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Humanitarian aid is leaving people with disabilities behind

Emergency Inclusion

A survey by Handicap International has revealed that 75% of people with disabilities believe they are excluded from humanitarian aid. The report on people with disabilities and humanitarian response, entitled Disability in Humanitarian Contexts is published on 14th October. As the report is launched, 900 representatives of the humanitarian sector are meeting in Geneva to prepare for the World Humanitarian Summit.

Makhamali Basnet, 60, was injured during the earthquake in Nepal.

Makhamali Basnet, 60, was injured during the earthquake in Nepal when she was struck by falling debris. | © Lucas Veuve / Handicap International

Handicap International has identified barriers that are preventing disabled people from being included in emergency aid mechanisms and has made recommendations to governments, international agencies and NGOs to ensure the way that they respond in humanitarian emergencies meaningfully includes the needs and contributions of disabled people.

Humanitarian crises: people with disabilities are invisible

The survey conducted by Handicap International, Disability in Humanitarian Contexts, has found that people with disabilities often fall under the radar of humanitarian organisations in crisis situations such as conflicts or natural disasters. A shocking 75% of the people with disabilities surveyed believe that they have insufficient access to essential humanitarian services such as water supplies, food distributions, health services and shelter.

“People with disabilities face numerous barriers to accessing humanitarian aid,” explains Camille Gosselin, Head of Humanitarian Advocacy at Handicap International. “There are a number of reasons for this: a lack of information about the services available, difficulty accessing these services because they are too remote, unsuitable or physically inaccessible. Improvements can often be made by applying basic common sense, for example, when you see toilets or water supplies with steps in refugee camps it is obvious that a wheelchair user cannot access them! We need to put a stop to this type of discrimination.”

Vulnerability in crisis situations

The report shows that people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable in humanitarian crises: 54% of respondents had injuries resulting from a conflict or natural disaster which in certain cases had caused an additional disability. The study also reveals a disturbingly high level of physical, sexual and psychological violence, with 27% of respondents stating that they have been the victim of such violence. Measures must be put into place to offer better protection.

In the conclusion to its report, Handicap International calls on governments, international agencies and NGOs to better take into account people with disabilities when defining their programmes, and most importantly to listen to and act on their opinions, as they are best placed to identify their own needs. Organisations also need to adapt their services and infrastructure to people with disabilities. The discussions currently underway in preparation for the World Humanitarian Summit should lead to clear commitments being made to ensure that people with disabilities are taken into account in humanitarian responses.

About the 'Disability in Humanitarian Contexts' report

The 'Disability in Humanitarian Contexts' report was based on an online consultation of people with disabilities, organisations supporting people with disabilities and humanitarian organisations conducted by Handicap International from April to June 2015. The survey was conducted worldwide and there were 769 respondents. The resulting report will contribute to discussions at the World Humanitarian Summit which is aiming to reform the global humanitarian system, with the final meeting to be held in May 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Related links

Download the report
Download Handicap International's report 'Disability in Humanitarian Contexts'.

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