Nepal: Disability-inclusive disaster response
By Sudarshan Neupane
When a disaster occurs, it threatens the wellbeing of all people. However, some vulnerable groups like people with disabilities, the elderly, children and pregnant women get disproportionately affected. According to the World Bank, there are over one billion people with disabilities in the world, more than two-thirds of whom are from developing countries like Nepal. Nonetheless, there is a big gap in how to address the challenges and barriers faced by people with disabilities in disasters. Learning from the massive 2015 earthquakes and recent disasters in Nepal, it is high time for us to ensure inclusion of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, not only in times of disaster response but also in the preparedness phase.
These actions are most preferred to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in disaster management. First, understating the barriers for the full participation of people with disabilities and working towards removing them is key. People with disabilities and their families face several kinds of discrimination and physical barriers (lack of accessible venues, sanitation facilities and transportation), inaccessible information and communication (no sign language interpreter, Braille or audio materials for people with visual impairments) and other types of attitudinal barriers to fully identify disabled persons as part of human diversity and acknowledge their abilities. It is, therefore, very important for all government and non-governmental actors (including the private sector) to understand these barriers and ensure accessibility to promote the equal and active participation of all people.
Second, it is high time for all development actors to better engage with disabled people’s organisations and people with disabilities in all disaster risk management phases. It is noteworthy to mention that disabled people’s organisations and their federations have made a great contribution in drafting and implementing inclusive policies and frameworks. One should understand that people with disabilities and disabled people’s organisations have rich experience, knowledge and expertise on how to make disaster risk management activities friendlier to them and their needs. It is strongly advisable to include people with disabilities in the design, implementation and monitoring of activities. In order to promote mainstreamed inclusion in the overall disaster risk management sector, there is a need for capacity building of humanitarian and development workers and local government representatives, and first responders to be trained in disability inclusion issues for which partnership with expert organisations and disabled people’s organisations definitely helps.
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