UN Advocate Says Disabled People Excluded During Disasters

When disasters happen around the world, there is generally an outpouring of support and an admirable effort made by governments to help as many as possible. However, one group that is frequently left out and often excluded from relief aid or even just emergency support during a crisis is disabled people, and it’s gotten to the point where a UN official has commented on it, highlighting the growing inequality between people with disabilities and those without. 

According to the official statement given by a UN official, those people who have disabilities are the most at risk during a disaster like an earthquake or flood. They’re often the last to be thought about and will consequently be searched for after everyone else. 

Gertrude Fefoame is the new chair of a UN committee that focuses on the rights of people with disabilities. She is a long-time disability rights advocate and is also the first African woman to head up the committee. She had this to say: 

“Covid exposed us to devastation. As if that is not enough, there are more and more issues around disasters, conflicts, health, and the environment. People with disabilities, especially women and girls, end up being the most deprived. If you don’t have data on people with disabilities, why are you going to look for them? You don’t know who is missing. When you’re not counted, you’re already excluded. That is the situation we experience in most cases.”

Unfortunately, her comments are all too common among people with disabilities these days, many of whom are seemingly forgotten about in the event of a crisis. This may seem counterintuitive to some people, as disabled people surely have many more needs in the event of a crisis due to a lack of mobility or other special requirements, but for some reason, they are often one of the most neglected parts of any emergency rescue operation.

As disability support workers Gold Coast, we are saddened to learn that people with disabilities are often neglected during crisis situations. Obviously, this is grossly unfair. There is absolutely no reason why somebody with a disability should be discriminated against, but it seems to happen all too often. There is a grain of truth in that there aren’t a lot of official figures and data for people who are disabled, so it’s difficult to know who governments should be searching for in the event of a crisis, but that’s not an excuse to not look or try. 

Unfortunately, without change and a committed effort to do better, it’s going to be difficult to try and redefine the way disabled people are thought about during a crisis. We have to consider that everybody deserves equal support during a crisis, and disabled people can’t be left until the end to get the help that they need. It’s very common for people with mobility issues and other disabilities to become trapped in a dangerous situation during a crisis, so if anything, they should be a priority for search and rescue teams.

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