Handicap International staff were recently called as expert witnesses to the Disability and Development Inquiry at the House of Commons, called by the International Development Select Committee. Handicap International’s UK Director, Aleema Shivji, and our Regional Coordinator for Disability Rights, Ola Abu Alghaib, were questioned during the Inquiry’s evidence sessions in January.

Domingo, a 58-year-old diabetic, was injured while clearing debris around his home in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. He could not access the health care he needed and developed an infection, which led to his leg being amputated.
© Maud Bellon / Handicap International

80% of the world’s one billion people with disabilities live in developing countries and the inquiry was launched to look into a number of key areas. Committee members focused their questions on the adequacy of the Department for International Development’s (DfID) current policy commitments on disability and what role the UK government could play in ensuring that post-2015 development goals meaningfully include disability issues. The Select Committee is expected to report its findings in April 2014. The evidence sessions were a welcome opportunity for Handicap International to make a strong contribution based on more than 30 years’ experience supporting disabled and vulnerable people worldwide.

Written evidence calls for inclusion of people with disabilities

Before the ‘oral evidence sessions’ took place, Handicap International submitted written evidence to the Inquiry. Our evidence commended DfID for steps taken to make both its policies and the implementation of programmes more inclusive, but highlights that much more remains to be done. It also highlighted the need to focus on the inclusion of disability issues in humanitarian response activities; the impact of armed violence; and the fundamental importance of rehabilitation in both humanitarian and long-term development planning were also highlighted.

Recommendations submitted as part of the evidence called on DfID to collect data on disabled people impacted by its humanitarian and civil society programmes. Handicap International also called on DfID to use its influence with UN agencies to ensure they include the needs of disabled people, older people and people with injuries.

Speaking on the first day of the enquiry, Handicap International’s disability rights coordinator, Ola, spoke about how important local Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) are to the progression of disability rights, noting how important it is that DfID takes a proactive approach towards engaging DPOs. Watch video of Ola’s evidence session

Lack of information one of the main barriers to accessing aid

On 21st January, our Director, Aleema, was called to give expert evidence to Select Committee members so that they could hear from an NGO with first-hand experience of working with disabled people in crisis situations. Other witnesses called to give evidence during the session included Tim Wainwright, the Chair of the BOND Disability and Development Group and Barbara Frost, Chief Executive of WaterAidWatch video of Aleema’s evidence session here.

Aleema’s experience as part of emergency response teams in a number of humanitarian crises was unique amongst those giving evidence. She highlighted how crucial access to basic information is when planning for and responding to natural disasters. Having access to information was identified as vital to people with disabilities, who are often unaware of what aid is available and where they can access it. It was noted that the preparedness of people with disabilities before disasters occur can make the difference between life and death. Aleema cited the results of a survey of people with disabilities, conducted by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, which found that disabled people were twice as likely to be able to evacuate quickly and safely if they had information about what to do in the event of a natural disaster.

Looking beyond ‘marginalised groups’

During the evidence session, Aleema emphasised that whilst UN agencies and NGOs often speak about including ‘marginalised groups’, not enough organisations were focused on who these different marginalised groups were, and that groups such as disabled people, older people, women and children, will have different needs. Aleema said: “There needs to be a way to make sure that there is a specific focus on disabled people, older people and ethnic minorities”, amongst other marginalised groups”.

Supporting NGOs to make their activities more inclusive

Aleema told the committee that one of the biggest barriers preventing people with disabilities from accessing aid in disaster situations, is that many NGOs on the ground do not know how to make their activities more inclusive. It was for this reason that Handicap International was identified as an inclusion focal point for members of DfID’s Rapid Response Facility in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Minister for International Development, Lynn Featherstone, spoke about Handicap International’s response to Typhoon Haiyan when she gave evidence to the Inquiry a week later:

“Handicap International is a key partner meeting the needs of vulnerable people in disaster situations. After Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, they provided vulnerable people with emergency shelters, blankets, soap, cooking utensils and distributed DfID donated tents… they provided expert training to 20 other charities on the ground on including vulnerable people in emergency situations.”

There is much work still to be done and Handicap International will continue to keep up the pressure to ensure that disability remains on DfID’s agenda and that disabled people increasingly benefit form humanitarian and development programmes.

Source Article from: Humanity & Inclusion

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