On Saturday February 20th 2016 the category 5 tropical cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji. Winston would turn out to be one of the most powerful cyclones in recorded history, with winds gusting to 320 km/h. Fiji is a Pacific nation of over 100 inhabited islands, and as news started to filter in from these remote locations, the death toll and reports of damage slowly rose. It became apparent that the north western corner of the island of Viti Levu was severely affected. This populated area includes the major towns of Nadi, Lautoka, Ba and Rakiraki. Motivation Australia have been working in Fiji since 2012. Over the next few months our work with the Fiji Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) to improve wheelchair and walking aid service provision, needs to reflect the priorities of the Fijians caught in this humanitarian crisis.
We will be supporting the SIA to plan their response to the emergency; follow-up known wheelchair users to check they’re safe and mobile; and meet the need for mobility devices for people who have sustained injuries during the cyclone.
Motivation Australia is fundraising on behalf of the Fiji SIA through MyCause. All donations (from Australian donors contributing over $2.00) are tax deductible and 100% of funds received will be used to support the work of the SIA post Cyclone Winston. Motivation Australia administration and accountability costs are being funded separately by Motivation Australia. Thank you for your support!
Disability and disasters
Reflections by Ray Mines
Everyone is at risk during a natural disaster or emergency, however children and adults with disabilities are often disproportionately affected. Physical damage and disruption to infrastructure, housing, healthcare, power and water supplies, telecommunications, food supplies and transport networks create challenges for everyone involved to meet the basic needs of their families. For people with disabilities (particularly those with major functional difficulties or a high level of dependence) these situations may mean the total breakdown of their usual supports.
During a crisis, people are often displaced from their homes and separated from their possessions. This could mean the Assistive Technology that some people with disabilities are reliant upon may be damaged or lost completely, leaving them unable to move around, see, hear or communicate. Where before the crisis, limited mobility and physical accessibility was a barrier to participating in everyday life; during a crisis it exposes people with disabilities to serious risks, for example: being left behind or abandoned, being unable to escape a collapsing building or being unable to access disaster relief assistance (particularly in remote or rural areas). Early warning or media systems which provide disaster related information are also only effective for people with disabilities if they are accessible to all.
Emergency situations often place extra burdens on household finances, both by disrupting their ability to make income and by causing extra expenses. Normal economic activity may break down completely following a large natural disaster. Households might experience loss of livelihoods through closure of businesses; damage to subsistence crops or injuries to or loss of key income earners. All of this creates increased pressure on household finances. Basic household supplies might also take extra time to acquire and increase dramatically in cost whilst supply chains are disrupted.
Disasters and emergencies cause economic shocks to the whole of society, however people with disabilities in developing countries generally have fewer reserves to draw on in times of need. Fewer have paid employment; there are fewer Government pensions, benefits or support programmes; fewer savings and less disposable income. It is well documented that poverty is both a cause and consequence of disability: poor people are more likely to become disabled, and disabled people are more likely to become poor . Disasters place extra financial pressure on people with disabilities that they can often not afford, worsening their situation and pushing them further into debt or poverty.
States who have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) are required to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of persons with disabilities during humanitarian crises. Article 11 of the CRPD on Situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies states:
States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.
In the Pacific region there are large NGOs well placed and equipped to mount humanitarian response operations. Their focus is on ensuring basic survival in the days and weeks after a disaster. As a development organisation, Motivation Australia is focused on creating long term improvements for people with disabilities in the months and years ahead. Building the capacity of local partner organisations increases their resilience and improves their ability to help meet the needs of people with disabilities during future crises.
Including people with disabilities in disaster preparedness initiatives and the planning of reconstruction and recovery efforts, is an excellent opportunity to identify and reduce people’s vulnerability and increase the effectiveness of disaster response efforts. Post crisis reconstruction creates unique opportunities for Donors and national Governments to make huge leaps forward by making damaged public buildings accessible – an activity which would otherwise take many years.
Motivation Australia is fundraising on behalf of the Fiji SIA through MyCause.