Human Diversity and Special Needs


Human diversity and special needs concentrate on a mass casualty disaster ‘Tsunami’ in the Indian Ocean in 2004. The occurrence of a Tsunami from Malaysia to Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean and even in Tanzania in Africa, the human diversity that exists in the above-mentioned countries are considered in the paper after the discussion of emergency warning systems and a system that minimizes the loss due to recovery. Human diversity has been discussed during the emphasis of the implementation of programs regarding permanent solutions according to the local culture, livelihood, and professions before the disaster.


Emergency management approaches depend on the policy processes and institutional systems. As a result, the activities of emergency management reflect the policies of government and styles of the society as they are formulated according to the culture of the area. However, one common goal is about safety and protection of livelihoods from disasters. Hence, in the era of globalization and neoliberalism, the political trends and ideas focus on sustainability and security and the ways in which the people and governments interact with emergencies and disasters. As globalization involves the global financial and commercial interdependency, the framing of policies and laws is also internationalized. Hence, in framing policies for coping with emergencies and disasters, it is important to take into consideration the human diversity in various geographical areas that are a result of cultural diversity. The topic of human diversity comes to the fore when disasters occur across the borders or an international team is necessary for rehabilitation activities after the event. However, to prevent or minimize the loss of the disaster, it is important to have a warning system and knowledge about human diversity is necessary for the staff in that system. This is for enabling the information, technology, and expertise to make the people less vulnerable to disasters. As the thoughts of the private sector and market-based policy styles are increasingly common, the traditional government approaches are being diminished and the framing of policies needs to consider human diversity and special needs in case of emergency or a mass disaster. The increase of disaster prevention market instruments like Insurance, financial incentives, and disincentives made the disaster management and warning policies being neglected. The above aspect states that there is a shift to community-based approaches from emergency management policies (Handmer, John, 2007, page 60-61).

An Event of Mass Casualty: Tsunami in the Indian Ocean

As mentioned in the introduction, the lack of emergency management policies may result in absence of precautionary measures that can minimize the loss. The above aspect can find strength in the fact that there is no system to warn or detect the onset of Tsunami in the Indian Ocean. As a result, there are no activities to vacate the places and consequently, a lot of people died and an enormous amount of property was destroyed. However, one can argue that there is no system to warn about tsunami till then, one thing is clear that the commitment to carry everyday lives in a sustainable manner is missing in the globalized economies all over the world. The above mentality in the people results in being prepared only after the disaster occurs once. That means there are arrangements or systems that work on predicting the coming disasters to warn the people. The above fact is due to the absence of environmental concerns that can help in having a disaster management cycle of prevention and preparedness. The above thing is possible with an assessment of environmental concerns and planning for relief. The planning for relief includes rehabilitation and reconstruction as well as development. In the above context, Rajiv (2006) quotes International Strategy for Disaster Reduction‘s (2004) report that states that in the last ten years, 4,78,000 people were killed and 2.5 billion people affected. The above-mentioned thing happened as community-based approaches are preferred instead of emergency management approaches. The community-based approaches give compensation for the deceased but not the lives of their family members and beloved people. The Tsunami and its effects analyzed in this essay can be termed as a hydro-meteorological hazard. The hydro-meteorological hazards amounted to 97 percent of the total people affected by disasters; still, there is a lack of preparedness in facing them. As Tsunami is induced by an earthquake in the seas, it is unavoidable, but there should be a system that prepares coastal people to vacate the areas by warning system when there is a chance of facing a disaster. When the Tsunami occurred in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand, there is no preparedness in Bangladesh, Indian and Maldives as well as Sri Lanka, though it reached there, hours after occurring in Indonesia. Similarly, Seychelles, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania in Africa are not prepared to face when it reached hours after it hit Indian coast. The above fact makes clear that from Indonesia to Tanzania, there is no preparedness for hydro-meteorological disasters. The important aspect in the people affected by Tsunami is that they belong to diversified cultures and a lot of human diversity is seen in the areas affected by Tsunami. Hence, it is important to have reconstruction programs that are suited for different societies as their livelihoods are different in various areas. However, coming to casualties, according to reports, the casualty may vary between 2,50,000 to 300,000 and boats, ports, hotels, clinics, roads and railways were damaged and hundreds of jobs were lost due to the disaster. In this context, Rajiv (2006) quotes ADB (2005) that states that despite unprecedented scale of loss, of lives and property as well as jobs, the macroeconomic impact of the disaster was limited. As a result, the situation aftermath Tsunami dragged hundreds of thousands of poor people into deeper poverty as their loss of property is not considered larger when compared to the urban and industrial hubs. Hence, the rehabilitation efforts are not in such a huge scale to drag out the people from utter poverty and even community and commercial approaches like insurance also did not help the affected people as they do not have such policies. In this context, it appears that the governments assess the loss in terms of value of the property, but not the lives dragged into the deeper poverty due to the destruction. Hence, the calculation of number of lives that are dragged into the poverty will be much accurate calculation and method for the programs implemented after any disaster. Moreover, it is important to convey the need of environment disaster synergy in the reconstruction process. However, it seems to be absent in reconstruction process as cross-learning between the countries and focus on environment disaster linkage is absent. Hence, vulnerability reduction, human security as well as environment disaster management issues are not met up to the mark in the programs implemented aftermath of Tsunami. The reconstruction work of the disaster affected places took almost two years after it started and meanwhile almost 24,000 people lived in temporary shelters thus staying far from the normal life. In a similar manner, after the Kobe earthquake in Japan on 17 January 1995, almost 31,000 affected people lived in temporary houses for almost four years. The above type of lack of preparedness in reconstruction activities results in lot of lives being affected by poverty and some areas will be far away from the development for a long time after the onset of disaster (Shaw, Rajib, 2006, Page 6-11).

Reconstruction after Tsunami

The reconstruction schemes and programs should be according to the needs of the people who are affected as they are the ones who suffer due to the loss. However, the programs that are framed for reconstruction tested the patience of the affected people as they are more focussing on training the people instead helping them to reconstruct their businesses. In the report released by International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2005, a woman named Faridah (34) who lost her business and property in the Tsunami was forced to attend a training scheme instead of revival of her business. Faridah commented that, she is impatient with the way the things are going and want to start a business within a month. However, it can be possible if the programs implemented are to revive the professional activities of the people in the affected areas instead of making them to settle in new professions. However, everybody’s case is not like that. Chairul Amri a headman of a village affected by Tsunami in Indonesia, states that ILO conducted meetings and identified the needs as well as solutions and budget. The budget has been distributed to the people by NGO Muslim Students Organisation (HMI) in the form of revolving fund system. A co-operative society has been established to help them in their activities instead of giving training as they are experienced in their professional activities. Hence, the above-mentioned two examples can reveal the nature of programs necessary for the people affected by the disaster. The essence of implementation lies in identifying the needs of the people as well as their livelihoods before the Tsunami. However, it is clear from the above examples that the governments in Tsunami affected areas do not have the above-mentioned type of proposals to help the affected people. Hence, the people who are rehabilitated by ILO and the NGOs funded by it recovered faster than the ones who are helped by local governments. Hence, the preparedness and planning a system for aftermath operations is necessary as well as the warning system. There is another instance of human diversity oriented programs adopted by ILO as it helped to make boats that are necessary for fishing in Meunsasah Tuha Village as fishing is the livelihood of the people there. ILO encouraged local carpenters to make boats and when those boats set to work, each one provided work for 20 people and as many boats were rebuilt, that many people rehabilitated. However, the above-mentioned scenario is not the one everywhere affected by Tsunami. In Aceh in Northern Sumatra of Indonesia, 600,000 people lost their jobs mostly in agriculture and 35,000 children are orphans or separated from their parents. The inability of the government to cope up with the situation resulted in local separatist movement. Hence, the above happening is an example for disasters that create separatist movements due to the loss faced by the people in that area (International Labour Office, 2005, Page 22-33).

While analysing the loss due to the disasters like Tsunami, ILO (2005) states that the majority of people deceased were women and this results in imbalance of gender in the population. When ILO reached the coastal area of India, which faced the wrath of Tsunami, it recognised that rehabilitation can be done by revival of fishing in that area as majority of the population depend on it. ILO did not mention about the programs of the Government of India that are helpful in reviving the professional activities of the affected people. Hence, the lack of preparedness and planning is clear. However, in the present case of Tamil Nadu in South India, instead of reviving the professions of the local people, the Employers’ Federation of Southern India (EFSI) suggested ILO to develop skills of the people. However, by giving that suggestion it is clear that EFSI did not bother about the fishing skills with which the people of villages of coastal South India are familiar with. As fishing equipment including boats and nets are severely damaged or lost, the local people have no other way than to accept the training programs of the ILO. Hence, their future was uncertain and the rehabilitation has been delayed due to the training programs instead of harnessing the skills they have. However, due to the advice of EFSI, ILO started incense sticks project for women, as it needs lower capital. Consequently, the income is also low, and the fishing activity that can create more revenue than those of incense sticks has been sidelined. However, the incense sticks manufacturing program helped the women who lost their husbands or bread earning male members of the family. However, as stated earlier, it is clear that the majority of the people died are women; the men who lost their fishing equipment did not get their livelihood immediately as in the case of coastal areas of Indonesia. Moreover, it is important to concentrate on informal sector as organised sector gets benefits from the government. As the affected areas are having more victims from informal sector, it is important to raise the confidence of the people in addition to providing of livelihood. However, other than incense sticks, some of the affected women were given tailoring training, the profession that can give more income than that of incense sticks (International Labour Office, 2005, page 62-73).

Human Diversity in Mass Disaster

In all the above cases and programs mentioned ILO and other NGOs faced human diversity in the people affected by the disaster. Hence, it is important to have programs planned according to the nature of culture of the area affected by the disasters. However, as the governments are concentrating on community programs or commercial benefit programs instead of concentrating on preparedness and planning for reconstruction, the human diversity is posing problems for ILO as well as other NGOs while planning rehabilitation activities. However, the urgent temporary nature of assistance will be same in every disaster. The diversity problems arise in relief and recovery phases, which address the basic needs of the affected people. The above aspect is due to the fact that the relief activities target basic survival and sustenance of the professions of the people adopted. After the life saving activities it is important to identify the basic needs of the people according to their culture. In the context of Tsunami as it occurred in number of coastal areas all over the world, the problems arise when the relief operations start to implement the programs regarding permanent solutions. Hence, in this context, the programs and planning from the side of government is necessary as it helps the NGOs and the organisations like ILO can get assistance from them as well as guidance regarding the local professions and culture and thus can solve diversity problems while operating in number of countries in the aftermath of a disaster like Tsunami. The above mentioned planning and coordination can bring smooth and timely transition back to normal life. However, in case of absence of government planning that in tune with the local culture and professions as well as livelihood, the beneficiaries or the victims should be consulted before implementing the programs regarding permanent solutions. The reason is to fill the cultural gap when the international organisations are working in different countries and various geographical locations. Hence, the organisation like Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) of United Nations is necessary to coordinate between organisations undertaking relief operations for permanent solutions and the people of the affected areas. However, even the funding acts against the diversity needs. As it is necessary to take up relief activities according to the funding available, if some programs need more funding, the equal allocations for all the areas may affect the relief operations of an area that differs with other areas in culture as well as livelihood. Hence in addition to the commercial planning like insurance, it is important for governments to identify the distinct source of funding for transition recovery. For example, in the above context, Red Cross established a set of minimum standards for water, food sanitation and medical care and are applicable regardless of status and diversity. However, in the next stage of reconstruction operations, the programs should be planned according to Data and Information available about livelihoods and culture of the people affected. Hence, the evidence-based decision making method can be implemented by asking questions like; whose disaster is it? Hence, national disaster management authorities are being established in various countries to undertake relief operations or to assist the international organisations working in the affected areas. In the above context the importance of data comes to the fore as it is necessary to implement programs regarding permanent solutions. Moreover, data management and evidence-based decision making are important in the aftermath of disasters like Tsunami that occur in different countries that have diversified cultures. The data available about the area in which the international relief operations are being taken can help to fill the gap between needs and resources as generosity can only give funds but not programs. Hence, proper data management can ensure that the priorities are set and enforced according to the needs of the people affected without making them to enter into the new type of livelihood, if the old one is good enough to meet their needs. However, the cost effectiveness also can be met with understanding the diversity between the special needs of the people as different professions need different levels of funding. Hence, one can allot the funds judiciously instead of giving equal amounts to all the areas affected by the disaster. In the absence of above-mentioned aspects, the well intentioned post disaster activities resulted in unwanted negative consequences that lead to social strains and inequalities. Hence, to avoid them it is necessary to have an organisation in the lines of International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, which surveys the affected areas while basic relief programs are taking place and by the time the programs for permanent solutions are to be implemented, the group can give enough data and advice regarding the activities necessary in different areas of the world affected by the disaster. However, it is important that the local governments should have data managing capacity to assist international relief organisations. However, if the deaths are more but the survivors are not injured in case of disasters like Tsunami and Volcanic eruptions, the data and information for implementing the programs for permanent solutions is necessary in short time. Hence, it is suggestible to the governments of different countries to maintain data regarding livelihoods and professions of disaster prone areas to use it while implementing the programs regarding relief operations. In addition to that it is necessary to send the staff required for initial relief operations like trauma care and life saving activities. As it is difficult to track patients, a patient tracking system should be developed in disaster prone areas to meet the emergencies in the aftermath of disaster. However, the data management system includes the procurement of necessary life saving drugs for the patients in disaster affected areas.

Before the implementation of permanent solutions for the affected people, it is important to have extended trauma care system in rehabilitation programs (Amin, Samia, (Editor), 2008, page 51-59).


It is clear from the discussion and analysis that lack of emergency policies may result in increasing the loss and it is necessary to have them to help the affected people’s loss is minimised. As part of it, the emergency warning systems are necessary to minimise the loss due to disasters. As the disaster discussed is Tsunami that occurred in number of countries, the warning system should have network in various countries, prone to the hydrometeorology disasters. Moreover, it is understood that the commercially implemented programs like insurance are just providing funding for the activities but not a network that is necessary for undertaking activities regarding relief, rehabilitation and construction. Moreover, the important aspect that is to be taken into consideration is human diversity present in different countries in which the disasters like Tsunami occur. The human diversity compels the international organisations to implement programs according to their livelihoods before the disaster. If the organisations are able to implement better programs than the livelihoods of the people before destruction, it can be good, but to compare that the information regarding local livelihoods and professions before the disaster is necessary. To provide the information for the international relief organisations in the aftermath of disaster, the governments should have a data management system that updates regularly the information regarding livelihood and professions of the people affected. The information can be used by the relief organisations to implement better programs for permanent solutions of providing livelihood for survivors of disasters.

References List

Amin, Samia (Editor). (2008). Data against Disasters: Establishing Effective Systems for Relief, Recovery and Reconstruction. Herndon, VA, USA: World Bank.

Handmer, John (Author). (2007). Handbook of Disaster and Emergency Policies and Institutions. London, GBR: Earthscan Publications, Limited.

International Labour Office, (2005). Working out of Disaster: Improving Employment and Livelihood in Countries Affected by the Tsunami. Geneva 22, CHE: International Labour Office Bureau International du Travail.

Shaw, Rajib (Author). (2006). Recovery from the Indian Ocean Tsunami Disaster. Bradford, GBR: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

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