The United Nations committee on the rights of people with disabilities today urged the Chilean Government and the international community to include needs of the handicapped in the reconstruction plans of areas affected by the earthquake that jolted the country in February.
As a matter of priority, reconstruction plans should take into consideration access to physical space, information, communications, transportation, products and services, the Committee on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities said in a statement issued in Geneva.
“Reconstruction in the areas affected by the devastating February earthquake and tsunami must also become a reality for the disabled,” said the current committee’s chairperson, Ronald McCallum. “A recent survey shows that an estimated 12.9 per cent of the Chilean population has disabilities, and many in the affected areas were persons with various forms of disabilities,” he added.
In a recent statement, the 12-member committee also recommended that relief measures take into account the special needs of persons with different forms of disabilities, in particular, in warning procedures, evacuation, information and communications.
“Equal attention shall be given to sign language and video captioning of public information regarding the emergency situation in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” it said.
The committee stressed the urgent need to provide services to the disabled, including post-traumatic stress care. It called for “special support in rebuilding their homes, whether in urban or rural areas and those sites that host associations of persons with disabilities and centres that serve them, which have been destroyed or damaged.”
It said it recognized the efforts of the Chilean Government in the earthquake emergency, but urged the country to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.”
The committee is made up of independent experts who monitor the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which so far has been endorsed by 140 countries, including Chile. The Convention was adopted in December 2006 by the General Assembly, and entered into force in May 2008.
The 8.8-magnitude quake on 27 February claimed the lives of more than 480 people and triggered a tsunami that devastated several coastal towns in south-central Chile.