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The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, both lay out expectations regarding the inclusion of the rights of people with disabilities in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies. Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu in March 2015 as the Sendai Framework was being agreed; nevertheless, people with disabilities were noticeably absent from response and recovery decision making and activities.
Disability stakeholders in Vanuatu and Australia collaborated to implement a research project which would identify the consequences of this absence. A critical objective of this study was to make recommendations to enable agencies and communities across Vanuatu to learn from the lessons of Tropical Cyclone Pam to improve disability inclusion in future disaster risk reduction efforts with a focus on preparedness for response.
This research project utilised the Rapid Assessment of Disability (RAD) tool to collect quantitative data from people with disabilities and people without disabilities and to compare their situation and experiences prior to and after Tropical Cyclone Pam. A total of 1836 adults and 1330 children (aged 5-17) were interviewed. Major findings included:
• Disability prevalence using the RAD definition was 4.6% amongst adults and 1.8% amongst children, giving a population (aged 5+) prevalence of 3.4%. The adult prevalence using the Washington Group Short Set of Questions on disability, which provides a narrower measure of disability prevalence than the RAD, was 3.6%. These estimates are comparable to or higher than previous national estimates of disability prevalence in Vanuatu.
• Most people with disabilities were in older age groups, and disability was more common with increasing age.
• People with disabilities were 2.45 times more likely to have been injured during Tropical Cyclone Pam. Men were about twice as likely to have been injured as women.
• Very few people with disabilities had assistive devices, and some devices were lost during Tropical Cyclone Pam.
• Adults with disabilities had poorer access to disaster risk reduction efforts compared to adults without disabilities.