People with Disabilities Must Not Be Left in the Shadows


People with disabilities must not be left in the shadows of emergency operations

Handicap International is regularly called upon to work with the victims of natural disasters. Some of our most notable responses include the 2004 Tsunami, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2011 floods in Pakistan, and, just a few weeks ago, the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan emergency in the Philippines.

Over the course of Handicap International’s 31 years, one thing has been clear: people in disabling situations were rarely taken into consideration in regional evacuation plans, which should target the most vulnerable as a priority.

Hélène Robin, Handicap International’s emergency operations officer, says “In such a tough context as the current situation in the Philippines, people with disabilities are made even more vulnerable by the fact that they cannot independently access humanitarian aid. We are therefore duty bound to offer them special assistance, mobility aids such as wheelchairs, or crutches, for example, and to refer them to solidarity organizations that can help them.” 

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Tuesday December 3, is the opportunity to underline the need to offer special care to the most vulnerable people, including the disabled, in emergency contexts. December 3 is also #GivingTuesday, the day that Americans are meant to begin their end-of-year charitable giving.

Handicap International is encouraging people with disabilities to take part in natural disaster risk prevention activities. In South Asia, our teams are working in five countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan), in direct partnership with at-risk communities and in collaboration with the regional stakeholders responsible for disaster risk reduction.

Handicap International also works with people with disabilities in many emergency situations, with the Syrian crisis being the prime example. In Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, the organization has mobilized more than 300 workers to assist the most vulnerable people. Handicap International teams operate in the same way in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Mali, so that people with disabilities are not forgotten during humanitarian emergencies.