World Humanitarian Day: Making emergency relief disability-inclusive

4-year-old Musanofa has been fitted for leg braces and will be able to walk again.
Author:Rachel Aston
Posted on: Monday, 19th August, 2019

Across the world, 132 million people are in need of assistance because of humanitarian crises, but only seven in ten are likely to receive aid. Around US$25 billion is needed this year to provide food, shelter, health care, emergency education, protection and other basic assistance, yet there is a $10.2 billion funding gap.

Conflict is the main driver of humanitarian need, with the number of forcibly displaced people rising from 59.5 million in 2014 to 68.5 million in 2017, as people escape from wars across borders - or, more commonly, are displaced within their own countries. Syria has the most people internally displaced by conflict, with 6.8 million; followed by Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Iraq. Natural disasters such as storms, volcanic activity and earthquakes affect 350 million people on average each year, and climate change could bring internal displacement figures to 140 million people by 2050.

Humanitarian crises now on average last more than nine years, up from 5.2 years in 2014. Nearly three quarters of those currently receiving humanitarian assistance are in countries affected by humanitarian crisis for seven years or more; and as well as displacement, those affected also are at increased risk of food insecurity, lack of access to health, education and other services, gender-based violence and other forms of exploitation.

Disability and humanitarian crises

People with disabilities are often among the most severely affected and last to receive help during humanitarian crises, with existing forms of exclusion exacerbated. They may miss out on warnings or vital information and be unable to quickly escape danger; and may face inaccessible information, services, emergency help and temporary living environments. Loss of, or separation from, family members or carers may also mean a loss of essential support and assistance. 

CBM research into Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, in 2015, found that people with disabilities, especially women, were less able to access evacuation shelters and their facilities such as washing and hygiene provision, and lacked access to safety information in advance of the cyclone. Several people with disabilities lost their assistive devices because of the cyclone and 5.8% sustained injuries compared to 2.4% of those without disabilities. In general, it is estimated that for every person that dies during a disaster, three people sustain an injury, many causing long-term disabilities. Humanitarian situations can also have a negative impact on mental health, which may result in long term disability.

Through DfID’s Disability Strategy, the UK government has committed to ensuring that global humanitarian efforts are inclusive of people with disabilities, including a greater focus on mental health and psychosocial disability; and that international guidelines and standards are implemented, such as the  IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, the Core Humanitarian Standards and the Humanitarian Inclusion Standards. DfID’s Disability Strategy also includes a commitment to review DFID’s humanitarian portfolio to identify best practice in programming, starting with the recent review in Nigeria delivered by CBM.

Making emergency relief disability-inclusive

This year CBM reached over 132,000 people with disability-inclusive emergency relief. Our Emergency Response specialists and local partners work together to identify people with disabilities and address their immediate needs of food, water, shelter and healthcare; and following the initial response, we remain in the affected areas to develop long-term recovery programmes. Our disaster risk reduction work builds inclusive and resilient communities that can adapt to the impact of conflict and natural disasters, through strengthening disabled persons organisations, strengthening household level disaster risk awareness, promoting resilient livelihoods, building accessible disaster risk management (DRM) infrastructure and advocating with the local government for inclusive DRM.

As well as delivering inclusive relief, CBM works to “mainstream” inclusion, sharing our expertise to train and equip other humanitarian organisations to include people with disabilities in their work. As part of the Age and Disability Capacity Programme (ADCAP) consortium, we developed the ground-breaking Humanitarian Inclusion Standards for Older People and People with Disabilities. These standards, launched in February 2018, will help aid organisations to be more inclusive in their work, while CBM’s mobile app, the Humanitarian Hands-on Tool (HHOT), is a practical guide for emergency field workers to help put the standards into practice.

As our political and physical environments continue to demonstrate volatility, it is essential that our humanitarian responses are inclusive of people with disabilities – in prevention, preparation, management and recovery.

Read more about our humanitarian work.

Image: 4-year-old Musanofa will be able to walk again after being fitted for leg braces by CBM's emergency response team in the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. © CBM/Hayduk


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