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In the last decade, disasters have cost the global economy USD 520 billion and pushed 26 million people into poverty. Certain groups, such as people with disabilities, have historically been disproportionately affected by natural hazards.
More than 700 participants from 32 countries gathered in Dhaka this May to attend the 2nd International Conference on Disability and Disaster Risk Management. The global platform brings together persons with disabilities, policy makers, activists, experts, and various other stakeholders to find practical ways and means to ensure disability inclusion in all disaster risk management efforts.
We live in a world that is seeing an increasing number of disasters, both natural and human-made. In the last decade, disasters have cost the global economy USD 520 billion and pushed 26 million people into poverty. Certain groups, such as people with disabilities, have historically been disproportionately affected by natural hazards.
Ten of the 17 SDGs have targets related to disaster risk, firmly establishing the role of disaster risk reduction in realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The conference was a chance to reflect on progress made on special frameworks by member countries. These include the Sendai Foundation for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and the Dhaka Declaration 2015.
The event, held from 15-17 May in Dhaka, saw participants from across the world, including BRAC. We presented the best practices on disability-inclusive disaster preparedness, inclusive policy development and emergency response, and risk mitigation interventions.
A UNISDR survey indicates that a key reason for a disproportionate number of persons with disabilities falling victims to disasters is because their needs are ignored in the planning process.
The Sendai Framework, the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, underscores that disaster risk reduction is essential to achieve sustainable development. The Dhaka Declaration, adopted at this year’s conference, is a practical guideline for states to implement and report on Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development Goals on the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
The document highlights eight points – calling on governments, regional entities, private sector and other stakeholders to act to ensure a people-centered approach; strengthen governance, partnership and cooperation; integrate sex, age and disability disaggregated data; promote empowerment and protection; remove barriers to reduce the impact of disasters on persons with disabilities; act at local to national to global level; endorse and report against the Dhaka Declaration of 2018 by 2021; and take initiatives for knowledge sharing and learning among stakeholders. The Declaration was presented to Dr Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, Speaker of Parliament, and a chief guest at the conference.
Dr Erum Mariam, director of BRAC Institute of Educational Development, highlighted the immense need for mental health support services during disasters. She shared BRAC’s experience of working with survivors of crises, such as the Rana Plaza building collapse and the Rohingya community’s influx to Bangladesh since August 2017.
This Declaration’s agendas uphold the overall wellbeing of persons with disabilities and reduce their vulnerability in emergencies. BRAC has already made a head start in promoting inclusive disaster risk management activities. Our strategic vision for 2016-2020 ensures that at least 7% of the total population reached through humanitarian activity are people with disabilities. As one of the pioneers in humanitarian work in Bangladesh, BRAC will be one of the driving forces in carrying the agenda forward.
Positive collaborative approaches can be achieved via shared values and a common concern for those who are living in risk-prone situations. By realising the potential of the millions of lives it continues to impact, for BRAC, inclusion is truly a success story.
Arefeen Ahmed is deputy manager of donor reporting and communications of BRAC’s disaster management and climate change programme.