* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
It has already been one week that I am in the Philippines now! Time goes fast but I’ve learned a lot about CBM’s programmes in the region (more on that later), and hopefully managed to share some of my knowledge…
The main event during my visit was the 3-day National Summit on Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction Management that started on Tuesday. The purpose of the summit, organised by the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) with the support from CBM, Handicap International, and the World Health Organization, is to provide key recommendations to governmental authorities so they can better address needs of persons with disabilities in emergency situations. It comes very soon after Typhoon Haiyan, which caused so much devastation here. Aside from governmental agencies, representatives from Disabled Person’s Organisations, NGOs and international agencies were attending.
CBM had the opportunity to present key recommendations on accessibility as well as best practices from previous emergencies. Participation of persons with disabilities has been mentioned as a main issue. How can accessibility be taken into account in emergency programs activities, if persons with disabilities are not involved in decision making processes? The workshop aimed to provide recommendations to address persons with disabilities’ needs and roles in areas such as livelihood, protection, health, shelter and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene).
The results will be presented to a broader audience including governmental authorities, funding institutions and international agencies. This summit is instrumental for CBM as it gives great opportunity to provide effective change in current perception and practices: to ultimately create impact for persons with disabilities as active participants in disaster risk reduction and not as passive beneficiaries. As well as being hugely interesting to me! Read more about Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Management.
What else have I been doing?
During my first week, we organised a sensitisation session on universal accessibility together with our CBM colleagues from the regional office. As part of training, we conducted disability simulation exercises within the urban environment to better understand abilities of persons with disabilities.
And I travelled to Davao along with emergency programme staff Elias and Dan. We went to Cateel, a six-hour drive to north-eastern Mindanao Island to meet with CBM’s partner Foundation for TheseAbled Inc. (FTI). FTI is implementing a permanent shelter project to persons with disabilities affected by a previous typhoon, Bopha, in 2011. Once there, we visited different house units and met with persons with disabilities in their new homes.
When you first reach a place you do not know how long it will take to adapt yourself to the environment, but except from the jetlag, I’ve had a really smooth transition. Or, as I said, maybe time’s just going too fast to notice!