Saturday October 26, 2013

Helping disabled Bangladeshis survive disaster

On 13th October, the International Day for Disaster Reduction, Islamic Relief highlighted the difficulties faced by disabled people living in disaster-prone areas in a compelling report – which introduced Toyen Uddin, 60.

Shopkeeper Toyen lives with his family in Char Ratonpur, Gaibandha. Nine years ago, he lost his left leg, making it difficult to work and earn a living to support his family. On top of this, he faced discrimination within his community because of his disability.

Bangladesh is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, so Toyen’s isolation left him anxious about how he would cope when the next flood or earthquake struck.

Disaster risk reduction, or DRR, aims to keep communities safe when the next emergency happens: for example, by creating a safe assembly point, or alerting villagers as soon as an oncoming disaster is detected so that they can be prepared. However, disabled people often can’t access these services, and are frequently excluded from planning processes.

Bangladesh_Toyen Uddin

Toyen Uddin, 60, worries about how to face disaster after losing his leg nine years ago

Our report, ‘Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction‘, argues that DRR activities be made accessible to disabled people: for example, ensuring they are able to access buildings in the case of an emergency, and finding ways to communicate to those with hearing or sight loss. Disaster planning committees also need to include representatives for disabled people, to ensure their needs do not get overlooked.

To put Toyen’s mind at rest, we helped him to become part of the new Village Development Committee. Now, he speaks out for the needs of disabled village members, as well as leading a community group, teaching local people how to keep themselves and their families safe in the face of disaster.

Sadly, not all disabled people are offered the same opportunities. One in ten people around the world are disabled, and we hope that this report will encourage others working in DRR to begin considering their needs.

Islamic Relief has been working in Bangladesh since 1991, carrying out extensive disaster relief and risk reduction work, as well as development in areas including water, education, child welfare and many more.

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