Tag Archives: DRR

Embracing leadership of persons with disabilities

Disability-inclusive DRR Network (DiDRRN), including CBM, at the culmination of AMCDRR 2016.

The team from Disability-inclusive DRR Network (DiDRRN), including CBM, at the culmination of AMCDRR 2016.

As the globe observed World Tsunami Awareness Day on 5th November to highlight a collective future and the need for acting together on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction 2016 (AMCDRR 2016) ended with a strong message and commitment to leave no one behind through an ‘all of society approach’.

The record-breaking air pollution in New Delhi which is the venue for the conference and smog persisted with many people seen wearing a mask. But the air within the imposing plenary hall of Vigyan Bhawan  was brimming with expectation, which gave way to optimism for the stakeholder groups who saw their hard work paying off with the drafting committee including framework and implementation level suggestions.

All of society approach   

The three-day conference that was preceded by pre-events, saw an open and consultative deliberations which impacted the commitments in the outcome documents:  Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) 2016 New Delhi Declaration – 2016 and Asia Regional Plan for Implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

Recognising the need to bring all stakeholders together the AMCDRR process involved various stakeholder groups for developing action statements that have been appended with the Asia Regional Plan 2015-2030.

Over 4,000 participants from 41 countries took part in the conference in sessions that were open to all participants, allowing cross-sectoral discussions which found its way into different stakeholder action statements.

The summary sessions and speakers echoed the statement made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to embrace all of society.

Championing disability inclusion

The Disability Stakeholder Group had some anxious moments as the coalition of organisation recalled how the lack of specific mention to leadership and inclusion of persons with disabilities might lead to a setback in bringing inclusion to the centre stage.

The second day of the conference saw a technical session organised by the stakeholder group. As the session progressed, the room started filling up. The small but inspired contingent of disability organisations found renewed energy as the proceeding drew ministerial representatives and national institutions.

The ministerial representatives from Bangladesh emerged as the champions along with civil society participants from the country, when they pushed for the key priorities and commitments to be echoed in the New Delhi Declaration and the Asian Regional Plan 2015-2030. The tenacious wording and an assimilative approach by the drafting committee found its way into the outcome documents.

The SFDRR Asian Regional Plan 2015-2030 text mentions disability at six places in specific, apart from figuring in the New Delhi Declaration.

But the following mention in the text is particularly important:

“Adopting an inclusive approach – via multi-sector/stakeholder DRR platforms, both at national and local levels – is particularly important. It should embrace the leadership of persons with disability, women, children and youth and the significant contribution of the business sector.”

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.

World Tsunami Awareness Day and Persons with Disabilities

I had the honor to present at the side event at the United Nations on 3 November for the first annual World Tsunami Awareness Day. The event was co-hosted by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the Permanent Missions of Chile, Indonesia, Japan, and the Maldives to the United Nations.

Tsunamis are important to address since it is estimated in the past 100 years that at least 58 tsunamis have killed more than 260,000 people globally (UNISDR, 2016). The Sendai Framework, which was agreed in March 2015, provides the guidance to develop multi-hazard disaster risk reduction strategies (DRR) and strongly includes persons with disabilities.

As the only civil society presenter at the event, I was pleased to be able to give an intervention on behalf of CBM International and our Inclusive Emergency Response Unit and their stellar work with local partners to ensure that persons with disabilities are included at all levels of disaster preparedness and response. My presentation and the longer version for this blog were co-written by ERU’s Gordon Rattray. Thank you, Gordon, Valerie, and all of the ERU team!

I would also like to thank the Missions of Indonesia, Japan, and Ecuador for explicitly addressing accessibility and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in early warning systems and other DRR processes at the event.

How are persons with disabilities affected by tsunamis differently than other parts of community?

Fifteen percent of the global population has a disability. In any emergency or disaster, persons with disabilities are disproportionally affected and are at significantly higher risk than their peers without disabilities in times of a disaster. Recent figures from Miyagi prefecture following the Great East Japan earthquake indicate that the general mortality rate was 0.8% versus the mortality rate for persons with disabilities, which was 3.5% (UNESCAP, 2012). Reasons for this include inaccessibility of early-warning messages and emergency shelters, loss and damage of assistive devices, disruption of support networks, lack of communication and information access, and increased difficulty in accessing basic humanitarian operations (food, water, shelter, sanitation, and healthcare services). At the same time, emergencies can increase the number of people with disabilities, both short and long-term, due to injuries and lack of effective medical services.

In tsunamis, some degree of early warning will usually, but probably not always, be possible. The issue is that if the Early Warning System (EWS) is not accessible, it is very likely that persons with disabilities will not receive the vital information. For example, Deaf and hard of hearing people may not hear audible warnings, blind and low vision people may not see visual messages and various language considerations may be relevant for people with intellectual disabilities (and for anyone who is not a native speaker of the language being used).

If evacuation is possible, lack of accessible transportation and moving with a physical disability can be challenging. At an evacuation center there are myriad issues, such as lack of accessibility of restrooms, general accessibility of areas, lack of communication access (sign language and Braille), and people being lost and/or separated from their support networks.

Later, for people who survive the tsunami, accessing basic needs (often for survival) like clean drinking water, shelter, food and medical care are often difficult or impossible. At the same time, persons with disabilities may have lost items essential to their ability to function independently (wheelchairs, hearing aids, canes) or have been lost and/or separated from their support networks. Additionally, post-tsunami roads, sidewalks, and pathways can be obstructed by debris. And safety/security issues increase as well, including increased exposure to looting/robbery/assault, the latter being particularly an issue for women and girls with disabilities.

ALt="Presenting at the World Tsunami Awareness Day event "

Presenting at the World Tsunami Awareness Day event

What role are persons with disabilities playing now in reducing disaster risks?

Persons with disabilities are active participants in planning, implementation, and monitoring of reconstruction efforts. When persons with disabilities are considered not only recipients of aid, but as equals and are involved in relief efforts as active responders, their communities and society as a whole will benefit.

There are similarities between tsunamis and flooding and the following is an example of how persons with disabilities can be actively involved in DRR efforts to create positive change. One of CBM’s partners, the Center for Disability and Development (CDD) in Bangladesh assessed the region of Sreepur Union and found that 97 percent of persons with disabilities faced difficulties accessing safe drinking water and 96 percent had extreme difficulty in using latrines during floods.

The CDD project supported 18 persons with disabilities from six wards in the region to reconstruct accessible and flood-proofed housing with latrines and tube wells designed to continue functioning during flooding disasters. To ensure sustainability, families were encouraged to make the person with a disability owner of the land or at least part of the house to reduce stigma.

The cost of one flood-risk universally accessible house along with installation of one accessible tube well and latrine was approximately $1212. In partnership with local school management committees, local government and the community, the ground levels of two schools were also adapted to serve as accessible flood shelters with raised areas. The disability group managed to access and influence a local government budgeting procedure, which was already open to all, but not often used. The fact that persons with disabilities did this was seen by the wider community who were then inspired to do something similar showing that the empowerment of persons with disabilities in DRR processes is good for not only communities, but for society as a whole.


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