Sweta Tiwari, Andrey N. Petrov, Michele Devlin, Mark Welford, Nikolay Golosov, John DeGroote, Tatiana Degai & Stanislav Ksenofontov

Background: The Arctic communities are socially vulnerable, yet they also have enormous inherent resilience and adaptive capacities leading to low COVID-19 mortality rates (except for Northern Russia) compared to their national counterparts. Thus, a conventional vulnerability approach to understanding pandemic risks across the Arctic seems insufficient. This study considers vulnerability and resilience as separate but interrelated and complementary facets of a risk assessment. Based on this premise, this study introduces a pandemic vulnerability-resilience framework that synthesizes underlying factors defining the Arctic communities’ susceptibility and ability to cope with and recover from disease outbreaks.

Methods: In particular, using North West Territories (NWT) communities as an example, we developed the pandemic vulnerability-resilience framework considering its communities’ vulnerability and resilience features.

Results: We found that highly vulnerable Indigenous communities ranked medium or high in resilience, whereas low-resilient non-Indigenous communities ranked low in vulnerability. The primary sources of resilience to a pandemic in remote Indigenous communities are traditional country food, the strength of knowledge systems, and geographic isolation. With respect to vulnerability, these communities are often found to be vulnerable in socioeconomic, demographic, housing, and transportation domains.

Conclusion: High-resilience communities, even though highly vulnerable, have capacities to cope with or recover from the pandemic. Low-resilience communities will be less impacted by a pandemic only if they are low in vulnerability. Considering either vulnerabilities or resilience would result in the misallocation of resources thus this study recommends a combined assessment of both. Thus, the proposed pandemic vulnerability-resilience framework enables community leaders and/or government officials at different levels to identify the indicators which are below par or thresholds and plan interventions accordingly.

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