BARAS, RIZAL – Response to disasters must be disability inclusive.
This is what Handicap International underlined in an earthquake drill conducted by school authorities and local government at Baras Elementary School, September 9.
Together with the town’s officer for Persons with Disabilities Affairs, Lea Mercado, Handicap International’s REBUILD Project took part in the exercise as observers. REBUILD Project staff took note of how emergency responders performed, considering that disaster victims include persons with disabilities who are often forgotten in preparedness activities. They also evaluated the school’s early warning system and physical structures, keeping in mind that these are crucial when rescuing persons with disabilities.
According to REBUILD Project Manager Joana Villaflor, the school and local government were off to a good start with their disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM). But she said they have more to improve in terms of preparing a disability-inclusive plan.
“It is commendable that government has shown efforts in including persons with disabilities in DRRM,” Villaflor said. “But a more thorough contingency planning is still needed. And the plan has to be communicated well to all stakeholders.”
Baras Mayor Kathrine “KC” Robles also noted the apparent gaps in the emergency response carried out during the drill. She said the exercise was beneficial to local government, because it showed them ways in which to improve.
Later this month, the town’s Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council will convene to have a more thorough evaluation. Handicap International, the Baras Federation of Persons with Disabilities Associations Inc., and the Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office will also attend it to keep disability rights at the fore of the town’s DRRM efforts.
The REBUILD Project is a livelihoods and inclusive local development project funded by the European Union and Swiss Solidarity. It is a follow-up to Handicap International’s emergency response project in the area after the onslaught of the deadly tropical storm Ketsana (Ondoy) in 2009.
The REBUILD Project is implemented with financial support from