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Shafallah Forum highlights disability in emergencies

Podium during large conference, with five speakers (one wheelchair user) and large screen behind the with text 'Jan 2012 Doha'
CBM's Valerie Scherrer (2nd from right) talking during a panel discussion 'Inclusive Planning Checks & Balances'. Other panellists, from left to right, are Rosangela Berman-Bieler (Senior Advisor on Children and Disabilities, UNICEF), Profulla Chandra Borman (Senior Programme Manager, BRAC), Dr. Armando Vasquez (Regional Disability and Rehabilitation Consultant, Pan American Health Organisation) and Tania Bryer (CNBC Correspondent and moderator).

The 5th International Shafallah Forum - highlighting aspects of humanitarian crises - was held in Qatar in January 2012. It was attended by more than 250 delegates and partner organisations, including CBM Emergency Response Unit Senior Manager, Valérie Scherrer, and the keynote address was given by Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

5th International Shafallah Forum

From 22-24 January 2012 Valérie Scherrer - Senior Manager, CBM Emergency Response Unit - participated in the Shafallah Forum 'Crisis, Conflict and Disability - Ensuring Equality, in Doha. Qatar.

This 5th International Shafallah Forum highlighted aspects of humanitarian crises from preparedness to response to recovery and rebuilding for persons with disabilities. It also documented the condition of persons with disabilities in refugee camps and conflict zones. Among the Forum's centrepieces was a unique gathering of 15 First Ladies, celebrity supporters, investors, and disaster planners/humanitarian relief organisations who discussed and showcased the latest developments in inclusive emergency planning and their centrality to responding to and mitigating harm from emergency situations.

Ms Scherrer presented examples of CBM work in the 2011 Horn of Africa food crisis and Philippines tropical storm, both of which were referred to in the keynote address provided by Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Keynote address

Ms Amos stated during the keynote address that people with disabilities "may find it physically or mentally difficult to get the access they need to highlight their particular concerns" during emergency situations, and that they are "often the last to get the help they need during conflict and disasters". Both these facts are cornerstones of CBM's work in Inclusive Emergency Response.

Highlighting advice in an emergencies fact sheet (co-written by CBM - download PDF, ~ 172.2kB), she also warned that "children and women with disabilities were particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and could be neglected as families made difficult decisions on the use of scarce food resources", and (in reference to disaster like the Philippines tropical storm, which led to severe flooding, "there are widespread concerns over a lack of hygiene and sanitation in many refugee and other situations, but especially so for people with disabilities".

Ms Amos quoted the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that "States Parties shall take … all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in … humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disaster."

The keynote address finished positively, emphasising that catering to the most vulnerable sectors of society is not an add on: "Across the world, the case is being made as more and more emergency responders recognise the particular needs of people with disabilities, and accept that the needs of people with disabilities needs to be integrated into our thinking."

Keynote address in full

Most vulnerable

Valerie Amos talking into microphone


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