Social Vulnerability to Natural Disasters: A Study of Skopje, Macedonia

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Master of Community Planning
Title Social Vulnerability to Natural Disasters: A Study of Skopje, Macedonia
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2007
Citizens in developing countries face extreme vulnerability to natural disasters.
Disaster vulnerability is exacerbated because of modern human settlement patterns
and development priorities. In the West, disaster mitigation techniques rely on science
and engineering. In developing countries, resources do not permit this. Therefore, an
alternative approach is required. In 1963, an earthquake devastated Skopje,
Macedonia. An international response saw the city rebuilt, but today's dramatically
different sociopolitical landscape has heightened this city's vulnerability to natural
disasters. Based on a 2006 survey of 324 citizens in Skopje, this study profiled
earthquake vulnerability in the nation's capital and found that vulnerability varied
depending on neighborhood, ethnicity, and income. Feelings of trust in government, a
fear of natural disasters, and a sense of fatalism towards the occurrence of disasters
varied depending on ethnicity, neighborhood, and income, but not education. The
Western approach to natural disasters assumes a stable government, economic power,
and cultural appropriateness. Because developing countries do not meet these
conditions, disaster preparedness techniques should be community-based and rely on
social capital. In Skopje, earthquake preparedness measures must focus on social, not
physical vulnerability. Only by building an approach that focuses on communities
and education—not regulation and enforcement—will this Balkan city become
resilient to the effects of natural disaster.

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