Remember the invisible and excluded
Have they been able to get to a safe place? Did they get there by themselves, or did someone take their time to help them? Have they been informed of what has happened, are they able to communicate with the people around them? Do they know where to go for help? Will they be able to get hold of water and food? I am afraid that the answers to my questions are answers I don’t want to hear.
Although Nepal and the international community have been waiting for the earthquake that hit Nepal this Saturday, one can never really be ready for a disaster like this. We have feared and talked about what the consequences of this earthquake would be, and now that the consequences are becoming as visible as ever, growing in scale by the minute, we are faced with having to deal with these consequences. A challenge we hoped we never would have to face.
Being one of the world’s poorest countries, with a weak infrastructure, and challenging conditions to operate in, Nepal is dependent on the international community to contribute in the days, weeks and years to come.
We know that people with disabilities are highly vulnerable in disaster, emergency or conflict situations. They may be left behind if they are not 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.
Women, children and elderly with disabilities are particularly vulnerable groups whose needs should be included at all stages of disaster management.
The Atlas Alliance will do its utmost to ensure that persons with disabilities are not forgotten, and that their needs are accounted for. We will also encourage all actors to consult disabled persons organisations for assistance, in the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal.
Getting Nepal back on its feet will take time, and it will be challenging. It is not just a job that requires the help of the international community, but one that requires that the Nepalese people come together. I hope we will learn from this experience and that we can look back at it in a few years knowing that we did something right. When I return to Nepal, I do not want to face the grim fact that once again, persons with disabilities have been the biggest losers.
Having experienced the beauty of the country and the hospitality and kindness of its people, I cannot turn my back to Nepal, not now, not in the future. They deserve our help, today and in the years to come.