Handicap International is marking the International Day for Disaster Reduction on 13th October by highlighting the vital need for people with disabilities to be meaningfully included in planning responses to natural disasters.

This year the day holds particular significance as there will be an international focus on people with disabilities living with disasters. One key theme will be the unique, but often overlooked, contributions that people with disabilities can and do make to reducing the risk of disasters and building resilient communities.

Disaster risk reduction is vital
We know how vital disaster risk reduction is because we’ve seen first-hand the impact that disasters have on communities, and particularly on vulnerable people.

“It is vital that people with disabilities and other vulnerable persons are involved in the risk management process,” explains Annie Lafrenière, Handicap International’s Disaster Risk Reduction Technical Advisor. “They need to participate at every stage of the process, not only in preparing contingency plans ahead of a crisis, but also in the response when a natural disaster occurs.”

Poorer countries are often the least well equipped to respond
Developing countries face increased risks when natural disasters hit, not because they are inherently more exposed, but because they are not as well equipped to respond. The poorest members of society are most likely to be affected by natural disasters – people whose living conditions are already precarious, who have limited access to basic services and who often suffer from social and political discrimination. In areas with a lack of durable housing, road access, and trained and available emergency services, a severe weather event can rapidly turn into a crisis if no risk reduction measures have been put into place.

The most vulnerable are often the least visible
Disabilities can exacerbate the impact of a disaster on someone’s life, particularly in terms of their financial situation and their health, and may also mean they have less opportunity to prepare for disasters in advance.

Disasters can not only aggravate existing physical or psychological impairments but may also cause new ones (through injury, malnutrition, disease or trauma). They may also impact on the person’s situation more generally speaking, if they lose their cattle for example. Despite their vulnerability in disaster situations, people with disabilities are not always taken into account in disaster reduction schemes. Moreover, when disasters occur, these people are often invisible to the emergency services deployed.

Increasing resilience in Indonesia
In eight countries across Asia and the Caribbean, Handicap International is implementing activities to ensure people with disabilities are included.

In Indonesia, activities with nine schools and local communities are focused towards increasing the resilience of vulnerable groups through awareness-raising, training and by supporting the development of contingency plans.

In South Asia, a regional project, ‘Inclusive Community Resilience for Sustainable Community Development’, aims to increase community safety and resilience by developing and promoting inclusive risk management approaches. Ensuring that the needs and contributions of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups are included is a key activity.

As a member of the Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Network, Handicap International is also involved in a number of advocacy initiatives to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in planning and responding to natural disasters.

Source Article from Humanity & Inclusion

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