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Human vulnerability is defined as the interface between exposure to the physical threats to human well-being and the capacity of people and communities to cope with those threats. It is strongly linked to the complex make-up of society, including class, gender and age, past loss and misfortune, and susceptibility to future losses.

Vulnerable populations have limited capacity to protect themselves from current and future environmental hazards, such as polluted air and water, natural disasters, and the adverse consequences of large-scale environmental change, such as land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change. In a developing country such as South Africa, people living in poverty tend to be the most vulnerable to environmental disturbance, because they have fewer resources to help them to cope with disaster.

This theme presents the following:
  • A brief explanation of the relationships between human vulnerability and environment and human vulnerability and poverty
  • Features several case studies of human vulnerability to indicate how people are affected by environmental change
  • Highlight some reponses to human vulnerability. 
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