Five actions for disability-inclusive disaster risk management


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Photo Credit: Guilhem Alandry doculab Malteser International / Flickr CC
Photo Credit: Guilhem Alandry doculab Malteser International / Flickr CC

While disasters threaten the well-being of people from all walks of life, few are as disproportionately affected as the over one billion people around the world who live with disabilities. Following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, for example, the fatality rate for persons with disabilities was up to four times higher than that of the general population.
Persons with disabilities are especially vulnerable when disaster strikes not only due to aspects of their disabilities, but also because they are more likely, on average, to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities, including higher poverty rates. Disasters and poorly planned disaster response and recovery efforts can exacerbate these disparities, leaving persons with disabilities struggling to cope even more both during and after the emergency.
In advance of the Global Disability Summit, and drawing on a recent report titled “Disability Inclusion in Disaster Risk Management” from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and the Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank, here are five actions that development institutions, governments, and other key stakeholders can take to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in the aftermath of a disaster. 

1. Ensure that persons with disabilities have a seat at the table.
Persons with disabilities and disabled persons’ organizations (DPOs) have invaluable knowledge, experience, and expertise about how to make disaster risk management activities responsive to their needs. It is vital to include them in the design, implementation, and monitoring of these activities. The Indonesian province of Central Java has set an example for how to help make this happen by creating a disability inclusion service unit within the local disaster management office.
2. Remove barriers to full participation of persons with disabilities.
It is not enough, however, for persons with disabilities to have a seat at the table. Far too often, they face physical, informational, communication and other barriers that prevent them from participating in full. Accordingly, development institutions, governments, and other key stakeholders must make every effort to break down these barriers. This includes ensuring that physical or virtual sites for meetings and consultations are barrier-free, providing accommodations such as sign language interpretation and Braille materials when needed, and providing information in accessible formats.

3. Increase awareness among governments on the needs of persons with disabilities.

Awareness about the vulnerabilities of persons with disabilities both during and after disaster remains limited among some governments. Regrettably, this means that they may not give priority to the well-being of persons with disabilities during disaster response and recovery. It is thus critical to build government awareness about the needs of persons with disabilities. In Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand, the University of Sydney’s Disability and Disasters project is doing just that by developing training modules which allow government officials, among other users, to get up to speed on the risks that disasters pose to persons with disabilities.
4. Collect data that is inclusive of persons with disabilities.
In far too many parts of the world, data and statistics disaggregated by disability is simply not available. This can make it challenging to design and implement disaster risk management activities, which are responsive to the needs of persons with disabilities.  Countering data gaps requires support for data collection activities, such as censuses and household surveys. In the Philippines, the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) Community Resilience Program is working with disabled persons’ organizations to gather disability data – an inclusive approach to data collection, which could be emulated elsewhere.
5. “Build back better” by improving accessibility for persons with disabilities.
Across the disaster risk management community, the movement to “build back better” continues to gain traction. But as GFDRR’s “Building Back Better” report recently pointed out, there is a need to ensure that reconstructed infrastructure is not only more resistant to future hazards, but also more inclusive of vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities, the elderly, and pregnant women. Disaster recovery efforts should strive to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities, as has been the case in post-earthquake Haiti, which enacted a law to ensure that all buildings, both new and rebuilt, are accessible to persons with disabilities. 


Margaret Arnold

Global Lead, Social Dimensions of Climate Change

Deepti Samant Raja

Disability and Development Consultant

Lorenzo Piccio

Knowledge Management and Communications Consultant, GFDRR

July 24, 2018

Helpful and informative. Thank you.

July 25, 2018

nice blog,well written. we provide a bank service visit here Standard Chartered India

Jack Jean Chalhoub
July 27, 2018

We must apply this five recommended actions of the world Bank immediately in Lebanon.

Jack Jean Chalhoub
July 27, 2018

We must apply this five recommended actions of the world Bank immediately in Lebanon.

July 27, 2018

Very informative and useful for drrm practitioners. Kindly publish an article highlighting procedures on how to respond to or assist pwds. Thank you.

July 28, 2018

so educative.thank you

July 30, 2018

CBM recently launched the Humanitarian Hands-on Tool (HHOT).…

August 09, 2018

WE should do much more . Digital economy is also for people with disabilities!!!!

August 16, 2018

Plusieurs études montrent que la prise en compte des besoins et des opinions des personnes handicapées à toutes les étapes de la gestion des catastrophes, et en particulier lors de la préparation et de la planification, peut réduire de façon importante leur vulnérabilité et augmenter l’efficacité des interventions et des activités de relèvement gouvernementales. Pourtant, en dépit de l’attention croissanteportée au niveau mondial à la réduction des risques de catastrophe, par rapport à la simple réaction d’urgence, la plupart des municipalités et des gouvernements ne prennent pas suffisamment en considération les besoins des personnes handicapées dans leurs activités de gestion des catastrophes. Il en découle de graves inégalités dans l’accès aux secours d’urgence ainsi qu’aux efforts de relèvement à long terme, que ce soit pour les personnes qui étaient déjà handicapées antérieurement à la catastrophe et pour celles dont le handicap résulte de la catastrophe. Les efforts de réhabilitation et de reconstruction ne doivent pas seulement refuser l’exclusion et prendre en considération les besoins de tous, y compris les personnes handicapées, mais doivent aussi faire appel à la participation de ces dernières de sorte que leurs besoins soient satisfaits et leurs droits respectés. Les femmes handicapées sont un groupe particulièrement vulnérable dont les besoins devraient être pris en compte à toutes les étapes du relèvement et de la reconstruction.

Alex Camacho
August 21, 2018