Vulnerability mean "a high probability of a negative outcome", or an expected welfare loss above a socially accepted norm, which results from risky/uncertain events, and the lack of appropriate risk management instruments. Vulnerability is shaped by risk and stress characteristics such as magnitude, frequency, duration, and scope, to which individuals, households and communities are exposed. This implies that vulnerability is a relative state - a multifaceted continuum between resilience and absolute helplessness.
THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL OF CHILD VULNERABILITY
Compared to adults, all children are vulnerable by nature, but some children are more critically vulnerable than others. Child vulnerability is a downward spiral where each shock leads to a new level of vulnerability, and each new level opens up for a host of new risks. In other words, the probability of a child experiencing a negative outcome rises with each shock. At the bottom of this spiral we find children who live outside of family care or in situations of severe family abuse and neglect. OVC interventions can be made at all levels to prevent (a further) increased vulnerability, or to mitigate the effect of likely shocks. The higher up in the spiral the intervention is made, the more cost-effective it is likely to be. OVC should preferably be assisted before they have reached the most critical stages of vulnerability, because interventions aimed to rescue and rehabilitate the most critically vulnerable children tend to be too expensive to be sustainable and moreover have low rates of success.