It has become apparent that the world’s exposure to disasters has increased faster than its ability to reduce risk and vulnerabilities to people and infrastructures. Climate change is strengthening storms and increasing the damage caused by natural disasters. Specific reports from 2004-2014 showed the disaster mortality rate of persons with disabilities was 2-4 times higher than other members of communities.
The Sendai Framework was established in May 2015 at the 3rd UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and will remain in place until 2030. The framework aims to substantially reduce disaster risk and loss of health and economic, physical, social, cultural, and environmental assets all over the world through priorities and targets. The sixth target is to enhance international cooperation to developing countries to assist with the implementation of national DRR strategies. Approximately 82% of persons with disabilities in developing countries are below the poverty line. And with the predictions that the consequences of climate change will disproportionately affect the world’s poor, an inclusive DDR strategy must be in place everywhere, but especially in these countries.
Unfortunately, existing systems generally fail to ensure the participation, inclusion and mainstreaming of persons with disabilities in decision-making processes within disaster risk management. The Dhaka Declaration was the product of the Dhaka Conference in Bangladesh in December 2018. The Declaration focused primarily on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in planning strategies for DDR. Due to the Dhaka Declaration, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Sendai Framework, has integrated persons with disabilities in DRR strategies and meetings.
The 2017 Global Platform for DRR was held in Cancun, Mexico in May of that year. The Platform evaluates the progress made on the Sendai Framework and fosters discussion on how to proceed. The hosts were committed to making the Platform accessible to persons with disabilities. They reached out to organizations that were able to help make the Platform accessible through technology. There was International Sign Language interpretation, remote participation options through remote hubs and web conferencing, and talking digital documents among other things. Going forward, the participation of persons with disabilities in DRR discussions will help to ensure that they are included in DRR strategies. Hopefully, they will be less disproportionately affected as a result.
Inclusive DRR is important regarding food insecurity too because food insecurity can result from disasters. Loss of agriculture and accessibility can make it very difficult for persons with disabilities to obtain their nutritional needs. Including person with disabilities in conversations about DRR may force local and national plans to include strategies for maintaining food security, or at least minimizing food insecurity, after a disaster if they aren’t already incorporated.