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October 2013: The World Health Organisation (WHO) together with CBM, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction have just released a guidance note to highlight how to include persons with disabilities in Emergency Risk management for health.

Three questions to Valerie Scherrer, Director of the CBM Emergency Response Unit

Portrait of a woman ©CBM
Valerie Scherrer - Director, CBM Emergency Response Unit
Why are persons with disabilities more vulnerable during an emergency?

Valerie Scherrer: persons with disabilities are disproportionally affected by disasters, as many actions saving life of people may not be easy for them, such as: understanding early warning, evacuating, accessing emergency shelter, or fulfilling their health related needs. Assistive devices such as glasses or hearing and mobility aids can be lost during evacuation and persons with disabilities might be left behind when a community is forced to evacuate. The supportive network is often disrupted and this can be life threatening. Accessing basic needs, including food, water, shelter, latrines and healthcare services is also challenging.

How can public authorities and NGOs support better persons with disabilities in emergency situations?

Valerie Scherrer: Emergency and relief services have to be inclusive: there are significant needs for concerted and inclusive actions before, during and after emergencies in order to manage the health risks for people with disabilities. Inclusion means providing accessible health and relief services, but also stimulating the participation of persons with disabilities at every stage of emergency risk management. Their participation is the only way to help identify, address and overcome heightened vulnerabilities caused by disaster.

What is helpful about the guidance note?

Valerie Scherrer: While the guidance note focuses on the health sector, it also recognizes the need for action across all sectors and the commitment and involvement of a range of stakeholders at the local, national and international levels. According to me, working together to ensure optimal outcomes for persons with disabilities and their families is crucial. The guidance note is a short, practical guide on how to make Health Sector inclusive of disability in preparedness, response and recovery. It also includes clear cross sectorial actions to be implement to ensure that other sectors interacting with health are also inclusive of disability.

Read more

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CBM working with local partners to ensure that people with disabilities are included at all levels of disaster preparedness and response


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