Persons with disabilities are among the most marginalized people in crisis-affected communities and are disproportionately affected by conflict and emergency
situations. 1 In disasters, their mortality rate is even two to four times higher than that of persons without disabilities. 2 Also, children with disabilities
are facing higher risks of abuse and neglect, and women with disabilities are at higher risk of sexual violence. These risks exacerbate in times of conflict
and disaster. Yet, at the same time persons with disabilities often experience barriers when accessing humanitarian response programmes. To make sure
that no one is left behind, state and non sate actors need to take steps to reduce the risks and enhance the conditions for persons with disabilities during times of insecurity, disaster
to put matters differently, persons with disability are an afterthought and only included as an appendix in disaster management plans. This is evident in the current COVID pandemic in the globe.
Although persons with disability are best placed to identify their support needs in emergencies, they are absent from emergency management practices and disaster risk reduction policy formulation.
For instance, in Kenya they are not represented in the COVID national response team nor the national vaccination committee.
The same is true for health emergencies.
As a public policy scholar, I opine at the start of the global pandemic in 2020, Kenyan’s public health response and management of COVID-19 failed to recognize the needs of persons with disabilities. The IDA, HI 2020 Report confirmed that, no agency of the national and county governments in Kenya, including the ministry of Health, made any significant effort to consult with people with disability or their representative organizations.
Article 4.c of the UNCRPD lays this issue into perspective although later on, they picked few bits, like provision of sign language during pressers.
moreover, A growing literature confirms that persons with disability are among the most neglected during disaster events, with particularly restricted access to social networks and support systems. for instance, the recent floods in Germany, political upheaval in Afghanistan and earth quake in Haiti. etc
This is to say the vulnerability of people with disability in emergencies is increased because people with disability have not been included in community-level disaster preparedness.
Where the needs and perspectives of persons with disability are mentioned, they:
• are assumed by non-disabled professionals without adequate consultation
• focus narrowly on one aspect of disability (e.g., physical impairment;
• are limited to the response phase of emergency management with limited attention on preparedness and recovery phases,
emphasize doing for, not with people with disability.
This perpetuates inequality for people with disability and increases their vulnerability to disaster because the full diversity of their support needs is not understood or responded to before, during and after a disaster event. Further, the capabilities and potential contributions of people building community resilience to disaster are overlooked.
Can persons with disabilities drive the disaster management agenda?
As disability sausage media we believe that Persons with disability are experts in their own needs – what they need are the right tools, time, supports and opportunities that that enable them to optimize their self-reliance and planned reliance on others in emergencies.
As the IASC guidelines stresses, Meaningful participation of persons with disability is one of must do action. This enables more effective emergency management practice that is responsive to the support needs of persons with disability in emergencies. There is no question that persons with disability must be included in disaster management planning, response and recovery decision making. What is needed is direction to entities with responsibility for emergency management on how ensure the rights of persons with disability to adequate protection, full inclusion and meaningful participation in emergency management programs, plans, strategies and policies.
What do non-disabled professions need to know?
The reality of the situation is that people with disability are not homogeneous group, this means they don't belong to one group. persons with disability have diverse capabilities, experiences, and support needs. People manage their everyday support needs in situations that are often inaccessible. Consequently, they are best positioned to identify what their support needs are and strategies for how they might be best managed in situations of uncertainty.
On the other hand, Disability inclusion in emergency management requires cross-sector collaboration. Ensuring that nobody is left behind in disasters requires cross-sector engagement and meaningful collaboration to address the barriers that increase risk for persons with disability before, during and after a disaster.
All in all, governments in the global south need to enhance disaster disability inclusion bearing in mind that This is a global challenge. People with disability are being left behind in disaster preparedness
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The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.
Australian Chief Minister Award winner
“Excellence of making inclusion happen”