Climate Change: CBM Advocates Protection of Rights of the Vulnerable, PLWD During Emergencies

Paschal Emeka, Abuja

The Country Director of CBM Global Disability Inclusion, Ms. Ekaete Umoh has advocated for more inclusion of People Living With Disabilities (PLWD) in the narrative around climate change and called on government at all levels to protect their rights during emergencies and natural disasters.

Briefing the press in Abuja, on the impact of climate change and the recent flood disaster in the country on the rights of the vulnerable and PLWD, she called on governments at all levels, organizations and good-spirited individuals to do more in order to ameliorate the impact of climate change on the vulnerable in the society.

According to her, “climate change is one of the main threats facing humanity, yet people with disabilities have been practically absent from these discussions and there is little literature on the impacts of climate change on their rights.

“Without doubt, persons with disabilities are often among those most adversely affected in an emergency, sustaining disproportionately higher rates of morbidity and mortality, and at the same time being among those least able to have access to emergency support.

She informed that the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights that approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people, which amounts to over half the world’s population, live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change.

“The impact of climate change and the ongoing climate crisis affects all sectors — the economy, essential services including water and sanitation, food and food security, cities, settlements, and key infrastructures, as well as the health and well-being of populations.

She noted that the climate crisis contributes to increased conflict over access to scarce resources and contributes significantly to forced migrations.

“Climate change affects every irrespective of creed, race, belief systems, and what have you. However, building resilience and coping mechanisms to the impact of climate change differ, with persons with disabilities being the worst hit.

“Regrettably, Persons with disabilities are being “systematically ignored” by governments around the world regarding the climate crisis, even though they are particularly at risk from the impacts of extreme climate change issues.

“The report by UN Human Rights found that poverty, stigma, and discrimination were the three key components that expose persons with disabilities to the impacts of climate change. Climate change is not the main cause of hardships for persons with disabilities. Still, it is rather the social exclusion that we experience regularly in our daily life, the denial of our rights, and the lack of legal protection.

“McGill/IDA (2022) report highlights that the inclusion of persons with disabilities in nationally determined contributions (NDCs) is minimal, and climate adaptation and mitigation policies are not systematically including persons with disabilities.
Pacific Disability Forum (2022) report highlights how climate change is amplifying the risks and exclusion that persons with disabilities already experience in their daily lives. It is also introducing new risks and creating new barriers, for example, food security and livelihoods.

“Persons with disabilities are not part of the conversations around climate action which begins with understanding how climate change affects them and their families.

“Furthermore, Policy formulation and programs are developed without consultation with Persons with disabilities or their organizations. They also live in poorer settings with limited access to information and resources around climate change and when a climate crisis occurs, they are usually the worst hit.

“The CBM Global’s research on Missing in Climate Action: Stories of persons with disabilities from the Global South (2022) also established that mobility restrictions during disasters not only affect persons with disabilities health and well-being, but it also affects livelihoods.

“Moreover, the lack of consideration for inclusive and accessible humanitarian responses can cause difficulty for persons with disabilities to access certain emergency aid provided by the government or NGOs during natural disasters. It is also introducing new risks and creating new barriers, for example, food security and livelihoods

“The 2022 Nigeria floods no doubt have affected many parts of the country. From the Federal Government Data, the flood has displaced over 1.4 million people and killed over 603 people, and injured more than 2,400 persons. About 82,035 houses have been damaged, and 332,327 hectares of land have also been damaged. Nigeria is currently experiencing its worst flooding in ten years.

“From the community where we work to amplify their voices, we can tell you without mincing words that persons with disabilities are the most vulnerable in the strata of the most vulnerable in emergencies due to intense discrimination, rights abuse, and exclusion from the social narrative. Women and girls with disabilities are the worst hit because they are more susceptible to cultural undertones, discrimination, bodily harm, and abuse.

“Cases of respiratory infection, skin diseases, diarrhea, and water-borne diseases are already being recorded in the areas that have been ravaged by the floods. However, in most emergency responses, persons with disabilities experience a high level of discrimination in the distribution of food and non-food items.

“Broadly speaking, many people with disabilities live in greater poverty with more significant challenges than everyone else. Imagine a flooding situation across the country: persons with disabilities would need early access to shelter, social support, and medical assistance.

“With everyone else affected, persons with disabilities will require a different level of support in terms of access to food, shelter, protection, and inclusion needs. The livelihood opportunities for persons with disabilities are further threatened in the face of discrimination and abuse; the worst hit is women with disabilities.

“In line with the principle of Nothing about us without CBM Global Disability Inclusion is working alongside Organizations of Persons with Disabilities to change the narratives which include advocating national governments for disability-inclusive policies, plans, and programs to address the climate crises.

“For us at CBM Global Disability Inclusion, we exist to fight the stereotypes, specifically, to end the cycle of poverty and disabilities.

“Our interventions in Nigeria have been targeted at breaking the barriers to access in health, education, humanitarian, and emergencies across all strata of society.

“The fight is substantial; however, we will continue to engage stakeholders to build an alliance in collectives to end the stigmatization and social exclusion.

“While we commend the efforts of the Nigerian government to respond in the face of the disaster situations, particularly, the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and other relevant government MDAs, we call for more deliberate efforts to targeting persons with disabilities in the responses to promoting inclusion across the clusters of persons with disabilities.

“We call for the meaningful participation, inclusion, and leadership of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations within disaster risk management and climate change-related decision-making at the local, national, regional, and global levels, which lies at the heart of an approach to climate action that is respectful of the rights of persons with disabilities.

“Specifically, we call for the inclusion of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the management of the UN Loss & Damage Fund which seeks to make up for the losses suffered by developing nations that are vulnerable to climate change and support poorer countries being ravaged by climate impacts.

“It is a wakeup call on climate change action

“It is a call to ensure that the peculiarities of persons with disabilities are well addressed in humanitarian actions and responses.

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