Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction

May 22, 2017 | Abi Marutama

Disaster risk reduction has been trending for the past few years as the world faces climate change and man-made disasters leading to the increased number of hazardous disaster occurrences. Among the groups most vulnerable to disaster are people with disabilities. It is estimated that one billion people (equal to 15% of the global population) have disabilities and most of them live in the developing world where they suffer from extreme poverty and developmental exclusion.

When it comes to disaster risk reduction, persons with disabilities are often left behind and their capacities are often underestimated – they are more likely to be adversely affected by hazards than persons without disabilities. Children and women with disabilities are also more vulnerable in time of disaster because their needs may not be fully met. Persons with disabilities will likely experience more difficulties due to environmental changes caused by disaster and inaccessible refugee shelters. Even worse, they may experience more morbidities, disabilities, or even mortality due to hazards.

There is a study conducted by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNODRR) that shows poverty as a major driver to the increase in disaster risk for the poor. The poor are more likely to lack information, disaster preparedness tools, and the capacity to build their settlements in hazard-free areas. Meanwhile, the rich may gain complete information related to early warning systems and disaster risk mitigation. They also have access to disaster preparedness tools. Access to education and economic resources contributes significantly to disaster risk mitigation.

Persons with disabilities are less likely to have access to information and disaster preparedness tools because they live in poverty and are less educated. The World Bank study shows that poverty is either the cause or the consequence of disability. For example, the poor may not be able to have quality sanitary systems, water, or nutrition. This situation leads people to suffer malnutrition and they may be exposed to communicable and non-communicable diseases leading to disabilities and morbidities. The poor may also suffer from hazards due to high-risk disaster leading to the increased number of people with disabilities.

Disability also contributes to extreme poverty. For example, when a person experiences a disability, she or he may lose her/his job or opportunity to receive education. This situation may lead her/him to extreme poverty. As a poor person, she/he might not be well informed of high-risk disaster and hazards in her/his area. As an adverse result, she/he might be killed or experience more disabilities.

Making disaster risk reduction more inclusive for everyone is crucial because disaster threatens every life without exceptions, including those of persons with disabilities. Therefore, there is no excuse in excluding certain groups of people when disaster is one of the key issues in the Sustainable Development Agenda in which everyone must be heard and engaged in order to achieve quality development goals. The UN and the international community have global platforms to ensure that persons with disabilities are fully engaged. The SDG 11 on Urban Development, The New Urban Agenda, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction specifically call state parties to be proactive to promote disability rights and particularly disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction programs. Both The New Urban Agenda and the SFDRR recognize the role of civil societies including persons with disabilities to take part in mitigating disaster risks. Some countries in Asia, where disaster occurs frequently, have showcased good practices in which disabled persons can be agents of disaster risk mitigation and disseminate the importance of disaster risk reduction for everyone.

For example, in Indonesia, the Centre for Disability Research and Policy at the University of Sydney in partnership with Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) conducted a project on including people with disabilities in disaster risk reduction (DRR). Five disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction programs were successfully conducted, resulting in people with disabilities being more aware of disaster risks.

During the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in December 2016, Indonesia highlighted Disabled People Organizations’ (DPOs) involvement in DRR. They actively work at the grassroots level and their involvement is recognized in DRR-related policy development and implementation. Furthermore, persons with disabilities are recognized to have capacities to contribute to building community resilience and to improving the community following disasters.


* * *

Abi Marutama is a disability rights advocate from Indonesia completing a Fellowship with AAPD as part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative through the State Department. He is a person with visual impairment since he was born. He works as the legal and treaty advisor for the Indonesia Ministry of Health. His job is related to disability issues, especially sexual reproductive health for the disabled, healthy and accessible urban development, preventing of disability by ending malnutrition, global cooperation on assistive health technology, and more. He has been working closely with UNHABITAT, UNESCO, WHO, UNDESA, and the Korean government to make policy intervention more inclusive in the South East Asia region, and particularly in Indonesia.


Our Sponsors