On 15 March 2019 intense Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall near the city of Beira in Sofala province, Mozambique. It brought heavy rain that made rivers overflow their banks, causing enormous damage inland in the days following the cyclone. Idai left a trail of devastation, not only in Mozambique but also in the surrounding countries such as Malawi, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.
Thousands of persons perished or were injured, and many millions were displaced, most of which took place in Sofala provincea. It is estimated that over a hundred thousand women and men, girls and boys with disabilities were affected by Idai.
Humanitarian aid was triggered immediately, with over four hundred organisations joining in the response and over one thousand aid workers being deployed to the affected areas of Mozambique.
To coordinate their presence, all actors were organised according to the humanitarian cluster system. Despite the huge international response, only about one thousand women and men, girls and boys with disabilities received aid during the first month after the cyclone2. This is merely one per cent, considering that an estimated total number of one hundred thousand people were affected by the disaster. It therefore seems that humanitarian organisations still fail to address the needs of women and men, girls and boys with disabilities as part of their regular response activities, even though many existing international policy frameworks and conventions explicitly demand this.
The foundation for this was laid by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). It obliges states to take ‘all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk’, including disastersc . Mozambique ratified the convention on 30 January 2012d. Building upon the UNRCPD, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted in 2015, which highlights the importance of integrating women and men, girls and boys with disabilities into a successful disaster responsee. Following this, the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action was endorsed during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. It strives for inclusive humanitarian action by ‘lifting barriers persons with disabilities are facing in accessing relief, protection and recovery support […]’.
The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS) was published in 2019 and presents a comprehensive strategy on disability inclusion through all pillars of the UN systemg. This was followed by the adoption of a resolution by the United Nations Security Council on the situation of women and men, girls and boys with disabilities in armed conflicts and humanitarian crisesh. The InterAgency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action from November 2019 were the first humanitarian guidelines developed with and by women and men, girls and boys with disabilities and their representative organisations together with humanitarian actors.
These developments show a clear shift towards more inclusive approaches to disaster response, and a political commitment towards mainstreaming disability in humanitarian action. However, despite the positive trend, this paper will show that inclusion has not been fully converted into practice within the context of Sofala province, Mozambique, and that barriers still remain for women and men, girls and boys with disabilities in accessing humanitarian aid.