Why Humanitarian organizations need to meaningfully engaged persons with disabilities in Humanitarian Program Cycle It is widely recognized that the globe is currently facing triple crises on a number of different fronts, including COVID 2019 climate change and natural disasters, conflicts and wars
and terrorist activity. Climate change in particular creates many challenges to humanitarian actors in responding to events that may occur without warning
or in areas which up until now have remained free of disaster.
Moreover, many global souths are reporting an increase of the crises as well as increase in poverty levels. I opine Humanitarian actions need to be responsive to adapt to these new crises and ensure that
that response is inclusive of everyone. To create inclusive humanitarian programmes, it is important to know how many people face participation restrictions and/or are in need of assistance.
We need to be able to verify that we are reaching persons with disabilities with our programmes. But how do we know that we have reached them?
A body of research shows that persons with disabilities have been left behind in the execution of humanitarian programmes during the onset and progress of the recovery and reconstruction phases.
Similarly, sudden onset conflicts also pose multiple challenges to humanitarian actors and the affected population. People 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. 3 To make sure that no one is left behind, we need to take steps to
reduce the risks and enhance the conditions for
people with disabilities during times of insecurity and conflict.
This is to affirm, Reaching the people who are most in need of assistance is central to the humanitarian mandate and is reflected in the humanitarian principles of humanity and impartiality. In a humanitarian emergency, people with disabilities are often among those most in need of assistance as they are at heightened risk of violence, exploitation or abuse. Persons with disabilities also face discrimination due to significant barriers in accessing needed humanitarian assistance. Increased vulnerability of persons with disabilities is created by a range of factors, including environmental barriers, stigma and discrimination, as well as the design and delivery of the humanitarian response itself. If persons with disabilities are not adequately considered at all phases of the Humanitarian Program Cycle (HPC), there is a risk that humanitarian action may fail to address the specific factors that place them at risk, including barriers to equitable access to protection and assistance.
I take note, Persons with disabilities are a diverse group of people, of which many experience different intersecting discrimination and/or marginalization, which are
often exacerbated by conflict and displacement. For example, it is important to note that the prevalence of disability is higher among women (19%) and
elderly people (46% of persons aged 60 years and over) that face different intersectional barriers. Thus, it is vital to consider how e.g., age, gender
and diversity when offering adequate protection and accessibility of services. [ILO 2018 HI 2020 IDA 2020]
additionally, Persons with disabilities are often left behind due to societal barriers and are often perceived as a burden when families have to flee the conflict situation.
This is to say Maximum effectiveness of humanitarian response will not be achieved without including all of society, at all levels of activity. Yet, when it comes to
preparing for and responding to the increasing number of natural and man-made disasters happening on a global scale, the capacities, rights and needs of
women, men, girls and boys with disabilities are not yet fully addressed by the duty bearers who are the state and non-state actors. [save the children 2021 HI 2020 IDA 20220 CBM 2020]
According to COP26 2021 It is estimated there will be at least 250 million people
displaced by climatic events by 2050, of whom at least 30
million are likely to be persons with disabilities.
Women, men, girls and boys with disabilities can be often
left behind in times of emergency. For example, the barrier facilitator assessment by Humanity &Inclusion 2020 showed that most persons with disabilities in Somalia could not access services and often those who reached could not get service or were pushed aside by the crowd.
As a public policy scholar, I believe Holding State Parties and governments accountable to their commitments on inclusive humanitarian action is a key factor in ensuring that persons with
with disabilities have the same access to aid as the rest of their communities in times of crisis. Persons with disabilities must be able to access humanitarian assistance and interventions on the same terms as other members of the population. This means
that the barriers and risks they face must be identified and reduced. A rights-based inclusive approach also requires humanitarian actors to recognize
the capacity of persons with disabilities to contribute to the humanitarian response as active participants.
Humanitarian organizations need to be trained on the usage of the 4 keys must do actions from the IASC 2019 guidelines. They outline essential actions and sector
specific advice on disability inclusion in any humanitarian setting.
On the other hand, all in all, Humanitarian organizations should ensure persons with disabilities are innately included in all initiatives by, where feasible, utilizing the skills
and knowledge of local/national/international DPOs and disability-specific NGOs.
• As synergies between DRR and humanitarian action increase, through DRR at community level, persons with disabilities and DPOs can become involved. It
is becoming increasingly recognized that resilience starts with making people aware of and prepared to prevent and/or cope with a possible disaster. Involving
persons with disabilities and DPOs in this awareness and capacity building helps build resilience among persons with disabilities and that of the whole
community. Disability inclusive preparedness plans will help elicit disability inclusive emergency response. Exclusion of persons with disabilities from
humanitarian action is a breach of the principle of impartiality and undermines the efficiency and effectiveness of the action.
Development of local DRR mechanisms such as committees, action plans etc. must be inclusive of women, men, girls and boys with disabilities.
DRR plans should be closely linked to response and recovery activities and there should be greater cooperation among various humanitarian and development
actors prior to, during and after the disaster. Without this obvious linkage, humanitarian action is unlikely to be effective and efficient.
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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”
December 2021 top digital disability influencer.
Author Mugambi Paul