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Global Disability And Disaster Survey Highlights Urgent Need For PWDs Empowerment

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

Ms. Mami Mizutori - Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for DRR and Head, UNDRR

Persons with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by the adverse impacts of disasters due to societal barriers, more so than individual impairments. This, according to Ms. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).

“There are approximately 1.3 billion people who experience significant disabilities worldwide and many of them face social and logistical isolation. This impedes their access to disaster risk information and services, which could save their lives in the event of a disaster.”

Speaking at the training session for enhancing inclusive local disaster risk reduction strategies using the Disability Inclusion Scorecard Annex (DISA), Ms. Mizutori gave a sneak peek into insights from the second Global Survey Report On Persons With Disabilities And Disasters to understand what progress has been made and what barriers remain. The Survey was commissioned as part of the mid-term evaluation of the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction amidst the mandate to remove barriers to resilience. The Sendai Framework “champions inclusive and participatory approach to decision-making where persons with disabilities are seen, not as victims in need of assistance, but as equal stakeholders in disaster risk reduction plans and programs that impact their lives", stated Mizutori.

Survey Findings

To Mizutori, the findings reveal limited progress and even decline in some areas, highlighting the need to urgently empower persons with disabilities to meaningfully contribute to disaster risk reduction planning efforts. Survey results revealed that 84% of persons with disabilities reported not being prepared in case of a disaster. These results are 12% higher than the results found in a similar survey conducted in 2013. In addition, 86% of persons with disabilities felt excluded from participating in disaster risk decision-making at the community level while only 11% reported being aware of their country's national-level disaster risk reduction (DRR) plan and only 14% were aware of their local level plan.

As the world draws close to the observation of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (IDDRR) on October 13 under the theme, 'Fighting Inequality For A Resilient Future', Mizutori implored DRR practitioners to use tools such as the DISA to design and formulate and implement policies that are inclusive of persons with disabilities as they gained the knowhow of removing existing barriers to address the needs of persons with disabilities. “Together, let's celebrate the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction by reducing the inequalities that persist in disaster risk reduction practices. We must transform our words into action, and we must do so immediately,” she said.

Youssefian Golden Rules

Ms. Elham Youssefian - Senior Advisor of DRR and Climate Action, International Disability Alliance

Also speaking at the training event was Ms. Elham Youssefian, Senior Advisor of Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Action at the International Disability Alliance. She felt that participants at any level of the DRR spectrum, whether they be policymakers or first respondents, can mainstream disability inclusion by applying three golden rules, which can also be properly measured using the scorecard.

“First thing is that let's make sure to always remember that our ultimate goal is genuine equality. So, whenever you are thinking about what the right policy is, what is the right programme, what is the right answer to a certain question, just remember that the ultimate goal is genuine equality”, she said.

The second golden rule was not to make assumptions. “People with disabilities are not a homogenous group. They are different not only because of the type of impairment but also because like every other person they are from different ages, gender…race, nationality, refugee status, religions….The different layers of each person's identity that's in the interaction with an impairment, would make the situation different…Do not make assumptions even if you know that, for example, one person who uses a wheelchair requires this, it doesn't mean that all of them require the same thing”, she continued.

In closing, golden rule three for disability inclusion in DRR, “is that disability inclusion should not be an afterthought. This is something that should be remembered, should be thought about, should be planned well in advance when you're submitting the budget. When you are making work plans. Disability inclusion should be considered at that point. Otherwise, usually, it's going to be late to take measures for disability inclusion,” she ended.


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