In response to the increasing frequency and economic damages of natural disasters globally, disaster management has evolved significantly to incorporate vulnerability assessments that are multi-dimensional, integrated and metric-based. This is to support knowledge-based decision making and hence sustainable disaster risk reduction. In Malawi and most of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), however, flood vulnerability assessments mainly focusing on social vulnerability, have been largely qualitative. The subjective nature of such qualitative assessments makes their use for identifying relative vulnerabilities of specific people and places, targeting of interventions, allocation of scarce resources and monitoring of benefits that may arise from interventions extremely problematic. Viewing vulnerability through exposure, susceptibility and capacity dimensions, all linked to social, economic, physical and environmental factors, this study has used an index-based approach to quantify and profile vulnerability to flooding of rural, subsistent communities in the Lower Shire Valley, Malawi. Results show that vulnerability to flooding is susceptibility-driven with susceptibility magnitudes manifesting as high to very high. In particular, socio-economic and to a large extent environmental susceptibilities are predominantly high to very high. Economic and physical capacities tend to be low but societal capacity tends to be high thereby attenuating overall capacity-induced vulnerability to medium levels. Physical exposure is medium. Except for environmental vulnerability, spatial differentiation in all forms of vulnerability across communities is in general marginal.
- flooding; integrated; index; multi-dimensional; rural communities; vulnerability