This document provides information on sex and gender differences in vulnerability to, and impact of, disasters. It looks at all levels of the disaster process: exposure to risk, risk perception, preparedness, response, physical impact, psychological impact, recovery and reconstruction.


  • There is some evidence showing that women and men may suffer different negative health consequences following a disaster. It is not clear whether this is because of biological differences between the sexes, because of socially determined differences in women’s and men’s roles and status or because of an interaction of social and biological factors.
  • Gender differences may exist in the perception of hazard risks. It has been suggested that women perceive disaster events or threats as more serious and risky than men do, especially if they threaten their family members.
  • The impact of disasters is felt differently within societies, and those most socially excluded and economically insecure bear a disproportionate burden. The impact of disasters also varies between women and men.
  • Emergency management agencies and others responsible for emergency relief such as law-enforcement agencies and fire personnel have historically been dominated by men. Male-dominated recovery groups which see disasters ‘through the eyes of men’ may organise relief work in a manner that does not take gender differences and women’s specific needs into consideration.

Usage: Guidance for project implementation

Audiences: Technical staff; Gender and diversity practitioners

Reference: World Health Organization (WHO), ( July 2002). Gender and Health in Disasters. Department of Gender and Women’s Health, Geneva, Switzerland. Pp1-4. Available at: http://www.who.int/gender/other_health/genderdisasters.pdf [Accessed: 18th July 2016].

Document Data

Author: WHO
Publication date:
Status: Final Type: PDF Size (MB): Size: 0.73
Country: Regional
Resource type: Report, Research

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