Social Impact of Disasters in Holistic Perspective
Department of Anthropology University of Delhi Delhi, India
CRED, School of Public Health Catholic University of Louvain Brussels, Belgium
Investigation of the social impacts of disasters has been a tedious task as social dimensions are complex and fuzzy. While it is easy and empirically conducive to work on individuals, the social dimension is not sum of individuals. On methodological plane, use of qualitative methods has been chosen as appropriate strategy to investigate the social domain. However, it is still considered to be a difficult task to think of a quantitative instrument for social impact assessment.
Social scientists have understood disasters as events that happen in time and space influencing the social unit which in turn responds to the event. The researchers study the impact of these events on the social unit which ranges from an individual, household, community to the whole of society. The international and cross-disciplinary teams in disaster research have helped in bringing about an understanding of the disasters as processes rather than events. There is an inherent advantage in conceptualizing disasters as processes which focuses on interrelated issues and also to achieve some specific results in terms of greater understanding of impacts. Microdis is one such effort in the direction of understanding impacts of disasters.
One of the objectives of the EU funded 6th Framework Microdis Integrated Project is to understand social impacts of disasters with particular reference to floods, wind storm and earthquake. The multi-country teams involved in this endeavor hail from United Kingdom, The Netherlands, India and Philippines. This multi-country team is also multi-disciplinary in nature representing geography, psychology, social anthropology, sociology, development studies and social medicines.
Cross-disciplinary teams bring in the methodological nuances of different disciplines on the same platform which provide us with better tools for both data collection and analysis. This also includes sharing of past experiences in disaster research which help in contextualizing the study against the backdrop of practicality.
The paper discusses the challenges faced in constructing MIDSIAT (Microdis Social Impact Assessment Tool) within the Microdis framework. This tool is envisaged as a quantitative culture and disaster free tool. Midsiat includes socio-demographic, socio-cultural, socio-economic, socio-political, socio-psychological and socio-structural dimensions under social impact ensemble.