INTERNATIONAL DAY OF DISASTER REDUCTION: “Living with Disability and Disaster”

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Today was selected by the United Nations General Assembly to raise awareness on the importance of Disaster Risk Reduction and to encourage every citizen and government to take part in building more disaster-resilient communities and nations. This year the theme focuses on a vulnerable population of the society, persons living with disability.

Estimated at 15%, people living with disability make up a large portion of the world population. In an event of a disaster, persons with disabilities are often the ones affected the most due to neglect of their special needs. Disaster does not see the ability or disability among the people and when it strikes it does so without discriminating.

Even though the risk of disaster is equal among all people, able people can cope with the disaster better than disabled people.

People living with disabilities have a plight that they are not reached out to in the event of a disaster. In the case of a sudden disaster alert, only 20% of disabled people can escape without any problem, 74% need a little assistance and the remaining 6% cannot escape at all unless they are fully aided. However, if there was ample communication before hand, the statistics of those who can escape without difficulty almost doubles.

We at the World Assembly of Youth (WAY) believe that communication is the key to solving this issue. There is a need for awareness among societies on how to handle disabled people when disaster occurs. Young volunteers can be utilized during this time to help those in need. We urge the youth to be on the forefront in giving aid all the way from the communication stage, they should be the voice and ears for the disabled at all times.

We urge governments and responsible bodies to ensure that warnings reach all members of the community regardless of any mobility or communication challenges. They need to include persons with disabilities in disaster resilience initiatives and policy planning.

People with disabilities are resourceful agents of change. Happy International Day For Disaster Reduction!