- Populations most vulnerable to climate change include: people with low income or no-income (including migrants and migrating groups, i.e., Romani) and homeless people; women and LGBTQI+; people with disabilities; elderly people and children; and people working outdoors.
Low income and no-income groups often live in remote areas of the country or the city and/or have limited access to economic and social benefits. They can lack the means to protect themselves (not having the access to air cooling or having to spend more hours on public transport which lacks air cooling systems) or recover from extreme weather events. In Ukraine, the proportion of low-income families is higher in smaller cities and villages. For such families often the only wealth is represented by the house they live in. In the case of extreme weather events, such as flooding, a family risks losing everything they had and not being able to recover. Often these families rely more on their own agricultural produce, therefore are more prone to the effects of climate change on agricultural production (directly, from their own fields, and indirectly – from the changing prices on traded produce). Also, this group is not protected from a lack of (clean) water. Water can be taken for free from public water sources, but in case of inability to use them (due to lowered quality, being polluted, or destroyed) – they may be not able to shift to paid water sources.
The most vulnerable are people living in informal living spaces (often Romani and homeless), which are often constructed from less durable materials, and therefore can hardly protect from extreme weather events. Although many low-income families live in private houses or apartment buildings, many of these are too old and lack energy efficiency devices. Often being employed informally or lacking other documents or simply due to discrimination, they are unlikely to be supported by state programs.
Homeless people are often discriminated against due to their socio-economic status and may not have sufficient access to public spaces that could provide them with air cooling or any other means of protection or hygiene or water access. For example, public toilets are often lacking, while those that are available – are paid ones. Most often homeless persons have chronic illnesses, but lack access to medical services due to lacking needed documents. The homeless are usually not protected from extreme weather events, and in case of emergency, they access information on how to act and social connections for getting informed.
Women are more prone to the effects of climate change most often due to their lower incomes (21,3% lower compared to men in Ukraine in 2020). That is due to socially constructed inequality, and related horizontal and vertical gender segregation. This often happens in more industrialized areas of Ukraine, such as coal regions in the East of Ukraine. Moreover, women are less likely to be in higher positions or serve as representatives to the government. That means that women are less likely to be represented on the policy-making level and their concerns are less likely to be voiced. Most of the health workers are women, which puts them at risk of being infected in case of a climate change induced transmittable disease outbreak.
LGBTQI+ representatives can be vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to general discrimination and marginalization of their community. That is especially the case considering that LGBTQI+ persons are not widely accepted in Ukraine.
Generally, people with disabilities are less likely to be employed, because of complicated employment procedures and social welfare, and that leads to them having insufficient resources and access to social services. Moreover, some people with disabilities may depend on the weather conditions in order to enable them to go outside to access services or food (especially those with limited movement who may have difficulty moving around when it’s freezing).
Children and elderly are vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to age-specific features. For example, the elderly is less mobile, less durable, most often have chronic illnesses or other limiting factors impacting how they adapt and react to extreme weather events. The ability to adapt to the changes in the environment is linked to income, which is limited for elderly persons. For children the need for additional assistance is linked to limited knowledge on how to act in weather emergency. Children are vulnerable to drastic weather changes, especially the youngest, during heatwaves, as they have yet not fully functioning thermoregulation system.
People working outdoors spend many hours in conditions where there is no protection from high temperatures in rural or urban areas and most often, they do hard manual work. Men often work outside making them more prone to high temperatures, air pollution, transmittable diseases and extreme weather events. Of course, there are recommendations for outdoor working regimes and other protective measures. But outdoor work sometimes is informal, which also means that in such situations the recommendations are less likely to be followed.
Policies in place. For protecting these groups, there are multiple regulations in place that identify how to improve the life of vulnerable groups. However, there are no specific programs for adaptation of vulnerable groups to climate change.
Contact Relevant Organizations
Cedos – analytical centre investigating social issues (NGO Centre for Society Research)
Ekoltava – independent association of experts and environmentalists
CF “Right to Protection” – organization working on protection of the rights of IDPs, refugees, and stateless persons, including protection under environmental risks in the East of Ukraine
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Ukraine Country Manager Anastasiia Bushovska