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From Pakistan to Samoa: Including the most vulnerable in disaster preparedness

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Focus on people with disabitlities in disaster risk reduction programs in 10 Asian countries

Asia-Pacific is the world’s most vulnerable region for natural disasters and extreme weather events. Every year, hurricanes and floods in those regions bring death and destruction, affecting hundreds of thousands. Although disasters affect all population groups, it is the most vulnerable among them that suffer the greatest burden: persons with disabilities.

For this reason, Malteser International is working in ten Asian countries to ensure that persons with disabilities are taken into account in their national and local emergency management plans. These countries are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Solomon Islands, and the island nations of Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, and Kiribati.

With climate change, low-altitude areas such as the Pacific Islands, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the long coastline of Vietnam face the ever-increasing risks of storm surges and flash floods. Even countries that had experienced few disasters in the past, such as Thailand and Pakistan, have suffered from extreme floods in recent years. Indonesia and Pakistan are also at risk for earthquakes.

“Among the victims of disaster in those countries, the percentage of persons with disabilities is particularly high,” explains Cordula Wasser, the program’s manager at Malteser International. “Due to limited mobility, lack of access to Information and marginalization in society, these persons are highly endangered. To make matters worse, local and national disaster plans often exclude persons with disabilities.”

Malteser International is running the project as a member of the Disability inclusive DRR Network for Asia and Pacific (DiDRRN), which aims to bring the topic of inclusive disaster preparedness to the top of the agenda in Asian countries.

As part of the project, persons with disabilities and their families should not only benefit from the development of emergency plans, information campaigns and regular trainings, but also participate actively in shaping those plans so the needs of the community are met. The project will also support investment in disability-friendly infrastructure and universal access to buildings. Finally, Malteser International will help the local and national state agencies as well as other organizations active in the field to improve their disaster management capacities.