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People with disabilities are highly vulnerable in disaster, emergency or conflict situations (The Red Cross and Red Crescent’s World Disaster Report 2007). They may be left behind if they aren’t physically able to evacuate, they may not be properly informed of what is going on, they may lose their assistive devices and means of independence, or they may struggle to access shelters, camps, and food distribution sites.
More than half a billion people with disabilities live in countries often affected by conflicts and natural disasters.
Following a disaster, the World Health Organization estimates that 5-7 percent of people in camps or temporary shelters have a disability.
After the cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, a survey indicates that there were very few shelters accessible to persons with disabilities. None of the relief organisation involved in emergency shelter programs took specific measures to ensure access to persons with disabilities. The lack of pre-existing data about persons with disabilities was a key element of their invisibility, and this is similar to every crisis. (The Leprosy Mission International, Myanmar Nargis Special Intervention Project, 2008/2009).
There is also a potential for discrimination on the basis of disability when resources are scarce. Children, women and, especially, older persons with disabilities may find themselves abandoned by family members, whose resources are already limited, and they are no longer able to care for dependent, older family members. People with disabilities may therfore face extreme isolation and vulnerability in displacement situations and may be unable to access basic health care, food and shelter, that is necessary in order to survive (“Disabilities among refugees and conflict affected populations”, The Women’s Refugee Commission, June 2008).