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COP26: People with disabilities among the hardest hit by climate change

Press Release | 28th October 2021, 12:00

The rate of natural disasters has increased by five times in the last 50 years, exacerbating humanitarian needs worldwide. Since 1970, natural disasters caused over two million deaths. People with disabilities are among those most exposed to the risks. Humanity & Inclusion is attending the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, from 31st October to 12th November 2021, to call on states and policymakers to include people with disabilities in disaster risk reduction and climate action protocols.

In 50 years, climate change has caused the rate of disasters linked to natural hazards to increase 5 times. There have been over 11,000 disasters linked to weather, climate or water hazards since 1970, causing over 2 million deaths, and over $3.64 trillion USD in economic losses. Weather, climate and water-related disasters make up half of all disasters. Droughts, storms, floods and extreme temperatures caused over 1.8 million deaths between 1970 and 2019.

15% of the world’s population lives with a disability, with a disproportionate number living in middle to low-income countries. People with disabilities are at increased risk of morbidity and mortality during a disaster as compared to the general population. In a global survey from 2013, only 20% of people with disabilities reported evacuating without difficulty. 71% reported having no preparation plan for emergencies and 50% reported that they wished to participate in disaster risk reduction efforts.

“In the Philippines, when there is a typhoon, we see older people and people with disabilities struggle to navigate flooded streets. There are no facilities to pick them up and take them to safety. Shelters are not accessible. So, we worked with families and local authorities to identify a suitable evacuation route and an accessible school that could welcome people during emergencies,” says Jennifer M’Vouama, Humanity & Inclusion’s Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Policy & Development Advocate.

People with disabilities are rarely included in disaster planning. A United Nations global survey among 5,450 people with disabilities in 126 countries reported that only 17% were aware of disaster management plans in their communities, and only 14% had been consulted about these plans. People in wheelchairs or with assistive devices are unable to access evacuation routes or shelters. People with low vision are not given adapted risk education materials. These oversights mean that people with disabilities are left behind.

The impacts of climate change including climate-induced disasters are even more severe on individuals experiencing multiple forms of marginalization and exclusion based not only on disability but also gender and age.

“Evacuation plans rarely consider people with limited mobility. Shelters are often inaccessible to people using wheelchairs. If we don’t include people from the beginning, we miss out on providing life-saving opportunities for them,” says M’Vouama.

Climate change negatively impacts the lives, health, well-being and economic status of people with disabilities. Severe weather or temperatures can lead to loss of livelihoods, shelter, and food security, affecting individuals long after the event has passed. Malnutrition and undernutrition resulting from agricultural deterioration and drought can result in developmental delays or disabilities in children. Following a disaster, there is an increase in the number of people with physical, sensory and psychosocial disabilities. It is estimated that for every death in a disaster, an additional three people are injured or .



  • Interviews with Humanity & Inclusion’s spokespeople upon request:
  • Jennifer M’Vouama, Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Policy & Development Advocate
  • George Graham, Chief Executive, Humanity & Inclusion UK

Jennifer and George will be attending the COP26 event on 5th November

  • Humanity & Inclusion will be speaking at “An inclusive planet: inclusion, mental health and climate change” with CBM UK on November 5th - More details here.
  • In preparation for the COP26 event, Humanity & Inclusion has been partnering with the Voices for Change campaign.


Humanity & Inclusion’s actions

Currently operating disaster risk reduction actions in 17 countries and humanitarian projects in 46 countries, Humanity & Inclusion aims to share its inclusive practices with other global actors, and improve its understanding of how vulnerability is compounded by climate change to ensure that nobody is left behind.

In attending events, exhibits, and panel discussions throughout the COP26 summit, Humanity & Inclusion is advocating for:

  • The inclusion of people with disabilities and their representative organizations in disaster planning processes, climate governance processes and humanitarian programs.
  • The accessibility of information, education and communication (IEC) materials on climate change
  • The collection of data to better document the impacts of climate change on under-represented groups, including persons with disabilities;
  • Efforts to increase disaster risk reduction and adaptation financing and ensure it is disability-inclusive

HI-US Media Contact

Mira Adam
Sr. Media Officer
[email protected]
Tel: +1 (202) 855-0301

Elizabeth J. Sellers
e[email protected]
Tel: +1 (270) 847-3443


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