Marking the International Day for Disaster Reduction, the United Nations today called on countries to ensure the safety of persons with disabilities by including them in their planning and preparedness measures.
“Early warning systems, public awareness campaigns and other responses often fail to consider the needs of persons with disabilities, putting them at an unnecessarily elevated risk and sending a harmful message of inequality,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day.
“We can change this situation by including persons with disabilities in disaster resilience initiatives and policy planning.”
The General Assembly designated 13 October as the International Day for Disaster Reduction in 2009, replacing an earlier version of the Day. Its objective is to raise awareness of how people are taking action to reduce their risk to disasters.
More than one billion people in the world live with a disability and this year's theme seeks to spotlight their vital role in fostering resilience as they are at high risk of injury or death during disasters.
“Unfortunately, most persons with disabilities have never participated in disaster risk management or related planning and decision making processes. They suffer disproportionately high levels of disaster-related mortality and injuries,” Mr. Ban said.
“Inclusion saves lives. And it empowers persons with disabilities to take ownership of their own safety – and that of their community.”
This year, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and partners, consulted nearly 6,000 persons with disabilities in 126 countries on how they cope and prepare for disasters.
The results show that people living with disabilities across the world are rarely consulted about their needs in times of disasters. They also illustrate the various challenges they face such as evacuating premises and receiving proper care in emergency facilities.
Mr. Ban called on the international community to “do everything possible to ensure that all persons with disabilities have the highest possible levels of safety and the greatest possible chance to contribute to the overall well-being of society.
“Let us build an inclusive world where persons with disabilities can play an even greater role as resourceful agents of change.”