Call to include people with disabilities in disaster risk reduction plans

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Inclusive approaches to disaster reduction is one of the issues coming out strongly from the three day global conference underway in the Swiss city of Geneva.

Included in this inclusive approach is the need to include vulnerable groups in the planning and implementation stages of disaster reduction policies.

One of emerging vulnerable groups is people living with disabilities.

Disability has been recognized as an issue that has received far too little attention with the consequence of increasing exposure of people with disabilities and missing the opportunity to draw on their unique capacities.

From the Pacific, the Fiji Disability People Forum was represented by Elenoa Kaisau, who shared the work that is being done in Fiji to ‘reasonably accommodate’ people with disability, especially at evacuation centres during disasters.

“Our evacuation centres are not safe for people with disabilities. People with disabilities are accommodated in open rooms with other evacuees. There is no partition and women are not safe in these environment.

Kaisau shared the experiences of a woman living disability who had difficulties at an evacuation centre. She raised her concerns of reasonable accommodation. As a result, the national disaster management office is working on making some changes in evacuation centres to accommodate people with disabilities.

“I believe that we can contribute to change if we are given an opportunity to make change, said Kaisau.

Pacific Disability Forum (PDF) Programme Manager, Katabwena Tawaka said they are happy with the small progress in Fiji to allow for user-friendly facilities to accommodate people with disabilities.

“This is a start and we are happy that it is happening because it didn’t exist before, said Tawaka.

PDF is working on a disability inclusive tool kit that can be used by Pacific countries.

Fiji’s Minister for Disaster Management, Inia Seruiratu has assured a review of national policies on disaster risk reduction will include the needs of women, children and people with disabilities.

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