June 9, 2015. Managua.- In the context of the Regional Forum Workshop on Risk Management and Emergencies of the Associative Movements of People with Disabilities of Central America and the Caribbean, held in Managua on June 2-4, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) presented a “Draft proposal of minimum standards or criteria for the protection and care of people with disabilities in emergencies and disasters.” The idea was to inform those participating in the forum about the proposal and for them to offer their contributions.
“Humanitarian personnel do not necessarily think about particular needs, which is why this effort is necessary,” commented UNICEF consultant Gerardo Quiroz, who presented the proposal. “Working with children isn’t the same as working with pregnant women, and so populations with particular needs can be individualized.” Quiroz added that this project implies bringing together two worlds: the world of people who work on disaster prevention and response and the world of people with disabilities.
“Children with or without disabilities are treated in a general way,” stated Ana Fisher, who is the General Secretary of the Latin American Network of Non-Governmental Organizations of People with Disabilities and their Families (RIADIS). “We aren’t seen as people that need more specific attention.”
Proposed minimum standards well received
“This initiative challenges the practice of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian aid by passing from a generic focus to an individualized one,” said Germán Quezada of the Humboldt Center, explaining that people with disabilities are a special group, but there are others such as children, original peoples, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women that also need to be taken into account in an emergency situation.
“This proposal is very important,” said Otto Zamariego from Guatemala during the forum workshop, “but training sessions for the families need to be taken into account as well, because they are the first people in contact with people with disabilities.” He added that the proposal must be in line with the reality in the communities.
Rosa Salgado, the Special Ombudsperson for People with Disabilities, added that training in the community is important. “Those of us with disabilities don’t live alone,” she stated, referring to the fact that even when the family is not near the person with the disability, there is always someone, perhaps a neighbour, who can support them and therefore needs to know how to do so.
Positioning and requirements for the Central American Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Policy
The positioning and requirements document for the Central American Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Policy is a product of this regional forum workshop. This document focuses on how to carry out inclusive risk management, highlighting the issue of disability in emergency situations and ensuring the adoption of standardized norms of non-discrimination, accessibility and participation for people with disabilities and their families.
This positioning document takes into account the different areas of the Central American Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management Policy, from preparedness and reduction to response. The document will be presented at the 3rd Consultative Forum on the Central American Comprehensive Risk Management Policy (PCGIR) to be held on June 18-19 in El Salvador.
The Regional Forum Workshop of the Associative Movements of People with Disabilities of Central America and the Caribbean was coordinated by the Nicaraguan Federation of Associations of People with Disabilities (FECONORI) and RIADIS, with support from the Nicaraguan Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, the Danish Association of People with Disabilities, the Workers Samaritans Federation of Germany, the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development in Central America and UNICEF.
Programme on disability in emergencies and disasters in Central America
The draft proposal presented by UNICEF is part of the work being carried out in the context of the programme for the “Participation and protection of people with disabilities in emergencies and disasters in Central America”. This programme is being coordinated by the Coordination Centre for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America (CEPREDENAC) and sponsored by the National Risk Prevention and Emergency Response Commission (CNE) and the National Rehabilitation and Special Education Council (CNREE), both from Costa Rica, and UNICEF-Costa Rica, with financial support from USAID (OFDA-LAC).
This programme aims to guarantee the full exercising of the basic rights and liberties of people with disabilities during emergencies and disasters and seeks to be inclusive, so that those with disabilities participate in the planning and decision making. It also intends to encourage institutions, civil society and regional organizations to implement policies and activities related to disability and disaster risk management.
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Olga Moraga Amador, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Nicaragua: firstname.lastname@example.org