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Voices from the field - Emergencies

Oct 24 - A moving story from Bangladesh

Kazol sitting at her sewing machine table with a young girl looking at her working ©CBM Australia
Kazol Rekha from Bangladesh working at her sewing machine table
Wednesday, 24 October

On day 3 of the 5th Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (click here to know more 5th AMCDRR), the film Kazol and the flood was played during the film festival . The film is one of the three nominated in the category of Human Story.
Kazol Rekha is a young woman living in a village in a flood-prone area of Bangladesh. Kazol is a wheelchair user following an accident where she had a spinal cord injury. In this video she tells about her role on the Disaster Preparedness Committee, making sure people with disability are not forgotten when disaster strikes.

You can read more about Kazol story from CBM Australia End The Cycle website End The Cycle or watch the video at  Zarol video

This video is a collaborative effort (funded with AUSAID support) between CBM Australia, Centre for Disability in Development (Bangladesh), DRIK Bangladesh and Room3 Australia.
There was proudly moment when the film festival juries recognized Kazol who was sitting among the audience. Discussions were held after the film and it was a great opportunity for Kazol to share her experiences regarding participation in the implementation of DRR in the community. The jury said that a film with a theme of Human Story is not about the technical creation, but rather to how the messages conveyed by the actors could be feeling directly by the audience. With this film the audience is expected to be more aware of the issue, especially in the disability inclusive DRR program.
However the winner of film festival will be announce in the end of conferences on 25 October 2012. Finger crossed.
There were again today some interesting side events at the conference aboutHow the media can better report on DRR and inform communities before, during, and after disaster’. Presenters from Korea, Japan, and Indonesia, media practitioners in their country shared experiences on what has been done in reporting on disasters.
Key messages obtainedfrom this side event were: how the media can play a stronger role in providing information on disaster risk reduction before disaster strikes?  Media can participate to awareness raising and education of the society, instead of reporting only on devastation. One of the participants member of the DiDRR network also provided feedback on the importance of inclusive mediafor persons with disabilities so that information from the media canreach out to the entire community.
In parallel, the conference had several other sessions and one was on Children and safe School. During the session a young girl with disability explained how in her special school she is now a leader to support her peers during disasters. She said: “children with disability can also be helpful at time of disaster”.
In the afternoon the different stakeholders discussed the post Hyogo framework for action.  The overarching principle of the document should be:  DRR need to be integrated to development framework, DRR need to be comprehensive throughout all sectors and DRR need to be inclusive of all.
We all realized that risk and vulnerability are central considerations of all concerned with DRR. However, to date persons with disabilities have been excluded from DRR practice and policy. Disability is briefly mentioned in the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) under Priority 4 and in terms of social safety nets post-disaster. Disability is not addressed in the broader holistic approach that the HFA suggests and promotes.
Article 11 of the Convention on Rights for Persons with Disabilities already commits governments to reduce risks for persons with disabilities and provides a basis for the need to include persons with disabilities post-HFA, MDG and SDG
Disability differs from other risk factors, such as gender and age, as disability increases risk across all vulnerable groups e.g. a woman with disabilities or a child with disabilities.
A statement on disability and DRR was read and is as below:
“Call upon stakeholders to acknowledge that disability is a cross-cutting issue that increases risk across all groups, communities and populations.”              
That was another day full of learning and where persons with disability could contribute with their experiences. We really hope that it will make it clear to all that they should involve persons with disability and Disabled people organisations in their future DRR work.

Oct 23 - Tri Silvanto underlines the crucial need to empower women in Disaster Risk Reduction

four persons, one with clutches, one with a white cane, one sitted, participating in a play role for disaster risk reduction ©CBM
Role play/ simulation by participants to understand different needs of PWDs at the time of disasters
Tri Silvanto reporting from AMCDRR: Tuesday, 23 October 2012

On Tuesday, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia, officially opened the 5th AMCDRR in Yogyakarta. One of the staff members of the network had the opportunity to approach the President and inform him about the DiDRR network explaining disability issue and the need to include persons with disabilities in the post 15 DRR framework. It was really short but very important and valuable moment. The President gave a positive response by saying that has to be done considering that persons with disabilities are also part of the community.
On this second day of conference, DiDRR network organized another side event with theme Gender and Disability in DRR. There was a sharing experience from the speakers about the gender and disability issues in some of Asian country: Japan, Korea, and Indonesia.
High enthusiasm of the side event participants was proved by the number of people attending the event and the following discussion.
By this side event, network aims to unpack the idea of vulnerability to better explore the barriers that exist for women and people with disabilities within current DRR policy and practice.
From the sharing of experiences by all the speakers, it was revealed that women and persons with disabilities have strengths and capacities. There are challenges to develop local capacities, local wisdom and perspectives on disability inclusion in DRR. Vulnerability was described as exclusion from societies’ practices and policies but not as a condition inherent to an individual. It clearly highlights the higher risks for women with disabilities in disaster.
Some of key messages at the end of this event are:
  • Widen access to information and services for women and people with disabilities in DRR planning and implementation.
  • In order to promote DRR for vulnerable groups including children with disabilities and communities there is a need to empower women with non-technical backgrounds so they can play valuable agents of change.
  • The forum also encourages full and active participation and representation of women and people with disabilities as contributing stakeholders in decision making processes, to ensure prioritization of their needs in DRR activities.
At any rate, the messages above will go a long way to ensuring that the perspectives of women and people with disabilities are heard, and included in DRR plans and activities.
It is therefore critical that the Yogyakarta declaration and further developments of the post-HFA agenda and process actively include references to those most vulnerable in disasters, women and people with disabilities.

Oct 22 - Tri Silvanto, CBM indonesia co-worker, reporting from the 5th Asian Ministerial conference for Disaster Risk Reduction

a group of people sitting on the ground discussing round a large piece of paper ©CDD
a vulnerability capacity assessment discussion
Monday October 22th in Yogyakarta Indonesia the 5th AMCDRR (to know more on the conference) started with a pre-conference meeting.

One strategy for creating an inclusive society is to do advocacy. Advocacy will be much stronger if done in groups than just on personal action. CBM along with Arbeiter Samaritan Bund, Handicap International, and Malteser International form a consortium to strengthen the inclusion of Disability issues in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) strategy.

The Disability Inclusive DRR network (click here to download the DRR Network leaflet) was launched Monday during the pre-conference on disability and DRR in Yogyakarta in Indonesia. The conference had key presenters including persons with disability from the region. Mr. Nazmul Bari (Centre for Disability in Development / CDD, Bangladesh), Mr. Muhammad Atif (Special Talent Exchange Program / STEP, Pakistan), Ms. Naomi & Mr. Katabwena Tawaka (Pacific Disability Forum / PDF, Fiji), and also Mr. Sulistyono from local government of Yogyakarta.

The speakers shared experiences on practical examples of disability-inclusive DRR from persons with disabilities, practitioners and government from across the Asia-Pacific.
The aim of this side event was to demonstrate and explore regional best practices of inclusive DRR through practical examples in order to raise awareness and promote the participation of people with disabilities within DRR programming and policy in Asia.

The main key message that was agreed at the end of this event is: "disability is a cross cutting issues which requires equal participation of all stakeholders". The importance of capacity development of both persons with disabilities and DRR experts to enhance understanding and better inclusion was identified as a second key element.
The DiDRR network members have moved around other pre-conference events asking questions about disability inclusion in DRR and got quite positive responses.

This morning the official ceremony was led by the Indonesian President with the participation of the UN Special Rapporteur on DRR, Miss Margaret Walström. In her speech she mentioned specifically persons living with disabilities. For us all, this is a good sign that the topic is becoming important to DRR stakeholders.

There is still a long road to go to ensure that disability will be visible and a priority in the process of revision of the framework for DRR but excellent representatives of persons with disabilities are participating and we all have a strong motivation to work together helping us to all become stronger.

Symposium on Disability Inclusive Approaches to Emergency Management – Darren Ward, Christchurch NZ, May 2012

CBM Inclusive Emergency Response Senior Manager Valérie Scherrer (right) with the NZ Minister of Disability Issues, the Hon. Tariana Turia ©CBM
CBM Inclusive Emergency Response Senior Manager Valérie Scherrer (right) with the NZ Minister of Disability Issues, the Hon. Tariana Turia
A CBM-supported symposium is being held in Christchurch on 28 and 29 May 2012 to learn from the 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, and to identify what needs to be done to improve the emergency preparation and response for disabled people in future emergencies in New Zealand. Darren Ward (CEO of CBM New Zealand), reports.


Tuesday, 29 May 2132 NZST

Today cemented the great progress from day 1 where we saw some excellent honest and inclusive communication where issues could be addressed and perspectives of all stakeholders understood more fully. 

Our commentators, including Valerie Scherrer, began by reflecting on yesterday's progress and setting the scene for a more practical application of the ideas that came through from the days discussion.

Perspectives of people with disability kept us grounded in the reality of lived experiences throughout the day and ensured that their voice was at the forefront of all discussion,

Three highlights stand out from the programme.  First was hearing about the innovative text based emergency services programme that enables deaf and hearing impaired persons to make direct contact with emergency services.  This is the only direct programme of its type (others use third party providers slowing response times) and has been developed in full consultation with the deaf community.

The second highlight was the input from international guests – Marcie Roth live from the USA via skype and guests from Pakistan & Japan via recorded messages.  The perspectives of these excellent speakers on how they have  worked towards the same goal as this symposium was great and brought a sense of being part of something that is a truly global initiative – albeit with distinctly local actions.

Finally the day ended with the symposium attendees working to come up with a range of innovative solutions to progress inclusive emergency responses.  It was great to see the energy that was so evident throughout the symposium maintained to the end as people from across all stakeholders worked together to come up with great ideas.  Many ideas involved people with disabilities taking the lead in their communities to progress local initiatives for inclusion.

As the symposium ends we can reflect on some excellent discussions, new relationships, increased understanding and real progress towards shared goals.  All in all not bad for 2 days work.

The ball is well and truly in the hands of all stakeholders to move forward wit the energy and commitment demonstrated over the last two days.  As a member of the steering committee said the job is not over – it has only just begun.  But what a great beginning!


Monday, 28 May 2342 NZST

Today saw the opening of a two day symposium on disability inclusive approaches to emergency management – a hot topic in New Zealand where the devastation of the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake is still very real.  Given the theme of the symposium the day started perhaps fittingly with a 4.4 magnitude earthquake waking us at 5:00am.

The symposium itself started with a welcome from a local Maori elder and a waiata or song:

Te aroha (love)
Te whakapono (faith)
Me te rangimarie (peace)
Tatou Tatou e (be amongst you all)

The Minister for Disability issues opened the conference officially with a speech which recognised the importance of the next two days in giving people with disabilities a voice and working together with various agencies to develop meaningful plans.

CBM’s own Valerie Scherrer then brought an international perspective to the symposium outlining lessons and stories from her 15 years working on disability inclusive emergency response.  Key to the message was that the need for discussion and progress is the same wherever in the world the challenges of disaster are felt.

Further presentations gave voice to people with disabilities with one comment resonating with all “We need to be cognisant of the additional factors that disability might present, such as access, and ability and timeframes and all that but still keep it ordinary”.

Jane Pembroke, who was part of the cbm NZ response team immediately after the February 22 quake shared insights on her time on the ground as a relief worker and the varying impacts she saw on people with disabilities, their families and care givers who were all affected.  

The Director of Civil Defence, John Hamilton outlined the process they went through in managing the quake response and his learning from what had been discussed so far.  An emphasis of his address was that the focus must at all times be on people.  

The day closed with the voice of the local disability community sharing their perspectives on what worked well and didn’t work well.  This was shared in a constructive way with a forward looking focus.

A final challenge from Valerie to all to look at how they can help others and not just look for what others can do for them set the scene for what looks to be a compelling day 2.

Shafallah Forum - Valérie Scherrer, Qatar, January 2012

Valerie Scherrer talking into a microphone ©CBM
Valérie Scherrer
Senior Manager
CBM Emergency Response Unit

Tuesday, 24th January 2012 - Qatar

Today was the last day of the Shafallah forum. This has been an exciting experience with lots of exchanges of knowledge and experiences.

Thanks to CBM partners who presented their experiences and mentioned the good and important support they received from us. The St-Boniface Hospital in Haiti shares with the audience how they can keep in touch with persons with disabilities because CBM provided them with funds to buy phone and credit to persons with spinal cord injuries. This being crucial in making sure that people are not isolated and keep themselves in good health enjoying their life.

Another highlight of the conference was when we had the opportunity to briefly introduce CBM to Prince Mirad Al Hussein of Jordan who during his speech at the Gala Diner showed a real commitment to disability issues.

Well I'll be flying back tomorrow morning with a very good feeling and proud to be working with CBM and knowing that our work is very important to our partners.


Monday, 23rd January 2012 - Qatar

I'm currently in Doha participating in the 5th International Shafallah Forum, which this year is about Crisis, Conflict and Disability: Ensuring Equality. The Shafallah Center is a model centre working with children with special needs.

Today was the first day of the conference. It was attended by more than 10 first ladies from different countries and it is placed under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser.

The conference gathers about 300 participants from all over the world, including persons with disabilities themselves. Today one of the keynote speaker was Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Emergency Relief coordinator. Baroness Amos addresses disability issues as being key in humanitarian operations. In her speech she mentioned the work of CBM and talked about the situation of persons with disabilities during food crisis but also currently in Philippines. I had a chance to approach her and introduce briefly the work of CBM and partners in responding to emergencies. I hope that her commitment will make a real change.

We also had the chance to listen to different panels of discussions - all very interesting including some opening talk from Mr. Ron McCallum, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, among other very prestigious invitees.

The Shafallah forum also adopted an innovative approach to presentation having top level journalists moderating the panels and humbly they all recognised their ignorance about disabilities and the need for media to get involved in reporting situation of persons with disabilities in crisis, conflict of disasters - let's see if they will do so in future.

I hope that all the discussions that happened today will really make a difference and raise awareness on the situation of persons with disabilities in emergencies. I'm happy to be here and meet old friends I worked with since many years, build up new connections and understand others' perspectives.

It is very nice to see country like Qatar taking steps forward to improve the living conditions of persons with disabilities and as mentioned by Cherie Blair (co-chair of the Forum) Qatar is going to play an important role in disability issues at a global level in the coming years.

Horn of Africa food crisis - Davide Naggi, Kenya, October 2011

Davide Naggi ©CBM
Davide Naggi
Emergency Programme Manager - Horn of Africa

As the Emergency Programme Manager based in Kenya, one of my duties is be in touch with the partners working in the field on a regular basis. This is to develop a better understanding of the interventions, to suggest and guide changes whenever required and to guarantee a proper utilisation of the resources which - thanks to our supporters - have been provided by CBM.

Additionally, as a team, we follow-up and analyse the development of the situation through several ways such as reading and analysing the information shared by the international humanitarian forums, through meetings and exchange of updates with other implementing organisations and most importantly through field missions carried out by the CBM Team.

The food distributed by CBM and its partners since August 2011 provided a crucial support to thousands of disadvantaged families during the hardest periods of the food crisis. For example, in the Tharaka District of Kenya, which is one of the areas covered by the CBM food relief program, it is estimated that half of the population is in need of food aid. Furthermore, this area has one of the highest incidences of poverty and the highest prevalence of disability within the country.

Despite the fact that most of the population within the drought affected areas is in need of support, CBM felt that it was important to look for the most vulnerable and at risk within the targeted communities. For this reason, food aid was provided above all to those households with persons with disabilities, children with disability, children under five, pregnant and lactating mothers, elderly people, and with family members affected by chronic diseases.

This approach provoked some interesting reactions, such as a family finally disclosing the presence of a disabled child within their household. Local communities and tribal groups have different cultural attitudes toward families who have children with disability and children with disabilities themselves. These attitudes are generally associated to poor literacy, lack of awareness, local beliefs and many other reasons. The need of food and the targeting of children with disability encouraged families to move outside the confinement of the household, to the food relief sites. Although this response was induced by a necessity, it was an opening which CBM used to pass important messages about disability inclusion and rights for children with disability. That said, attitudinal and cultural changes do not happen overnight and meticulous work is still needed.

Another issue which we noticed during our work is that, as well as persons with disability, mothers of children with disability face a number of extra challenges during an emergency and during the follow up aid interventions. One simple but very common example is the distance they have to cover, often walking for hours from their village to the distribution sites.

The needs and challenges faced by persons with disability and their families remain a specific focus for CBM, especially in times of emergency, when their lives may be at risk if they don’t get enough support.

This is why mobility devices such as wheelchairs, crutches and walkers have been distributed through a partner to persons with disability living in the refugee camps located in eastern Kenya (currently the largest refugee camps in the world) that hosts half a million Somali people. This simple intervention is crucial to guarantee access to important programmes such as food relief and provision of health services (including immunisation and screening) within the camps.

The partnership with the Kenya Red Cross has been developed along the same lines, so that persons with disability become a specific focus within their relief activities in the areas of health and food relief. Such a partnership is a way for CBM to maximise the impact of aid in favour of persons with disability.

The context and nature of the problem is changing week by week. Therefore a more flexible approach is required. On one side we have to deal with the effects of the drought (food-shortage) and continue to provide relief during the next months. On the other hand, we need to empower the community so as to reduce their level of vulnerability as they will be more capable to face such challenges in the future. This is done through the provision of seeds and agricultural tools so that fields can be ready for the upcoming rainy season. The quantity and quality of the next harvests will be crucial. If farmers will have good harvest during the first trimester of next year, they will have food to face the months to come and be able to wait until the next rainy season. Additionally we train people in water harvesting and micro irrigation.

Building up the capacities of the local community to cope with the current situation and to get ready for possible new crises is efficient and proves very cost-effective. We believe that supporting disadvantaged people to go through the food-crisis and helping them to regain their autonomy and dignity is good use of our supporters’ money.

Horn of Africa food crisis - Valérie Scherrer, Kenya, July/August 2011

Valérie Scherrer ©CBM
Valérie Scherrer
Senior Manager
CBM Emergency Response Unit

Tuesday, 2 August 2011 - Nairobi

Today the country coordinator of Ethiopia, Mr Tigabu, has arrived in Nairobi. We had a long discussion on the situation there and how CBM could support emergency responses there. We still need to collect more information but we have good ideas and I’m confident that we will also be able to develop some response in Ethiopia.

We also had the visit of some partners. Sister Judith from St-Lucy Special Need education school came with pictures of the children leaving the school for holidays with food supplies and hygiene kit for the girls. Sister Judith explained to us all individual stories and gave us many details on the difficult situation some of the children and families are facing.

Five of the children remained at the school as their parents are pastoralists and they do not know where they are currently. They have probably tried to move to find food and water for their cattle and may not come to pick up their children, knowing that the sisters will take care of them.

The sister told us that all the children are really looking forward to go back home and spend some time with their families, however they may not be aware of the situation they will find once home as they most of the time stay within the safe environment of the school.

Sister Leonora from St-Oda school also wrote to us explaining that she had supported families with transportation to come and pick up their children. She wrote that she will take time to visit them during the holidays to make sure they are fine and receiving sufficient food and care from their families.

This is probably one of my last blog from the field until my next mission as I’m going back to Europe on Wednesday but we are already planning for my next trip this time most probably to Ethiopia in few weeks. 

I would like here to say also a word on how the CBM Regional Office staff, the country coordinators and the partners have been supportive to the development of the emergency strategy. People have given time and energy to help us and are very committed to support the poorest of the poor. It is great feeling and team work and hopefully together we can continue to do more…

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 - Nairobi

Last night it rained a lot in Nairobi, which is not normal at this time of the year. It should normally only start in about two months. I wish this could have been the same in the north and north-eastern region of Kenya but I know it hasn’t. In fact, if heavy rains come now in the affected areas and the temperatures drop, that will bring another set of challenges in the support of the population - the fields are so dry that the water will just flow over and inundate the areas, increasing the risk of water-borne diseases, for example.

My colleagues, Linda and Greg, are since Monday in Moyale, a border city with Ethiopia. They’ve visited villages in the areas and met persons with disabilities to try to understand their situation. One of them said that nobody thinks about persons with disabilities in times of emergency and he was happy that someone asks about their situation. Linda and Greg will be back tonight and I think Linda will add about her experiences on this blog later this week.

Sunday, 24 July 2011 - Meru

It is Sunday evening and we are back from the field visit in Eastern Kenya with our partner the Diocese of Meru. We visited the district of Tharaka North, it was very dusty and we walked into very dry areas to meet with persons with disabilities and their families.

This was a long day listening to stories all of them telling us the same thing: “we haven’t had any harvest since nearly 2 years now, we have a meal a day made of a little bit of maize and water, and we don’t remember the taste of vegetables or fruit, it is so long that we haven’t eaten any!” The life in this part of Kenya is difficult, to find few litres of water. People have to walk for hours every day, one father told us that to bring back 60 litres of water for his family of 13 members he needed to walk three hours one way.  Can we try to think about how many litres of water we use every day?

All of the families we visited had a child with disability who is not going to school therefore not accessing the daily meal that schools provide to children. How can they survive then? What can a mother do to ensure her child has enough food? In one of the family we visited, the mother was not at home as she had left to go to beg a bit of food to the main city. She will come back maybe in 10 days with some food for a few days and then the father will go to do the same. 

This visit was really important for me and the team to understand the real situation of people and to develop an appropriate response.

I’ve asked Fred my Kenyan colleague to write on this blog and share his feelings from our visit; he said he will do it tomorrow.

Friday, 22 July 2011 - Nairobi

It is Friday and a week I’ve been in Kenya, this afternoon we will travel to Eastern Kenya to visit one of our partners over the week end to gather more information about their situation.

I’m going there with Fred one of my colleagues from the Regional Office and a photographer. Yesterday I had a talk with Caro who is going to be with us for our visit and her story were very hard to listen. She was talking about persons with disabilities being ignored and neglected by their families and the community as they are not considered as “productive” but just as a person to feed.

Persons with disabilities have rights like anybody else to receive food and consideration. Caro is overseeing a community based program, she has great knowledge of people she worked with and our team will be able then to really understand and see the struggle of persons with disabilities in Eastern Kenya facing the drought and the food shortage. I’ll be out of internet access over the weekend so will not be able to blog but I’ll try to tell you the story of the visit next Monday.

Thursday, 21 July 2011 - Nairobi

I’m now in Kenya since last Friday and I have spent my time trying to understand the situation of our partners in facing the drought and the shortage of food. With my colleagues of the regional office we have met many people and quickly discovered that the situation was worst that we anticipated.

Yesterday, the UN has declared that some parts of Somalia have reached the emergency level of famine and the situation in countries around is not much better. It is in a way incredible that in the 21st century anywhere in the world people should face famine.

Most of us have never even felt really hungry and I can’t imagine how it is when you survive on less than a meal a day.

As we are trying to respond to this crisis we should also think of surrounding countries where people have not been able to cultivate their field because of lack of rain, where prices of basic food has increased by 3 to 4 times in a short period of time and where it becomes so difficult to even have a meal a day.

We’ve been working hard with very few hours of sleep during the last 2 days but it is worth as CBM is now raising funds and that we are able to participate to the effort to alleviate the suffering of people.

Saturday, 16 July 2011 - Nairobi

Friday went very fast with first meeting with the Kenya Red Cross and discussing how their emergency response could better include persons with disabilities. It was a very nice and productive discussion which will be continued on Monday with further meetings looking at how we could work together.

Saturday mid day we got the good surprise as we receive a very good draft proposal from one of our partners. We are right now working on putting it altogether. Fred my Kenyan colleague from the Regional office is today working in the office gathering very important information which will help us to move forward with developing the response strategy. It is always amazing to see people dedicated to their work giving extra time and providing essential support to the emergency response. More soon.
 
Friday, 15 July 2011 - Nairobi

I've landed in Nairobi this morning after my overnight flight from Brussels, and am now in a hotel waiting the team from Nairobi to pick me up to go to a meeting with the Kenyan Red Cross. I may not have first hand field info before beginning of next week as we are first meeting partners and reviewing the possibilities.

Thursday, 14 July 2011 - Brussels
I’ll be taking a plane in few hours to go to Kenya to support CBM's Regional Office to assess the impact of food crisis in the Horn of Africa for people with disabilities and their families.

It is a crisis which started years ago but today it is very serious, our partners are not located in the worst affected areas but they already report children dropping from school as a result of the food crisis.

I do not really know my planning for the moment but I’m going there with the hope to ensure access for persons with disabilities - and especially children - to food distribution, clean water, health services, etc., as they should not be left out and should have the same chances as other to survive.

Horn of Africa food crisis - Linda Mwania, Kenya, July 2011

Linda Mwania ©CBM
Linda Mwania
Communication Officer
CBM East Africa
CBM's Linda Mwania reporting from the food crisis in the Horn of Africa. See video report from Linda on CBM's YouTube channel.

Thursday, 28 July, 2011 - Moyale

Our visit to this area has drawn to a close, and as we begin our journey I reflect on our time in this border town.

This area has a natural beauty, the community warm and welcoming. I have been touched by the strength of the people living in the interior despite experiencing a currently difficult period.  Even more so, the many people who have shared their lives with us particularly those living with disability.  I feel that we have a responsibility to stand alongside them during this time. And to work together as partners on the ground to ensure that whatever help is available reaches them quickly.

So pray for CBM as we respond to the situation in Kenya and horn of Africa countries, and work with partners including the Kenya Red Cross and others to bring help where it is needed.  Pray for the Emergency Response Unit headed by Valerie that they will find the support necessary to implement CBM’s response.  Pray for the people affected by the drought and famine that they will not lose hope, and that help will reach them quickly. And pray especially for persons with disabilities that are also affected by this drought, for their courage as they try to rebuild their lives in the following months and years.

Wednesday, 27 July, 2011 - Moyale

Today at the hospital I met a few mothers and their children that had been admitted in the ward in order to receive supplemental feeding. Among them I spoke once more with Hawai, whom we had met two days before.  At that time she had just come into the hospital with her granddaughter, a two month old weighing 2.2 kgs on admission.

She had walked from the village of Elu, 3 kms away, worried for the baby’s health.  When the baby’s mother died while she was one month old, Hawai took on care of her granddaughter.  Due to the drought most of their cattle had died so there was no cow’s milk.  They tried feeding the baby on goat’s milk but she reacted after some time and started vomiting a lot. She was not well.  When the little baby was received at the hospital she was immediately put on supplements and milk resulting in a visible difference in just two days.

The Nursing Officer in Charge at Moyale District Hospital informed us that as a result of the current drought, despite feeding centres in the community, cases of malnutrition are on the rise.  This is affecting not only the children but the adults too. When children are discharged from hospital they are provided with food packages for supplemental feeding. These packages end up being utilized by the entire family due to the gravity of the situation.
However, it is encouraging to see how as in the case of Hawai’s granddaughter, necessary assistance can turn this situation around.

Tuesday, 26 July, 2011 - Moyale

Driving through the villages close to the Kenya/Ethiopian border today reminded me of the words of a song 'In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water...' As we went from village to village the same scenario unfolded: thorny shrubs, depleted livestock, bare earth in which hardly anything grows, entire village dependent on food relief. Maize and sometimes beans and oil rations come once a month and are just barely enough to sustain the families.

People we spoke to told us they are down to one meal a day. From one family we heard the shocking words " yesterday, we borrowed food from our neighbours because our rations are exhausted. We will pay back when we receive our monthly ration of food supplies"

In these challenging conditions, coping for a person with disabilities has been even harder. We met several who shared their story with us. Adan, a 14 year old boy with cerebral palsy, Amina a shy beautiful 13 year old girl who is deaf. Rashid, 42 year old man with physical disabilities who told us this was the first time he could remember anyone coming to his village seeking out persons with disabilities.

Everyone is barely surviving and reliant on food rations. For those with a disability, they are doubly reliant, not just on food aid but on their family members and friend to help them access these food supplies.
Tomorrow the CBM team will be at the hospital to talk with the medical team.

Monday, 25 July, 2011 - Moyale

I am on the border of northern Kenya and  southern Ethiopia at a town called Moyale. After visiting officials in the areas i went to the hospital. I was heartbroken when i walked into the room to see an elderly lady with a tiny child, a two months old showing sign of severe malnutrition.The Mother of the child died  when the baby was a month old leaving the baby with her grandmother.

We heard today that 75% of the population are affected by the drought and are needing food supplies. Workers at the hospital told us they have never seen it this bad.
Tomorrow  we go out to the community  to see how the drought is impacting people with disabilities.

Sunday, 24 July, 2011 - Kwale

Last week I was in Kwale District, and this morning I travel up to North Kenya.
The drought conditions that continue to ravage Horn of Africa countries resulting in a declared famine in Southern Somalia, is having a growing impact on Kenyan communities.

Almost 3 million Kenyans are currently affected.  This weekend the Government announced that this figure could rise significantly within the next few weeks if help doesn’t reach them quickly.  Traditionally non-arid areas in Central, Nyanza and Western are now experiencing food shortages brought on by the prevailing conditions.

CBM is concerned about persons with disabilities who tend to be more vulnerable in situations such as these. With already limited mobility they experience challenges accessing food distribution activities and moving away from harsh conditions to where help is available.
I hope to bring a daily update during our visit to Northern Kenya over the next few days.

Horn of Africa food crisis - Fredrick Njuguna, Kenya, July 2011

©CBM
Fredrick Njuguna (left)
Project Officer
CBM East Africa
CBM's Fredrick Njuguna reporting from the the Horn of Africa food crisis.

Sunday, 24 July, 2011, Meru - Tharaka

We travelled to Tharaka Meru over the weekend (23rd  of July, 2011) and from what I saw in Tharaka, this is the worst  food crisis ever to happen in Kenya.

It was so sad meeting families with children with disabilities, majority depending on their single mothers, being in such a desperate situation.  Families that had not had meal for days, others depending on a cup of porridge from the grains received from well wishers if lucky.

I felt sorry for the women who had to walk hundreds of kilometers, despite the insecurity and uncertainty, to beg for food  to feed their families; women who had to walk 3- 4hrs to fetch water; children who were 1- 2 years old and have not access to milk since their mother stopped breastfeeding them Though the government is trying to provide some food ratio through schools, children with disabilities and the non schooling children can not access this food and are showing signs of malnutrition.

We met  the family of Lucy  Makena, a single  mother, with five children two of whom aged 4 years old have cerebral palsy (cp).  She is leaving in a small rented house of Kenya and trying to sell fire wood - which no one has money to buy - to feed and pay rent. One of the girls (Caroline) with CP was abandoned in the forest and was rescued and she agreed to take care of her after being promised to receive rations from the children department and government,promises which have never materialised. Many are the times they have slept hungry and she got to a point of considering  abandoning all the children and run away.

Another family with 5 children, one of whom had multiple disabilities, had no food at all and had put two stones in a cooking pot as symbol of an upcoming meal.

The situation in Tharaka and other parts of the Northern Kenya needs urgent intervention to avert deaths.

Conference on Disability in Conflicts and Emergencies - Valérie Scherrer, 30-31 May 2011

Headshot of Valerie Scherrer ©CBM
Valerie Scherrer
Senior Manager
CBM Emergency Response Unit

Tuesday 31 May 16:31
We are now at the closing session of the official part of the conference. I was sitting in the Panel Discussion which was discussing the subject 'From Disaster to Development'. There were good recommendations and discussions, however the question is always "How is all this positive willingness and attitudes going to be translated into action?"

I feel that the key point raised by Jan Engeland, a former Humanitarian Coordinator, to bring disability at operational level and provide key tips, elements and guidelines on the spot of an emergency is the solution. I also would like again to highlight that emergencies are opportunities for better inclusive development and also that Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction participates to overall poverty reduction by providing better opportunities for people with disabilities to participate.

I'm really happy about the conference and will post the conclusions as soon as they will be available.

Tuesday 31 May 12:26
Atif Sheik representing the DPO (Disabled Persons' Organisation) Special Talents Exchanges program, from Pakistan is talking about their work in trying to get the Cluster system to listen to them after the earthquake in 2005 in Pakistan. Through this process they achieved a lot such as training World Vision, Pakistan Red Crescent , Unicef, local media, etc. field staff on how to include disabilities.

At that time they also published a disability checklist which give basic advises on how to make relief accessible to persons with disabilities.

Since then they’ve continuously been involved in Cluster work and advocacy. Last year following the floods they set up the Aging and Disability Task force regrouping local DPOs and international organizations working on Disability or Senior issues.

Tuesday 31 May 12:01
Leonard Zulu, Head of the Global Protection Cluster support Cell, IASC, insists in his presentation that disability being a crosscutting issues should be integrated in each and every aspect of the humanitarian protection cluster response.
UNHCR as a leading protection agency has taken a key role by raising awareness on inclusion of persons with disability rights in global humanitarian protection through the adoption of a special conclusion related to persons with disabilities. This conclusion is a very important advocacy document as it also includes standards and recommend specific measures, for instance ensuring registration of persons with disability, ensuring services are accessible, training on dignity, rights and participation of persons with disabilities. This conclusion leads to the publication of a guidance note on how to include persons with disability in emergency with the objective of ensure full participation and removing all form of discrimination towards disability.

Key consideration of the guidance note:
  • Right based and participative programming approach on disability
  • Awareness raising and supporting environment is very important through a specific set of competences.
  • Identification and registration of persons with disability to ensure their visibility and allow the set up of specific measures for their access to relief;
  • It includes also Gender based violence note which emphasizes the high vulnerability of persons with disabilities and ensure access to HIV/Aid prevention program.
  • Strategy to be elaborated that dissemination of information is accessible using different means of communication;
  • It highlights the need of efficient referral system with DPO, NGO, faith based organization, etc.
  • It ensure that all distribution should be made accessible through the set up to reasonable accommodations;
  • Reunification of persons with disability with their care givers
  • It also shows how shelter can easily be made accessible but also that protection office are accessible for persons with disabilities so they can use this services.
This guidance note will be presented to the Inter Agency Standing Committee for adoption across the different clusters and humanitarian reform.

Tuesday 31 May 10:27
Hazel Jones, from Water, Engineering and Development Centre at Loughborough University in UK is explaining to the room how to make water and sanitation accessible to persons with disability in emergency situation. She demonstrates how persons with disability can help the young expatriate engineers working to bring a community safe water and minimum sanitation. There is a need to build up common languages and understanding and to ensure that locally persons with disabilities take an active role in making water points accessible.

Tuesday 31 May 09:22
This morning starts with a speech from the Norwegian Minister of Children, Equality and Social inclusion, Mr. Audun Lysbakken. His talk focuses on universal design and accessibility.

Consideration of all and inclusion for all is a key element, he said that this should be mandatory principle before government allocate funding to humanitarian project and he stressed that this should be feasible as there are existing solutions.

Children also need to be reached and cited the UNHCR conclusion saying that children with disability are particularly at risk therefore access to protection measures is very important. He is convinced that Norway as valuable experiences which could be transferred to international cooperation.

Monday 30 May 18:06
The first day of the conference is now over, I feel happy as we had many good presentations, voices from people with disabilities and learnt about innovative approaches.

It is refreshing to see how much people are committed to disability issues in emergencies, but it also highlighted challenges that we still need to address.
Our colleague from Japan was raising the question on how to support people with psychiatric disability or mentally challenged in temporary communal shelters, and the response was a heavy silence from the panellists but also from the all room... This highlights the gaps that we still need to fill, the barriers that we have to remove and the lack of good practices in certain field or the lack of disseminations.
 
I'm now really looking forward to listen tomorrow and get new opportunities to learn from my colleagues and peers, very exciting time!

Monday 30 May 14:47
CBM Partner CDD from Bangladesh introduces the Inclusive Disaster risk reduction project, providing clear steps to ensure that persons with disabilities are part of the initiatives. This demonstration is built on the fact that in previous disasters, cattle were saved before persons with disabilities. Preparedness has now become a key element of ensure that persons with disabilities are rescued in time of disasters.

Mosharaf Hossain, Bangladesh Country Director for Action for Disability in Development (ADD) presents their response to Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh and stressed the importance of including DPOs (Disabled Persons' Organisations) in the relief phase, but also to ensure that it bridges the lack of capacities of humanitarian stakeholders to address the needs of persons with disabilities.

As recommendations they emphasise on:
  • Donor commitment to inclusive  approach
  • Data gathering and counting persons with disabilities
  • Participating to coordination mechanisms

Monday 30 May 14:22
Lyn Lusi from our partner Heal Africa is talking about Gender based Violence and Disability. She is given us testimony of women with disability having been victims of rape. This is very touching and the room is silently listening to this very powerful words showing how being a disabled women increased the risk of abuses.

What can be changed to improve the situation?

Setting up a system approach  with 'components':
1 fight poverty and ensure education
2 provide accessible medical treatment
3 Promote Gender Justice
4 to ensure that HIV programmes are implemented including people with disabilities

It is also key to ensure that the community at large are involved in  resolving conflict and addressing Gender Based Violence; that the community is involved in challenging long term rooted practices on attitudes towards Women and Persons with disabilities.

Monday 30 May 10:39
Ola Abu Alghaib from 'Star of Hope' in Palestine is a wheelchair user. She explained us how the conflict has impacted her life. She shared with the conference how because she had no permission to leave the West Bank she could not reach specialised hospital to deliver her first baby. She could not access appropriate services and in the hospital she went in Ramallah no one knew how to help her, a woman with disability, to deliver.

Monday 30 May 10:07
Norwegian Red Cross President : Sven Molekleiv
It must be a humanitarian imperative to have people with disability at the centre of the humanitarian response.
Persons with disability should participate and be considered as a resource and active contributor to the humanitarian responses they have expertise that we should consider and value.

Monday 30 May 09:47
Mr. Jonas Gahr Støre, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, stressed 5 key elements to better ensure inclusion of disability issues in his opening speech:

1. Participation of victims in planning but DPOs (Disabled Persons' Organisations) can’t be alone and government needs also to include them
2. Prevention - we need increased focus to protect civilians during conflict and ensure that Geneva Convention are respected
3. Victim assistance should be included in all the weapon legal instrument as it has been done in landmines and cluster munitions treaties
4. Victim assistance is not about medical care and rehabilitation but it is also social and economic inclusion
5. As a summary we need to lift new voices at the central stage... open door to new groups and empower pressure groups;

Monday 30 May 09:21
The conference is now opening , the room is full and it is great to see it.

Ann-Marit Sæbønes, Special advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability and Liv Arum just finished the opening speech. Both of them stressed that persons with disabilities are the largest group of vulnerable people in the world and yet are excluded from humanitarian work, it is time that this changes and this conference will set the tone.

Sunday 29th May 21:58
I arrived this afternoon in Oslo and went straight to the conference room. There will be more than 100 participants coming from all around the world.

Together with Atlas Alliance staff we've set up the pictures exhibition that I've taken with me from Brussels and which shows inclusion in Haiti emergency response. It looks great and once again I'm really proud of the work our partners together with us have achieved in Haiti.

7 pm, a bus drove us to the 'Gamle Logen' (don't ask me what it means as no one could translate it to me) for the reception hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We enter in a ballroom with crystal lights and red carpet.. what a reception for all people coming from around the world!

I'm very happy as about one third of the participants are persons with disabilities and are going to bring in their experience and expertise, it looks promising and refreshing!

It is always so good to meet so many old friends from around the world with so diverse experiences and so much to say... Michel Pean, state secretary for inclusion of persons with disability in Haiti, Lyn Lusi in DRC representing Heal Africa a long standing CBM partner, The Leprosy Mission International from Myanmar and the head of the disability and social welfare of the same country, Atif from Pakistan, Ola from Palestine, Noman from Bangladesh and so many others... so good to hear all their stories and successes and so motivating to be able to bring them together... I love it and I know already that these 3 days will lead to a new perspective for inclusive disaster management...


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