Natural disasters affect everyone and different populations may face similar risks of exposure to the negative effects. Common experience reveals that persons with disabilities are more likely to be left behind during the evacuation in disasters due to a lack of preparation and planning, as well as inaccessible facilities and services. Warnings and evacuation measures are often not accessible to people with sensory disabilities and most shelters are not accessible. People with disabilities are many times even turned away from shelters due to a perception that they need “complex medical” services. Mainstreaming disability into emergency responses and preparedness, by making disability issues and persons with disabilities visible in national and international actions plans and policies are essential to ensure equality and human rights for all.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) was adopted in December 2006.The Convention is intended as a human rights instrument and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Article 11 of UNCRPD pays particular attention to the obligation of States parties to undertake “all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.” Furthermore, Article 4.1 is stating about promoting the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disabilityand Article 32recognizes the importance of international cooperation to address the limited capacities of some States to respond to situations of risk and humanitarian crises.
Needs of persons with disabilities
Relief aid Such as food packages, medical supplies, education and training materials are often distributed through shelters; inaccessibility of shelters for persons with disabilities result in their exclusion from these vital services. Several studies show us that including the needs and voices of persons with disabilities at all stages of the disaster management process can significantly reduce their vulnerability and increase the effectiveness of Government response and recovery efforts. Women with disabilities are a particularly vulnerable group whose needs should be included at all stages of recovery and reconstruction efforts. Response teams could be trained to be disability-sensitive and relief items should be checked for their appropriateness to fulfil the needs of persons with disabilities.
Stigma and discrimination
Poor relationships within communities can be another significant determinant of inequalities for persons with disabilities. Stigma associated with disability assigns inferior or no value to people with disabilities and it leads to the denial of basic rights and services especially in the disaster context where there is a scarcity of resources. Social stigma often causes a reluctance of persons with disabilities to identify themselves as ‘disabled’ which worsens their own plight in the disaster context.
Enormous progress has been made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs).The MDGs are making a real difference in people’s lives and, with strong leadership and accountability. After 2015, efforts to achieve a world of prosperity, equity, freedom, dignity and peace will continue unabated.The UN is working with governments, civil society and other partners on an ambitious post-2015 development agenda. Advocating for disability‐inclusive policies, effective delivery of disability‐focused programmes are critical to be addressing inequalities experienced by persons with disabilities and the explicit inclusion of persons with disabilities in the post‐2015 development frame work would be a promising star.
Author is Project Manager, Jammu & Kashmir India Programme & Regional Projects/Asia, HI
Source : Rising Kashmir , October 2014