RI Statement on Chilean Earthquake and People with Disabilities

March 4, 2010

Post-Earthquake Situation in Chile:
Devastation and Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities


(New York, 1 March 2010)  Rehabilitation International (RI), a global disability network, is extremely concerned by the tragedy of the recent earthquake in Chile which has been devastating in terms of human lives and for communities within  Chile and internationally. RI extends these concerns to our member organization in Chile, and to the disability community, where the impact in terms of lives lost and persons newly affected by disabilities caused by the earthquake has yet to be measured, as the extent of the devastation and destruction is still becoming clear.

Persons with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to becoming the first victims of natural disasters both because of their social situation--often being among the poorest of the poor--and often residing in areas of precarious infrastructure and housing, and because of their particular needs during rescues and relief efforts. In addition, natural disasters often cause numerous types of disabilities.

RI appeals to all organizations and governments providing emergency relief and aid to earthquake victims in Chile to not forget persons with disabilities in their efforts. RI implores all organizations to include persons with disabilities in all relief efforts, aid, and on the ground rescue efforts.

In addition, RI asks that reconstruction efforts include persons with disabilities and their perspectives in both development and implementation of any plans. For example, new construction should take into account global accessibility standards to ensure that all persons, including those with disabilities, can access and make use of these reconstructed facilities on equal basis with others in the communities. New emergency policies should incorporate persons with disabilities in the planning and implementation stages.

Chile ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in July 2008, which includes provisions that ensure the protection and inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian emergencies, and natural disasters, as well as other rights, such as nondiscrimination, accessibility, education, and access to justice.

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For more information or contact details of disability experts within the RI membership, please contact Venus Ilagan, RI Secretary General, at Ri@riglobal.org or +1-212-420-1500.