Harsh weather needs money, support network

Jan. 22, 2011 at 9:16 PM
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WACO, Texas, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Adapting to harsh weather is a function of perception of risk, resources and the ability of people to think and act collectively, a U.S. researcher says.

Dr. Sara Alexander, an applied social anthropologist at Baylor University, studied different households in several coastal communities in Belize.

Alexander and her team identified vulnerable households in these communities and examined how they adapted and coped with droughts, hurricanes and floods.

The researchers measured each household's long-term resilience and identified specific behaviors and strategies that allowed some families to "weather the storm" better than others, Alexander says.

The researchers found 49 percent of vulnerable households turn to their faith, 43 percent to their family, 36 percent turned to their friends for emotional support, 19 percent turned to financially based responses and 8 percent made attempts to secure credit to make repairs.

Households that have the highest levels of money are more likely to use their savings or sell their assets to get finances for repairs and rebuilding. More vulnerable households have a poorer response than those with secure livelihoods or those who have a network of people to seek assistance.

"The results suggest that both vulnerable and secure households respond to weather-related events, but they do so in different ways," Alexander says in a statement.

The results are scheduled to be published in the journal Climatic Change and Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change.

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