Abayneh Abebe, Arlex Sanchez, Zoran Vojinovic

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Abstract

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are vulnerable to sea-level rise and hydro-meteorological hazards. In addition to the efforts to reduce the hazards, a holistic strategy that also addresses the vulnerability and exposure of residents and their assets is essential to mitigate the impacts of such hazards. Evaluating the socioeconomic vulnerability of SIDS can serve the purpose of identification of the root drivers of risk. In this paper, we present a methodology to assess and map socioeconomic vulnerability at a neighbourhood scale using an index-based approach and principal component analysis (PCA). The index-based vulnerability assessment approach has a modular and hierarchical structure with three components: susceptibility, lack of coping capacities and lack of adaptation, which are further composed of factors and variables. To compute the index, we use census data in combination with data coming from a survey we performed in the aftermath of Irma. PCA is used to screen the variables, to identify the most important variables that drive vulnerability and to cluster neighbourhoods based on the common factors. The methods are applied to the case study of Sint Maarten in the context of the disaster caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Applying the combined analysis of index-based approach with PCA allows us to identify the critical neighbourhoods on the island and to identify the main variables or drivers of vulnerability. Results show that the lack of coping capacities is the most influential component of vulnerability in Sint Maarten. From this component, the "immediate action" and the "economic coverage" are the most critical factors. Such analysis also enables decision-makers to focus their (often limited) resources more efficiently and have a more significant impact concerning disaster risk reduction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-31
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Volume12
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Extreme weather
  • Hurricane irma
  • PCA
  • SIDS
  • Sint marten
  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Vulnerability index

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