Legarda: Include PWDs, Elderly in Disaster Resilience Efforts

October 29, 2014

Senator Loren Legarda today called for the inclusion of every citizen, including persons with disabilities (PWDs) and older persons, in the country’s disaster risk reduction and management programs.

Speaking at the Symposium for the International Day for Disaster Reduction and ASEAN Day for Disaster Management, which was organized by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Legarda stressed that “building resilience should be everybody’s attitude,” hence, even the PWDs and the elderly should be involved in disaster resilience efforts as their special needs are being addressed as well.

“We have the laws in place and the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into our development processes is now a national policy. Yet much remains to be done to realize the benefits these laws ought to bring, especially to the poor and the vulnerable who are most in need of help and protection against disasters and most deserving of participation in resilience building,” Legarda said.

In the past years, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has been highlighting the needs and strengths of various members of society. In 2013, the focus was on PWDs. For 2014, the vulnerability and strengths of the elderly were highlighted. Meanwhile, this year’s ASEAN Day for Disaster Management focuses on the importance of the active participation of everyone in ensuring resilience of communities during disasters.

Legarda, the UNISDR Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, said that PWDs are disproportionately affected by disasters. A survey by the UNISDR among persons with disabilities revealed that, if a disaster occurs, 80% said they would be unable to evacuate immediately without difficulty, while six percent said they would not be able to evacuate at all.

Meanwhile, older persons, or people aged 60 years and above, also suffer disproportionately from disasters. Seventy five percent (75%) of those killed by Hurricane Katrina in the United States were over 60, but they comprise 15% of the population in New Orleans. During the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, 56% of those who died were 65 years old and above, but they comprise only 23% of the population.

“Our PWDs are twice more likely to lose their lives or be injured than any other person, but their disability does not mean inability. Actually, they can and should be active partners in making communities safer and more resilient,” said Legarda.

“Meanwhile, the elderly can also make positive contributions to disaster risk reduction and management. We must tap their knowledge and experience. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that we seek the help of older people in providing vital information on local risks to health since they are familiar with local history, geography and culture. They can also be sought for advice on response and recovery efforts, owing to their experience and wisdom,” she added.

“Building resilience should be everybody’s attitude. With this kind of mindset, we can promote the scaling up of existing government programs to rectify the social and economic structures that breed disaster risk and trap the poor and vulnerable citizens in the vicious cycle of risk and poverty,” Legarda concluded.