#ZeroCasualty: Don't forget PWDs, elderly
MANILA, Philippines – When Typhoon Ondoy hit Manila in 2009, the elderly and people with disability (PWDs) living in Tahanan ng Walang Hagdan in Rizal were trapped inside the building after floodwaters breached it.
When the floodwaters subsided, everyone was safe but what they experienced indicated the vulnerability of old people and PWDs during disasters.
“Our PWDs are twice more likely to lose their lives or be injured than any other person," Senator Loren Legarda stressed at forum organized by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) on Wedneday, October 29.
Themed, “From Generation to Generation: Communities Step Up for Disaster Resilience. Resilience is for Life!" the forum discussed the role of the elderly and PWDs in disaster management.
A survey conducted by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) among PWDs revealed that 80% of the respondents said they would be unable to evacuate immediately if a disaster strikes. Meanwhile, 6% said they would not be able to evacuate at all.
The sectors are highly exposed to disaster risk but they are not involved in policy making nor are they significantly included in policies, a challenge in attaining the country's zero-casualty goal during disasters.
According to Ronel del Rio of the "Third Decade of Persons with Disabilities 2013-2023" campaign, the PWD and the elderly sectors remain as blind spots in programs implemented by the local government to prepare and respond to disasters.
For example, local government units overlook PWDs and the elderly in data tracking efforts, an effective proactive mechanism for disaster risk reduction management, Del Rio said.
"For example, nung Yolanda, kami pa rin `yung sector na walang nakukuhang data kung ilan ba 'yung nabiktima (During Yolanda, officials do not have a record of the number of affected PWDs and elderly)," Del Rio stressed.
Del Rio also added that most of the evacuation centers across the country do not consider the needs of PWDs, and said it is due to the "non compliance of the Department of Education (DepEd) in the building accessibility standard."
Disability is not inability
While the country enacted laws on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (DRR-CCA), Legarda admitted that “much remains to be done to realize the benefits these laws ought to bring, especially to the poor and the vulnerable who are most in need of help and protection against disasters.
Legarda, a DRR-CCA advocate, stressed the importance of involving PWDs and other vulnerable sectors in efforts to build disaster resilience.
"Their disability does not mean inability. Actually, they can and should be active partners in making communities safer and more resilient,” Legarda said.
“Building resilience should be everybody’s attitude. With this kind of mindset, we can promote the scaling up of existing government programs to rectify the social and economic structures that breed disaster risk and trap the poor and vulnerable citizens in the vicious cycle of risk and poverty,” Legarda said. – Rappler.com