Access to conducive evacuation centers and adequate information are among the main 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 at evacuation centers also have minimal practical knowledge of how to help people with disabilities, when the need arises.
This issue caught the attention of regional leaders at the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held yesterday, raising a red flag on inclusiveness.
Macanawai says people with disabilities continue to experience risk and neglect, with serious negative impacts.
“So in every segment the response is critical when looking at the disabled person. The key for us is to prepare well, before disaster strikes, to make sure our issues are included.
Macanawai adds that the narrative is slowly changing, but more action is still needed.
Pacific Forum of Disaster Risk Reduction Ministers Chair Inia Seruiratu admits this is a serious concern, but work is underway to address the issue.
“We plan to build new evacuation centers. These new facilities will therefore have taken into account the needs of the most vulnerable, and of course people with disabilities as well. We do our best to facilitate them.
The Nadi Declaration, which was drafted by the region’s disaster management ministers last week, illustrates the commitment of Pacific leaders to the widespread implementation of multi-hazard early warning systems centered on people for all, including people with disabilities.