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The International Disability Alliance (IDA) is expressing its deepest sympathy to the people of Pakistan, in particular persons with disabilities and their families, who have been affected by the recent floods and landslides. We call on the government of Pakistan, the United Nations, the international humanitarian community, and donor agencies to ensure maximum inclusion of persons with disabilities in the humanitarian response. Organizations of persons with disabilities must be involved in response planning, implementation and monitoring as the most competent people to ensure a rights-based approach and full inclusion of persons with disabilities.

As the tragedy in Pakistan is continues to unroll, the Ministers responsible for Disaster Risk Reduction from Asia and the Pacific are gathering in Brisbane Australia for the regional DRR conference. They have a historic opportunity to adopt concrete decisions, allocate resources, and define benchmarks to urgently address gaps in inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in disaster preparedness, response and recovery. In this regard, IDA welcomes and amplifies the joint statement by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and calls for continued monitoring of the situation by both bodies.

The Government of Pakistan estimates that about 33 million people across the country are affected by the rains, floods and consequent impacts such as landslides, with losses estimated at between US $12 to 30 billion. Thousands of people have lost lives or been injured and millions have been displaced. The Humanitarian Country Team has announced that at least 6.4 million people need urgent support.

There is no disaggregated data available on how many persons with disabilities have lost their lives, been injured, faced destruction of their homes or livelihoods. But based on what has been documented in many other disasters around the world, persons with disabilities are two to four times more likely to die or get injured during disasters, are often left behind when others move to safety, and lose assistive devices, their network of support and access to essential services during displacement. Applying the 15% estimation of disability prevalence, roughly five million persons with disabilities are affected, one million of whom are in need for life-saving humanitarian assistance.

Inadequate Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Response

While the Flood Response Plan issued on 30 August 2022 by the United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) includes some references to persons with disabilities among the population, to be supported, in priority for example with food security and nutrition, protection, and access to shelter, the International Disability Alliance has identified major gaps raising serious concerns about the adequacy of the inclusion of people with disabilities in humanitarian response in Pakistan, with some examples are summarized below.

The Rapid Need Assessment led by the government of Pakistan, with support from humanitarian community, does not provide the required data on the impact of the floods on persons with disabilities, which results in inadequacies in planning the response and allocation of resources.

According to IDA's research, no disability and aging working group, or disability focal point has been established so far in Pakistan. In many humanitarian emergencies, such groups or focal points play a significant role in highlighting challenges faced by persons with disabilities and help to ensure disability-inclusive response.

One critical gap is the silence around the plan on the situation of institutions where persons with disabilities, including children, face additional risks to safe and timely evacuation, as well as access to humanitarian assistance. It is urgent to identify institutions as the most at risk places followed by a detailed plan on how to ensure safety and access to life-saving assistance for residents.

Highlighting that gender-based violence as well as child protection and other protection concerns have reportedly more than doubled since the pre-monsoon period, the government of Pakistan and the humanitarian community involved also need to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities, in particular women and girls with disabilities, children with disabilities, people with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities and deaf and hard of hearing people, persons with deafblindness and other underrepresented groups, are not subjected to violence, abuse and harmful practices including trafficking and institutionalization.

In some key sectors such as health and education, the Flood Response Plan does not include any reference to persons with disabilities. This is notwithstanding the fact that according to the same plan, at least 22,000 schools have been damaged, mainly in Sindh province, and at least 5,500 schools are being used as shelters. Three and a half million children have had their education disrupted. In Sindh, the provincial government fears that school enrollment will be 50% less this year. Therefore, it is quite urgent to ensure that children with disabilities can access any emergency education being arranged.

Necessity of Immediate Steps Towards Disability-inclusive Climate Action

According to relevant authorities, the gravity and scope of the floods in Pakistan is a direct consequence of climate change. Pakistan is among the ten countries most affected by extreme weather events despite its very low carbon footprint, according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 and Climate Watch. This demonstrates the significance of taking concrete measures to ensure that climate adaptation and climate mitigation policies and plans are inclusive of marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities.

In less than two months, global leaders are coming together in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt to discuss future plans to save the planet, and the International Disability Alliance is calling on each of them to prioritize the inclusion of persons with disabilities in their decisions as they are one of the first groups experiencing the negative consequences of climate change, as well as non-inclusive climate adaptation and mitigation.