Call for Action for to include Persons with Disabilities in the Philippines emergency response and recovery programmes

November 20, 2013
Source: IDA and IDDC

Call for Action for to include Persons with Disabilities in the Philippines emergency response and recovery programmes


The International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC)[i] and the International Disability Alliance[ii] (IDA) express concern regarding the situation in the Philippines, including the plight of persons with disabilities and call all agencies involved to include persons with disabilities in the planning and response to the typhoon, as stakeholders and as beneficiaries.


One of the most powerful typhoons on record, Super Typhoon Haiyan, locally named Yolanda, made its first landfall on 8 November, in the Philippines. Reports from our field missions and from partners in the Philippines describe widespread destruction and chaos, and the extreme difficulties faced by persons with disabilities and their families. Since persons with disabilities are among the most vulnerable in an emergency situation, they must not be forgotten.  An assessment mission to the city of Conception revealed chaos with only a few houses remaining. Everything else has been destroyed and scattered on the ground with 95 per cent of the city completely washed out.


The current situation of persons with disabilities in Conception Municipality reflects the experience of persons with disabilities in all affected areas of the Philippines right now:

  • ·       There are approximately 1150 persons with disabilities registered so far with the Social Welfare department, 400 of them are children, and all are affected and in need of food and non-food aid. 
  • ·       Families with children with disabilities visited have either lost their homes or are badly damaged. 
  • For persons with disabilities there is an immediate need for food, clean drinking water, and non-food items, as well as psycho-social support with long-term needs of mobility devices, accessible housing, and schools.
  • ·       People are spending nights in communal shelters, however electricity, water, and telephone services have been cut since Thursday morning (November 7)
  • ·       People do not have enough food and other essential items and depend on government distribution, which is not covering all of their needs.
  • In the neighbouring Sara municipality, as well as in Leyte, schools for children with disabilities have been damaged. Communication barriers make it difficult to connect with the families of children with disabilities.
  • All of the 11 highlands inhabitants lost their homes. There are at least 400 children with disabilities whose parents lost homes and are in need of assistance from mainly the surrounding islands, but there is no access to the islands.



  • Strong advocacy by and with persons with disabilities is needed to ensure disability inclusion is a key criterion in all emergency relief operations implemented in the Philippines.
  • The evidence base concerning the vulnerability of persons with disabilities in weather-related emergencies, and key factors, which create resilience, need to be greatly strengthened, with key messages disseminated.
  • Evaluations of both emergency and development programmes, in areas affected by a changing climate, need to clearly include disability in their terms of reference.
  • In the reconstruction and recovery phase following severe weather and other emergencies, it is essential that universal accessibility standards are applied in all public buildings and spaces, water and sanitation points and for the homes where people with mobility impairments live. Persons with disabilities and their families must be included in all programmes for the community including education, healthcare and livelihood recovery.
  • Data on beneficiaries must be disaggregated according to disability to ensure that persons with disabilities are counted and agencies must report on the measures they have taken to include persons with disabilities in their response.
  • All governments, UN agencies and Humanitarian relief organisations need to ensure that all the measures they take in emergencies are in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls for inclusive international cooperation (Article 32) and inclusion of persons with disabilities in situations of disaster and risk.
  • Disaster Risk Reduction activities at all levels need to specifically include persons with disabilities as a vulnerable group and a stakeholder group, which can contribute to inclusive planning and preparedness.
  • Early warning systems need to ensure that warnings reach all members of the community, including persons with disabilities regardless of mobility or communication barriers.


Weather-related disasters are increasing in number and severity and the number of people affected by them has risen. Disasters and their aftermath have a huge impact on persons with disabilities who are among the most vulnerable in an emergency, sustaining disproportionately higher rates of morbidity and mortality, and at the same time being among those least able to access emergency support. For example, research indicates that the mortality rate among persons with disabilities was twice that of the rest of the population during the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.[iii] Moreover, for every person that dies during a disaster, it is estimated that three people sustain an injury, many causing long-term disabilities, such as the case in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake in which approximately 200,000 people are expected to live with long-term disabilities as a result of injuries.[iv]


Persons with disabilities are often forgotten, and most likely to be abandoned during disasters[v] as well as more likely to be invisible and overlooked in emergency relief operations.[vi] When the emergency hits they may have difficulty reaching safe areas; become separated from family and friends, which is a key to survival and coping; have trouble accessing vital emergency information; or lose assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches, prostheses, white canes or hearing aids. In addition, moving and transferring persons with disabilities requires handling techniques to avoid injury or further injury. Yet, the first-ever UN global survey of persons living with disabilities and how they cope with disasters indicates that the percentage of those with disabilities who could evacuate with no difficulty almost doubles if they were given sufficient time. This underlines the importance of early warning systems and ensuring that warnings reach all members of the community regardless of any mobility or communication barriers.[vii] A current example of this in the Philippines includes the disabled people’s organisation from one of the affected islands in Iloilo that participated in the local pre-emptive meeting at the provincial level and confirmed that the plans were not prepared to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities.


For the few who have been evacuated, shelters are not accessible and consequently survivors with disabilities are also excluded from the emergency responses, including: food, basic needs and health support. This is common in emergency responses, due to the underlying exclusion of persons with disabilities from disaster risk reduction processes. In addition, in the aftermath of a disaster, the damage to infrastructure caused by extreme weather events can reduce or completely remove access and safe mobility. Inclusive practice in all relief operations is needed to ensure that response and service delivery is not fragmented, but mindful of all sources of vulnerability.[viii] Rapid Need Assessment in Iloilo, the Philippines confirmed that very few persons with disabilities use the evacuation centres.


[i] Members of the International Disability and Development Consortium AbleChildAfrica, ADD International, Associazione Italiana Amici di Raoul Follereau (AIFO), Atlas Alliance, CBM, Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOD), Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD), EducAid, EU-CORD, FIDIDA, Handicap International, ILEP, Leonard Cheshire Disability , Leprosy Mission, Light for the World, Liliane Fonds, Myright, Netherlands Leprosy Relief, Norwegian Association of Disabled, OVCI, Plan International, Platform for Disability and Development Cooperation, Sense International, Sightsavers

[ii] Members of the International Disability Alliance

Arab Organization of Persons with Disabilities, Disabled People’s International, Down Syndrome International, European Disability Forum, Inclusion International, International Federation of Hard of Hearing People, Latin American Network of Non-Governmental Organizations of Persons with Disabilities and their Families, Pacific Disability Forum, World Blind Union, World Federation of the Deaf, World Federation of the DeafBlind, World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry


[iii] UN. (2013). Panel Discussion on Disaster resilience and disability: ensuring equality and inclusion. United Nations Headquarters on October 10, 2013.

[iv] UN Enable. (2013). Disability, natural disasters and emergency situations: A need to include persons with disabilities. Retrieved from

[v] DiDRRN. (2013). Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Simulation Exercise. Retrieved from


[vi] Choy, R. (2009). Disasters are always inclusive: Vulnerability in humanitarian crises, Development Bulletin, Special Issue No. 73, April 2009, Development Studies Network, ANU, Canberra.


[vii] UNISDR. (2013, October 10). UN Global Survey Explains Why So Many People Living with Disabilities Die in Disasters. [Press release 2013/29].


[viii] Kett, M and Scherrer, V. (2009). The Impact of Climate Change on People with Disabilities. Report of e-discussion hosted by The Global Partnership for Disability & Development (GPDD) and The World Bank (Human Development Network - Social Protection/Disability & Development Team).


 For more information contact Valerie Scherrer,