Accessing conducive evacuation centers and adequate information are among the key challenges faced by people with disabilities in the Pacific before, during, and after disasters.
Pacific Disability Forum Chief Executive, Setareki Macanawai, says this remains a concern in the region.
Macanawai says disaster responders in evacuation centers also have minimal practical knowledge on how to assist those with disabilities, when the need arises.
This issue drew the attention of regional leaders in yesterday’s Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction, raising a red flag on inclusivity.
Macanawai says people with disabilities continue to experience risks, and neglect, with serious negative impacts.
“So, in every segment of response is critical when you look at the person with disabilities. The key thing for us is how we prepare well, before disaster strikes, to make sure that our issues are included.”
Macanawai adds the narrative is slowly changing, yet more action is still needed.
Pacific Disaster Risk Reduction Ministers Forum Chair, Inia Seruiratu admits that this is a grave concern, however, work is underway to address the issue.
“We are looking at building new evacuation centers. So these new facilities will have taken into account the need of the most vulnerable, and of course people with disability as well. We are doing our best to facilitate them.”
The Nadi Declaration, which was put together by Disaster Management Ministers from the region last week, portrays the commitment of Pacific leaders to the wide implementation of people-centered multi-hazard early warning systems for all, including people with disabilities.