Disability survey: ‘We can face any challenge with courage’

Report
from UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Published on 12 Sep 2013 View Original

GENEVA, 12 September 2013 – “It was my mother’s earnest wish to see me living an independent daily life,” says Shazma, a 15-year-old living with disabilities in her home village of Chalyar, in Pakistan’s Swat district.

“But because of my old, regular wheelchair and discrimination in my society I never found confidence in myself to deal with the challenges I was facing.”

However, thanks to her own determination and local support from Handicap International’s inclusive disaster risk reduction programme, Shazma has overcome many of the physical and attitudinal barriers that have challenged her throughout her young life.

Shazma and her family, with the help of Handicap International, began to discuss the rights of people with disabilities, improved home care and better preparedness in the event of disaster, such as floods from the nearby Swat River.

Wider community disaster preparedness training also addressed specific techniques adapted for people living with disabilities in first aid, search and rescue, and safe transfer and evacuation.

“Disasters affect persons with disabilities more severely.” said Shazma, who has had difficulty walking and an associated lack of self-confidence since childhood.

“All this brings fear and a lot of environmental barriers for persons with disabilities. At the beginning, we were thinking it was impossible to prepare ourselves for any disaster. Now we have knowledge and skills to some extent cope with any disaster and we can face any challenge with great courage.”

Handicap International has replaced Shazma’s old wheelchair with a newer model that is more durable and comfortable. It has also helped the community build a ramp with handrails at her school. “There used to be steps to the verandah and the main gate. Going up and down was very difficult for me. Now it’s easy for me to go up and down from the classroom and the school is accessible for everyone,” Shazma said.

The school is also identified as a safe, accessible evacuation area for villagers in Chalyar in the event of a disaster.

Thousands of people around the world are currently participating in the first-ever survey of people living with disabilities and disasters – organised by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and partners – to mark the 2013 International Day for Disaster Reduction on 13 October.

Have Your Say! If you’re living with a disability or you are a caregiver, take our survey and share your thoughts on living with disasters. The survey is available here in several languages.