Published on Sustainable Cities

Leaving no one behind – achieving disability-inclusive disaster risk management

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Southern, Thailand - January 9, 2017: a volunteer helps a man with a disability get through the flood in his wheelchair. Photo: issara anujun /
Natural hazard events can occur in any country, at any time.  At present, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal are dealing with the aftermath of some of the worst monsoon flooding in years, which has left more than 1,200 people dead and millions homeless.  At the same time, North America and the Caribbean region are responding to some of the strongest hurricanes on record.

At such times of peril, individual and community resilience is at a premium, and we cannot afford to miss opportunities to bolster that resilience wherever possible. This is especially true with respect to certain groups – such as persons with disabilities – who have historically been disproportionately affected by natural hazards.

While some strides have been made in addressing the needs of persons with different disabilities in response and recovery efforts, fewer efforts are aimed at incorporating lessons into long-term disaster and climate risk management at a systemic and/or policy level.  

More needs to be done to create disability inclusion for all  – a topic that was discussed during a Facebook Live chat on September 19.

Such approaches are necessary, not only to ensure that persons with disabilities are not disproportionately impacted by natural hazards, but because disability-inclusive disaster risk management (DRM) interventions have the potential to benefit all  members of society. For this to happen though, there must be more coordination and cross-sector synergies between the DRM and disability communities.

On August 30, a group of experts met at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., to discuss the inclusion of persons with disabilities in disaster risk management (DRM). This consultation was the first of its kind for the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). Led by the Disability Stakeholder Group, the impact and influence of bringing together hundreds of persons with disabilities, and representatives disability organizations worldwide resulted in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction leading as the most disability-inclusive international mainstream framework, which clearly sets out how implementers operationalize disability issues.

Aligning with the Sendai Framework priorities for disaster risk reduction, the participants to the experts’ convening identified several issues on disability-inclusive DRM, including:

  1. Recognize the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as one of the key instruments for DRM. In particular, Article 11 states that “parties shall take 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.”
  2. Effective and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in all DRM initiatives, ensuring empowerment in becoming key implementation stakeholders, as defined in the Sendai Framework Section V 36(a)(iii).  By coordinating efforts between disaster risk management experts and disability experts, we are supporting cross-learning and capacity development between the two sectors.  
  3. Consider intersectionality between different at-risk groups, and avoid “one-size-fits-all” solutions as a recipe for inclusion. Disability does not form a homogenous group, but rather brings together a wide range of people  that cuts across all other at-risk groups (gender, poor households, children, ethnic minorities etc.). This necessitates bringing a set of unique expertise and capacities that should be recognized and used to enhance community resilience.  
  4. Consider the interrelationship between the different international and national policies that contribute to DRM, and strengthen the inclusion and capacity of persons with disabilities.
  5. Consider all risks, and take measures to mitigate structural, social and economic risks that directly affect persons with disabilities.
  6. Develop a data collection system that considers age, gender, and disability disaggregated data. (See, for example, the Washington City Group short set of questions.) Additionally, identify a set of voluntary indicators that can be used by governments and other stakeholders to track their progress in including persons with disabilities in their disaster risk management programs.
  7. Ensure that recommendations address different levels of engagement, from community level up to larger systemic levels.
  8. Ensure that DRM actions across the Sendai Framework are undertaken with a comprehensive approach to accessibility and universal design. For example, community consultations to prepare disaster response plans, early warning systems, disaster response mechanisms, and recovery efforts, will all benefit from being accessible to persons with disabilities and others.
The World Bank Group, through the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), is committed to supporting country implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The rich discussion has provided a clear outline for the development of a report on disability-inclusive DRM as we shape the recommendations and actions for including persons with disabilities in the World Bank and GDFRR’s disaster risk management investments.
Kathmandu Nepal - May 9 2015: Girls walking past collapsed building after earthquake disaster.
Photo: Somjin Klong-ugkara /


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