Haiti | Earthquake survivor receives rehabilitation, psychosocial support
Jean Mario Joseph was seriously injured in the earthquake that struck Haiti in August 2021, requiring his right leg to be amputated. Today, he receives physical rehabilitation and psychosocial support from Humanity & Inclusion.Read more
Haiti | One year after the earthquake, HI continues to support survivors
After a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti on Aug. 14, 2021, Humanity & Inclusion launched an emergency response. One year later, teams continue to assist thousands of survivors as needs persist.Read more
Philippines | Teams assess needs following 7.0-magnitude earthquake
After an earthquake struck the Luzon region of the Philippines on Wednesday morning, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams reacted immediately to assess community needs.
The 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the country’s most populated island, affecting over 21,000 people.
So far, at least five people are reported to have died and another 130 people have been injured. The earthquake caused an estimated $687 million in structural damage, including damage to over 400 homes, several hospitals, bridges, and numerous schools.
At least 58 landslides have been recorded, in which tremors from the quake sent boulders rolling onto the towns beneath them.
“More than 700 aftershocks have also been recorded since the earthquake,” says Melanie Ruiz, Humanity & Inclusion’s country manager for the Philippines. “Thousands of families have been displaced and people are camping in tents and makeshift shelters as these aftershocks may continue.”
Humanity & Inclusion’s staff are safe and already assessing the damage and determining needs with other organizations in the area.
“Our evaluation is primarily focusing on access to food, hygiene materials, shelter, and daily essentials with specific attention on the needs of persons with disabilities,” Ruiz explains. “We have already prepared 100 kits with basic hygiene supplies such as soap, towels and buckets that are available for the immediate response, and we will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves.”
Humanity & Inclusion has been present in the Philippines since 1985 and has operations near the affected areas. Teams are also carrying out actions in response to Super Typhoon Rai, which struck the Philippines in December 2021.
Madagascar | Months later, support continues for cyclone survivors
After consecutive cyclones devastated Madagascar early this year, communities were left with nothing. For months, Humanity & Inclusion has been providing essentials to people in need.Read more
Madagascar | The humanitarian impact of climate change
As increasing exposure to weather-related hazards creates significant needs in Madagascar, Humanity & Inclusion supports development of adapted solutions.
Madagascar is one of the most prone countries to extreme weather hazards in the world, and the third most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Frequent flooding, tropical storms, cyclones and droughts have devastating impacts on the population and humanitarian needs throughout the island. Climate change is expected to further increase both the frequency and strength of extreme weather events over time.
Five storms, two months
Madagascar’s annual cyclone season spans from November to March. During this time, at least one or two cyclones are expected to cause heavy rains, winds, flooding and rising sea levels. In early 2022 alone, the country experienced five tropical storms, including two intense cyclones that occurred only two weeks apart and followed similar paths of destruction.
Between January and March, over 200 people died from these storms. Around 420,000 have been affected, and more than 169,000 people had their homes damaged or destroyed. Families were left without access to food, drinking water, electricity, shelter, or basic hygiene supplies following each storm. Hospitals, schools and farmland were largely demolished, leaving populations without medical care, children without education and entire agricultural-dependent communities without food production or livelihoods, all of which will have long-term consequences. Around 150,000 acres of rice fields were flooded twice by the back-to-back cyclones and some areas lost as much as 90% of food production sources.
The worst drought in 40 years
While the northern and eastern regions of the country have faced flooding and heavy rains, the south has been experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. Following several years of below-average rainfall, approximately 1.5 million people in the region are now alarmingly food insecure.
“The population relies heavily on subsistence agriculture and rain-fed crops,” explains Lili Bazin, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disaster Risk Reduction technical referent. “So the drought has dramatic impacts on their food security and livelihoods.”
Between 2018 and 2021, the price of water increased by 300%. Some families have reported eating dirt or boiling strips of leather just to get by. The alarming lack of food puts pregnant people and children under the age of 5 at heightened risk of malnutrition, which could result in developmental complications.
Such dramatic meteorological events feed into a vicious cycle: natural disasters create humanitarian need by causing destruction, while pre-existing sources of vulnerability magnify the consequences of those disasters.
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, making the population that much more vulnerable in times of crisis. When faced with the stresses of food insecurity or disaster, many are forced to sell their assets or pull children out of school. Education dropout rates have increased since the drought began, as have rates of gender-based violence and early marriage. With resources and infrastructure frequently threatened, rebuilding becomes increasingly difficult, and needs continue to grow.
Populations with the greatest needs are often left behind in at-risk regions, as many cannot afford to relocate from isolated regions or lack the resources to do so, such as information or transportation. Impacts are even greater on older populations, pregnant people, people with disabilities, and people from minority groups who may face discrimination or physical barriers to accessing aid.
Reducing the impact
“200 deaths this year is of course 200 more than we want,” says Olivier Benquet, Humanity & Inclusion’s geographic director for Madagascar. “But there is some good news: This is a relatively low number considering the scale of these disasters. That is the result of improving disaster risk reduction.”
Humanity & Inclusion has implemented disaster risk reduction projects throughout the world, and in Madagascar specifically, for years. To better prepare communities faced with climate shocks and events, the organization strengthens local structures, supports education services, raises awareness of risks, implements monitoring and early warning systems, and assists individuals in making their livelihoods more sustainable, among other initiatives.
“We can’t prevent the wind, and we can’t prevent the rains,” Bazin adds. “But we can keep natural events from becoming natural disasters by predicting where they may strike, anticipating their impacts on lives and livelihoods, and by acting accordingly ahead of time to prepare communities.”
Inclusive proactive planning
In January, Humanity & Inclusion launched a three-year disaster risk reduction project to put inclusive anticipatory action in three countries prone to natural disasters: Madagascar, Haiti and the Philippines. The initiative uses the science of weather and climate to anticipate possible impacts in risk-prone areas and mobilizes teams, materials and practices to enact early action protocol and mitigate potential impacts before they can be felt. Through the initiative, Humanity & Inclusion will conduct studies to better understand associated risks on vulnerable populations, locate affected communities, reinforce community capacities to respond, run simulation exercises and ensure the inclusion of marginalized groups in these efforts.
“With today’s technology and meteorological forecasts, we can see a cyclone coming in advance,” Benquet explains. “When we see that, we can start to move our teams to the targeted areas, stock supplies, warn communities, evacuate people, and reinforce structures. We know these events are going to happen more often, so it is critical that we adapt and further develop our risk reduction efforts in the face of environmental changes.”
In Madagascar alone, the project targets nearly 330,000 people. In Haiti, it aims to benefit over 200,000 and another 200,000 in the Philippines.
“We will always support communities recovering from disaster,” Bazin says. “But at the end of the day, if we can prepare ahead of time and prevent the disaster from occurring, that’s the real goal."
Humanity & Inclusion is committed to reducing the adverse effects of climate change on populations worldwide. We help communities prepare for and adapt to climate shocks and stresses, and we respond to crises magnified by environmental factors. Applying a disability, gender and age (DGA) inclusion lens across all our actions, we advocate for practitioners and policy-makers to embed DGA in their climate work as well. Humanity & Inclusion is also determined to reduce its own ecological footprint by adapting and implementing environmentally conscious approaches to humanitarian action.
Philippines | Typhoon Rai survivors rebuild their lives
Humanity & Inclusion teams continue to assist people affected by Super Typhoon Rai, which slammed into the Philippines on Dec. 16.
Millions of people have been directly affected by Super Typhoon Rai (locally called Odette), which has left many without shelter, electricity, access to earning a living, or clean water. The passage of the typhoon, combined with 18 months of crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, has generated a major humanitarian crisis in the impacted part of the Philippines.
Following the onslaught of Typhoon Rai, Humanity & Inclusion deployed two teams to assess urgent humanitarian needs in the field. The organization is now assisting disaster-affected people in the provinces of Surigao City and Bohol, both devastated by the storm.
The violent typhoon caused much more damage than initially expected, and 405 people were killed. More than 10 million people are affected. Approximately 1.7 million houses were damaged or destroyed and nearly 25 million acres of crops were ravaged in seven regions. Millions of families have lost their homes or live in extreme poverty, and 2.2 million workers have no income or have been directly affected, according to a recent OCHA report.
Prioritizing disaster response
Humanity & Inclusion focuses its efforts on the most affected people, prioritizing people with disabilities and individuals in particularly vulnerable circumstances. This includes aging individuals and people with health complications, who are often left out of humanitarian responses or unable to access aid.
Humanity & Inclusion’s teams provide them with cash transfers to meet their basic needs. Staff also distribute hygiene kits containing soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, sanitary towels, a bedpan, fabric masks and 5-gallon water jug to help to respond to situations where there is no longer access to running water or sanitation facilities.
Emergency shelter kits
Teams are also distributing emergency shelter kits in the Bohol province, including sheets, tools other home-repair equipment. The organization also supplies households with solar-powered lamps, mosquito nets, bedding and cooking supplies. Humanity & Inclusion is working in partnership with Shelter Box, an international disaster relief that provides emergency shelter and other aid items to families who have lost their homes to disaster or conflict, and in conjunction with local authorities.
“I can repair my home myself if I get construction materials,” says Raul Evardo, a stroke survivor, husband and father of two, whose house was blown away by the typhoon.
Evardo stayed behind in his village while his wife and children went to Buenavista city where they work and study. Once the electricity is reconnected and he has dealt with his most pressing problems, he plans to start welding again and find a job. He hopes to build a more robust house and put this nightmare behind him.
Peru | Accessible information can save lives during emergency
People with disabilities, older people and indigenous communities are often excluded from disaster risk reduction strategies on preventing and responding to emergencies such as earthquakes and tsunamis. But by making some small adjustments—like adding subtitles or using contrasting colors on signage and informational materials—we can ensure no one is left behind when disaster strikes.
Kipu Llaxta, an organization in Peru that works to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities, is working with Humanity & Inclusion to improve a national disaster risk reduction campaign. Among the simple measures it recommends are:
- Include the organizations run by and for people with disabilities and their representatives in disseminating information through their networks
- Translate awareness-raising videos into sign language and add subtitles
- Increase the size of text on posters and fliers
- Use contrasting colors to enhance the legibility of information
- Use multiple formats: visual, audio, text and illustrations
- Disseminate communication campaigns on national media to reach the whole population
As a result of these recommendations, families and people with disabilities were noticeably more likely to take part in disaster risk reduction actions.
Bringing about lasting change
Psychologist Giovanna Osorio Romero, the chair and co-founder of Kipu Llaxta, has a physical disability caused by a rare disease.
“Kipu Llaxta decided to address the issue of disaster risk management in Peru to make it more inclusive," she explains. "With support from Humanity & Inclusion, we have trained ourselves in risk management and gained expertise."
"By making simple adjustments, Peru's 2021 communication campaign was much more accessible, and people were better able to understand prevention messages," Romero adds. "This proves that inclusion benefits society as a whole and not just a small group of people. We are working hard to bring about lasting change and to challenge stereotypes.”
Prevention measures and disaster response must take into account the specific needs of populations disproportionately affected by emergencies: people with disabilities, aging people, women, children. Humanity & Inclusion supports organizations run by and for people with disabilities—like Kipu Llaxta—to uplift their voices and ensure inclusive humanitarian action. The organization will draw attention to this commitment at the 2022 Global Disability Summit in February.
Haiti | Earthquake response continues following recent tremors
Two earthquakes were recorded in Nippes, Haiti, on Jan. 24. Measuring at 5.1 and 5.3 on the Richter scale, the epicenters were 30 miles from Les Cayes, where Humanity & Inclusion teams continue to respond to the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck in August 2021.
Deliver emergency aid to HaitiRead more
Emergencies | Disaster risk reduction is a growing humanitarian need
Driven by climate change, the frequency and intensity of disasters from natural hazards is steadily increasing. Research shows that populations already facing difficult circumstances and low-income countries suffer the greatest consequences.
The rate of natural disaster occurrence is five times higher than it was 50 years ago. Between 1970 and 2019, more than 91% of deaths from over 11,000 disasters occurred in lower income countries. Droughts, storms, floods, and heat waves claimed the most human lives among natural hazards, with storms causing the most damage and economic loss.
“In the Philippines we see increasing and intensifying typhoons, storms and flooding,” explains Jennifer M’Vouama, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Policy Officer. “Cyclones are affecting new parts of Madagascar. In the Sahel, it’s longer episodes of drought, and floods and landslides in Latin America. Each context is different, but we are trying to have a better understanding of vulnerability. In many places, disasters from natural hazards mix with other factors like conflict or epidemics, so we need to consider how these events reinforce each other and increase vulnerability.”
People with disabilities at greater risk
During disasters, people with disabilities are at greater risk of mortality and difficulty, as they often face additional barriers. In the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the death rate among people with disabilities was two to four times higher than people without disabilities. In a 2013 global survey, only 20% of people with disabilities reported being able to evacuate without difficultly, and another 71% reported having no preparation plan for emergencies. Aging people and people with disabilities are often left out of contingency plans. As a result, they are left behind when disaster strikes.
Disasters often result in injuries that can lead to future disabilities. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti caused more than 200,000 severe injuries or disabilities, and the 2021 earthquake wounded another 12,000. Disaster can also wipe out livestock, destroy crops, and prevent economic activity, causing loss of livelihood and food insecurity. As the rate of occurrences increases, this means that each disaster puts more people at higher risk for future events.
Disaster risk reduction at work
While disasters caused by natural hazards are increasing, improved early warning and contingency plans have reduced the number of related deaths. Humanity & Inclusion operates 15 countries worldwide and collaborates with international organizations and local authorities to promote inclusion in the evolving global efforts to reduce risk.
“As a disaster risk reduction agent, Humanity & Inclusion helps communities anticipate the most serious meteorological episodes,” says Julien Fouilland, Humanity & Inclusion’s Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist. “Our first priority is to better prepare the more vulnerable populations for disaster by ensuring their meaningful participation and effective access during the planning stage.”
After initial risk assessments in each neighborhood, Humanity & Inclusion teams develop activities such as strengthening shelters and ensuring they are accessible, developing household emergency response plans, and developing tailored evacuation solutions for people with specific needs. Teams also work with farmers and local organizations to develop sustainable economic activities such as securing livestock and fishing boats, which are essential to many populations.
“Disasters do not affect everyone in the same way,” M’Vouama adds. “This depends on where we live, on our socio-economic background, our gender, our age, whether we have disabilities or not. It is essential that we take into account the differentiated impacts of disasters on people and consider the underlying factors that generate vulnerability.”
Emergencies | ‘Our objective is to minimize the impact of disasters’
With natural disasters on the rise, communities worldwide face increasing danger. Jennifer M’Vouama, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Officer, explains the growing need for risk reduction and importance of inclusive emergency response:
Humanity & Inclusion's Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) team works with communities and individuals, among them people with disabilities, to build their resilience to disaster risks such as floods, cyclones, droughts or earthquakes. Our overall objective is to minimize the impact that these disasters can have on their lives and livelihoods, and to promote coping mechanisms that support recovery. We help them identify and analyze the impacts that these disasters can have on their lives, their livelihoods, habitats and on their well-being. Then, we help them develop risk mitigation and emergency preparedness plans that will protect them against the worst impacts of disaster.
How DRR fits into HI’s mission
Humanity & Inclusion’s mandate is really to work alongside most at risk populations and groups, including people with disabilities, to respond to their essential needs and promote their rights in situations of poverty, conflict and disaster. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable in the event of a disaster. For example, an older woman with reduced mobility will very concretely face difficulties to evacuate an area that may be subject to flooding, or an area that will be impacted by a cyclone or a hurricane. This person will need support and specific assistance to evacuate their home and reach a shelter in a secure location where humanitarian assistance will be provided. Too often, we see that people with disabilities are not sufficiently supported. They tend to be excluded from relief efforts, and as a result are left behind when a disaster occurs.
DRR in action
On the ground, our disaster risk reduction efforts are focused on key activities including risk prevention, risk mitigation, disaster preparedness and early action activities. To mitigate risks, we contribute to strengthening houses and community infrastructure to make them more resistant to shocks. We also conduct inclusive risk awareness activities within the community to ensure that all community members are appropriately informed. In terms of disaster preparedness, we develop contingency plans with the community to organize their resources. We help establish stocks with first aid materials and mobility aids to facilitate evacuations. We identify safe evacuation routes for the population and collective shelters, and ensure they are accessible. When a disaster strikes, we can support pre-emptive evacuation of people and their assets. Finally, we conduct simulation exercises to test everything and continuously improve our approaches.
The role of climate change
One of the most visible consequences of climate change is the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather and climate events. Floods, heat waves, cyclones, all these elements are much more frequent, intense, and much more violent. For the populations that we accompany in the world that are already vulnerable to poverty and exclusion, this means increased vulnerabilities and additional difficulties to achieve sustainable development.
Bringing inclusion to the global response
Humanity & Inclusion works in partnership with several technical, financial and institutional partners within the framework of these activities. For instance, we very often assist NGO partners in their disaster risk reduction actions, by bringing our expertise in terms of inclusion and analysis of vulnerability to disasters. Humanity & Inclusion has a unique capacity to analyze the differentiated impacts that a disaster will have on an individual according to various factors such as disability, gender, age, ethnicity, etc. Not everyone experiences a disaster in the same way, so the responses must be adapted and take these differences into account.