News / Health

Disaster Planning Often Overlooks Disabled

FILE - A U.N. report says disaster planning often neglects to take those with disabilities in mind.FILE - A U.N. report says disaster planning often neglects to take those with disabilities in mind.
FILE - A U.N. report says disaster planning often neglects to take those with disabilities in mind.
FILE - A U.N. report says disaster planning often neglects to take those with disabilities in mind.

Related Articles

Tuberculosis 'Time Bomb' Costs Europe Billions Annually

Drug-resistant strains already inflicting annual direct costs of more than 500 million euros on region, and 5.3 billion in lost productivity

Study: Poor Hospital Care Harms 40 Million Worldwide

Researchers found almost 26 million cases of unsafe medical care occur in hospitals in developing countries; remaining 16.8 million in the West

Video S. African Wheelchair Tennis Champ Aims for World #1

Triple amputee Lucas Sithole, 26, is setting his sights on the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil
VOA News
People with physical or cognitive disabilities die or are injured in natural disasters at a much higher rate than the general population.  Part of the blame rests with emergency planning officials and governments, according to a new U.N. report.

In a survey of 5,450 people from 126 countries, the U.N. found that the disabled are rarely consulted about their needs. Specifically, 20 percent said they could evacuate immediately in the case of a sudden disaster, while the remainder said they could only do so with a degree of difficulty. Six percent said they would not be able to evacuate at all.

It is estimated that 15 percent of the world’s population lives with some kind of disability.

Some respondents shared personal concerns, including one who said they had to sleep in their wheelchair during bad weather in order to be able to evacuate quickly. Another deaf respondent said they had to stay up to watch potential severe weather because they could not hear warning sirens. Yet another said they took their service dog into the bathroom during tornado warnings.

“The results of this survey are shocking,” said Margareta Wahlström who heads the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). “It clearly reveals that the key reason why a disproportionate number of disabled persons suffer and die in disasters is because their needs are ignored and neglected by the official planning process in the majority of situations. They are often left totally reliant on the kindness of family, friends and neighbors for their survival and safety.”

The top five hazards or disaster risks faced by survey respondents were floods, 54 percent; extreme weather, 40 percent; tornados, 39 percent; drought, 37 percent; and earthquakes, 27 percent.

The challenges of evacuation are obvious from the high percentages of survey respondents who have a degree of difficulty either hearing (39 percent) or seeing (54 percent), walking or climbing steps (68 percent), and difficulty communicating (45 percent).

The survey highlighted the importance of early warning systems, but showed that only 14 percent of those surveyed had been consulted about the disaster management plan in their community. If given more time to prepare, 38 percent said they’d be able to evacuate immediately, but 58 percent still said they might face challenges and four percent said they would not be able to evacuate.

Furthermore, the 22-question survey showed that 71 percent of respondents had no personal preparedness plan in the event of a disaster and only 31 percent have someone always available to help them. Thirteen percent said they never have anyone to help them.

Some recommendation that could potentially help the disabled during a disaster also emerged from the survey. Perhaps most importantly, people need to think about the needs of their neighbors and realize the challenges those living with disabilities might face in the event of a catastrophe. Wheelchair accessibility was also identified as a key concern among many respondents.

Furthermore, respondents said emergency evacuation shelters need to accommodate those with disabilities. Another suggestion was to offer disaster risk reduction apps for the phone.

UNISDR plans to continue surveying through the rest of the year to grow the sample size.

“UNISDR will ensure that their knowledge and experiences are taken fully into consideration at the 2015 World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction when U.N. Member States meeting in Japan will adopt a new global framework for disaster risk reduction to replace the current Hyogo Framework for Action,” said Wahlström.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Coal Wood from: Tampa, FL
October 22, 2013 7:23 PM
As a life long wheelchair user I have experiences first-hand how unprepared FEMA and local planners are here in the USA. I suggest to anyone that is disabled or elderly—and those with pets—to make sure you have alternate emergency plans that are not related to FEMA or local agencies because there is a strong likelihood that they will not be prepared.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs