VULNERABILITY AND SOCIAL TRANSFERS Vulnerability tends to be a term that is used rather loosely; consequently it is often confused with, or used as a synonym for, ultra-poverty (being unable to meet even minimum food needs); or its descriptive meaning varies with the context in which it appears. Here, vulnerability is taken to mean both that people experience high risk of events that have adverse impacts on their livelihoods, and that their ability to deal with risky events when they occur is impaired (Devereux, 2002; Ellis, 2006b). Risky events, or shocks as they are often called, can occur individually (accident, illness, death) or community-wide (drought, ﬂoods, plant or animal diseases) (Dercon, 2002). Ability to deal with them when they occur, and thus avert livelihood collapse, depends much on the asset status of households. A household with strong and diverse assets (land, family labour, savings, livestock, tools, etc.) is better able to cope with a shock than a household with weak or depleted assets. Note that both sides of the vulnerability deﬁnition are relevant: the degree of risk of adverse events occurring, and the inability to cope. High risk on its own is not a good indicator of vulnerability (for example, for families that have plentiful resources and many options), and depleted assets would less often lead to livelihood failure in a low risk environment. It follows that vulnerability rises owing either to rising risk or to falling ability to cope, or to some combination of both those factors. People...
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