Tag Archives: disability

Hurricane Matthew – Green shoots of recovery

This blog piece is written by Katleen Jeanty, a communications consultant working with CBM to cover Hurrican Matthew in the Caribbean.

Three days. That’s how long it took. Three days to fully recover – both physically and emotionally – from what I experienced during my trip to Haiti’s southwestern peninsula, just two weeks after Hurricane Matthew made landfall. I had the honour of accompanying a team from CBM’s Haiti office that went to assess how people with disabilities dealt with the hurricane and determine what were their needs and priorities. As a communications professional, I went along with a photographer to capture and tell their stories.

The category-four hurricane hit the already vulnerable island nation on October 4, 2016, leaving in its wake a trail of devastation not seen in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. Videos and pictures started circulating on social media almost immediately, showing the sheer power of Mother Nature. Powerful winds mowed down trees, ripped off roofs and lifted entire homes from their foundations. Rivers swelled, swallowing anything and everything in their paths…homes, roads, bridges, trees, livestock, residents.Survivors are left in need of rebuildingtheir lives, from fixing their homes to assuring they have enough food to eat tofinding ways to make a living to take care of their families.

Hurricane Matthew Haiti 2016 Images taken during needs assessment visit to southwestern regions of the country - including Les Cayes and Jérémie - from 16 to 21 October This image shows Alexis Joseph, CBM Accessibility Program Manager and and Katleen Jeanty (Communications), during focus group discussion.

This image shows Alexis Joseph, CBM Accessibility Program Manager and Katleen Jeanty (Communications – on the left), during focus group discussion at a needs assessment visit after Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti.

Although I was nervous in the days leading up to the trip, as I didn’t know what we would see or how I would process the stories we’d hear, stories I knew would be heart-breaking, I couldn’t wait to go. So, I prepared as much as I could and at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 16th, I waited to be picked up to start the estimated seven-hour journey. All along the road, as we got closer to the impacted area, I started looking for signs of destruction. And literally, just like that, about 3.5 hours in, we saw the first set of downed trees and damaged houses – those either missing roofs or completely flattened. But even with all of the pictures and videos we saw, nothing could have prepared us for what awaited us.

As we left the town of Les Cayes and got close to entering the city of Jérémie, our final destination for the day, we were left speechless. Complete devastation. Town after town, it was the same story, damaged trees, buildings and lives.

During our week-long trip, which had to be cut short due to extreme flooding from days of non-stop torrential downpours,we participated in coordination meetings at the Departmental Emergency Operation Centres (COUD), with the Coordinators of the Civil Protection Department (DPC) and the President’s Departmental Representative of the Grand Anse and South departments. During these meetings, we discussed the immediate need for food, water, medicine, corrugated metal and tarp to assist residents in the outskirts now, with long-term needs for economic opportunities, especially for people with disabilities. The most shocking outcome of that meeting was learning that there are areas that have no houses standing and that residents in those have taken to sleeping in graves and caves.

We also met with several Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) across the area, traveling at times up to three hours each way to assess their capacities to support their members, and had the opportunity to hear the heart-breaking stories from the members themselves. We also witnessed aid starting to reach some of the affected communities, although not specifically people with disabilities. But with so many hard-to-access villages, it may be weeks before some of these victims see anyone. Nonetheless, we were extremely happy to see several organisations and missionaries on the ground, mobilising to distribute food, provide medical attention and medicine to the sick and injured, as well as home improvement materials for those affected to start boarding up their houses.

Is it enough? Absolutely not! The need down there is enormous and people’s lives are at stake.

Most impressive though? The amount of local Haitians we saw working with these organizations. Again, is it enough? Far from it, but we started and that’s what’s most important! Now to keep it going, especially for those who were most affected.

I’m happy to have been involved in this early work. And I look forward to seeing how CBM, with its partners, ensures that people with disabilities, their families, and other community members are identified and supported to recover from the hurricane.

Finally, again on the bright side, as we left the greater south, we literally saw the shoots of recovery: We noticed that many of the trees that were brown and completely bare from losing their leaves on Sunday when we first got there, have already starting sprouting bright green new baby leaves.

Just a little reminder that there is always hope as long as there is life!

More reading:

Leanie, who works with a local Disabled Person’s Organisation (DPO) in Haiti, lost her house and livelihood during hurricane Matthew. She is matter-of-fact about the situation, saying “I just want to go back to being able to take care of myself”. Read her story here.

Inclusive humanitarian action – Africa leads the way

The 4th Annual International Humanitarian Partnership Conference, organised under the Inter Agency Working Group on Disaster Preparedness for East & Central Africa (IAWG), has just finished in Nairobi. It was a pleasure to attend, and to have the chance to contribute. And it was an inspiration to all who are advocating for meaningful inclusion in humanitarian action.

I embolden the word ‘meaningful’ because I see a difference emerging in the rhetoric at these events. Attendees are now generally aware of the statistics like one billion persons with disabilities worldwide, and the fact that people with disabilities are disproportionately affected in disaster and conflict situations. But now, it seems we are moving on, and really identifying the causes and solutions.

The theme at this year’s conference was ‘Disability and Age Inclusion in Humanitarian Practice: Scaling up progress toward the achievement of Agenda 2030‘. The timing is good: In the last 18 months we’ve seen the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), the release of the related Dhaka Declaration, and the launch of the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action. And of course we have the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which marks 10 of existence this year.

These documents provide the foundations. We are now ready to build, and I saw evidence of this over the last few days.

Many speakers highlighted in their presentations that if we are to achieve inclusion as an end result, then we need to ensure inclusion from the outset. What does this mean? It means that persons with disabilities – usually through Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) – must be part of policy-making and planning of humanitarian action. And this should not be simply ‘checkbox attendance’, but should be meaningful (that word again) participation.

There was a real appreciation during the event of the various unique skills and knowledge of the individuals present and of the organisations they represent (from humanitarian organisations, to DPOs, to organisations of older people). So much so that hands shot up at the end when asked who has specialist knowledge to share. One participant neatly described it as ‘organisations helping each other through the baby steps of learning inclusion’.  Call it baby steps or not, I’m sure there will be much networking and cross-learning to come.

A regional working group on inclusion was proposed, and widely seconded.

And there was a general acceptance of the fact that to achieve this ‘first phase’ inclusion, organisations need a smarter hiring process and accessible infrastructure. All good news.

For me, I was delighted to present our new Humanitarian Hands-on Tool, which is still a prototype but well on the way to release. Feedback on this was positive. We are at the point where the basic nuts and bolts guidance is necessary for field workers tasked with inclusive preparedness and response initiatives. Watch this space for this one.

Of course, the need for data disaggregated by disability was raised. This is not an afterthought: It is an ongoing concern across all the 2015 agenda fields, an essential prerequisite if we are to deliver aid that works for everyone.

Lastly, a telling point was when asked who is responsible for ensuring inclusion, we came to the conclusion that we all are.  I look forward to the future.

Read some of the social media buzz as it happened

 

 

CBM’s End the Cycle has a new website!

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Since September 2015 I’ve the great privilege of coordinating the End the Cycle project. End the Cycle is a CBM International programme that promotes the human rights and lived experience of persons with disabilities in low and middle income countries.

Screen shot of new website www.endthecycle.info

Screen shot of new website www.endthecycle.info

Over time, End the Cycle has become known for producing short, high quality and engaging videos that promote the lived experience of a person with disability. Persons with disability from low or middle income countries tell their own in their own words. Over time, the videos have helped bring the perspectives, opinions and contributions of persons with disabilities into meetings, conferences, trainings and awareness raising events all around the world.

In 2016 End the Cycle has taken a big leap forward to help take the resources even further.

On 20 September 2016 End the Cycle launched a brand new website www.endthecycle.info. For the first time, videos and factsheet are now available online in English, French and Spanish and can be directly downloaded from the website.

It’s really exciting seeing some of the most popular End the Cycle videos and factsheets translated into new languages, making it possible for them to be used in even more places around the world. We are planning to add new stories in the months to come: Starting with stories from Jordan.

To learn more about End the Cycle visit www.endthecycle.info

‘At the heart’ of humanitarian decision-making

“Together we launched a ground-breaking charter that places people with disabilities at the heart of humanitarian decision-making”

When Ban Ki-moon makes a statement like that, of course it does not mean we have achieved all our goals yet but it does show a hugely positive shift in the understanding of disability in situations of crisis, conflict and disaster. Gone are the stereotypical phrases that generally lead us back to a ‘charity’ model. Instead, there is the recognition of the necessity to have us at the table where plans are made; this is the first step towards real inclusion.

This is what I was writing about before the World Humanitarian Summit opened, so it was with great pleasure that I heard Secretary-General of the United Nations close the summit in such a way.

So it is a first step, but no time to relax. Now the real work begins: ensuring the the Charter, already endorsed by more than 80 stakeholders, is used, promoted and further endorsed;  ensuring that persons with disabilities and disabled people’s organisations are really part of discussions as equal partners and not only consulted in a check-box style approval process; and increasing the exchange of skills and knowledge between the humanitarian and disability communities.

I’m flying shortly, but will add to this blog soon, with more details on events over the last couple of days and opinion/comments from participants, so do check back. In the meantime, if you weren’t following live, you can catch up here:

@CBMworldwide
@gordonrattray
@Vscherrer

And now updated, 26th May

During the events I sought the opinions of several people. Here are two that struck me as particularly relevant.

Two men at a booth in a conference. The booth has branding 'CBM HHoT, Humanitarian Hands-on Tool'

Nazmul Bari at the CBM HHoT booth in the World Humanitarian Summit Innovation Fair. HHoT is a prototype application to provide humanitarian field workers with practical guidance on accessibility

Nazmul Bari, Director, Centre for Disability in Development (CDD):

“There are many barriers that cause persons with disabilities to be left behind during humanitarian crises. These begin to take effect immediately post-disaster, with a lack of data and info meaning that rescuers don’t know specifics about who lives where. Then, the sudden change in environment means that difficult decisions must be made, like who to prioritise during evacuation; persons with disabilities are often seen as least important.

“Transportation to safe shelter may not be accessible and once reaching there we have examples where people are turned away on the grounds of their disability. Even if the shelter is reached and the person is accepted, there are considerations like safety, security and accessibility of latrines.

“As time moves on, the next priorities include ensuring that relief efforts are inclusive. Commonly, information about and location of distribution points are not accessible to everyone. As well as directly excluding some people this indirectly puts an extra burden on family members who may then have to collect and transport multiple relief items. A further consequence is that normal support systems – e.g. caring for children – may be disrupted. There are then more challenges once early recovery is underway: Are livelihood and longer-term rebuilding/reconstruction efforts taking the needs of everyone into account?”

Two women at a booth during a conference. The booth has branding 'Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities'

Nelly Caleb, co-Chair of Pacific Disability Forum (PDF) at the Disability Group booth

Nelly Caleb, National Coordinator of Disability Promotion and Advocacy Association in Vanuatu, Board Member International Disability Alliance (IDA) and co-Chair of Pacific Disability Forum (PDF):

Persons with disabilities are excluded from projects and policies, even if, on paper, they are ‘included’. We must be able to actively participate. In the South Pacific we see disaster affects persons with disabilities a lot, so PDF helped different countries such as Vanuatu to developed a toolkit to help NGOs, civil societies and these countries to facilitate inclusion in their Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and disaster response work.