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Disability community neglected in State’s response to COVID-19

Dietheno Nakhro

Nakhro writes to NSDMA for disability inclusive operating procedures

DIMAPUR, SEPTEMBER 27: The Nagaland State Commissioner for Persons With Disabilities has urged the Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority (NSDMA) to take urgent measures to ensure that persons with disabilities are not neglected and left behind in disaster situations.
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequalities in both public and private sectors but more strikingly so in the case of persons with disabilities. While the pandemic threatens all members of society, persons with disabilities are disproportionately impacted and suffer adverse socio-economic effects than persons without disabilities, including higher poverty rates. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, (RPD Act) guarantees “equal protection and safety” of persons with disabilities during disaster management. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted by India in 2015 also emphasises the importance of inclusion and accessibility and recognises the need for involvement of persons with disabilities and their organisations in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) policies and implementation. To this effect, the Government of India introduced “Comprehensive Disability Inclusive Guidelines For Protection and Safety of Persons With Disabilities (Divyangjan) During COVID 19.” But there are barely any indications of implementation of the guidelines, particularly in Nagaland.
Pointing out to the failure of the NSDMA in addressing the issue of the disability community as part of the State’s disaster management plans, the State Commissioner for Person With Disabilities, Diethono Nakhro, has urged for prompt redressal. In an official communiqué addressed to the Chairperson of the State Executive Committee of NSDMA, accessed by Nagaland Page, Nakhro has noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has “starkly exposed the deficiency of our State Disaster Management Plans and Standard Operating Procedures in terms of disability inclusion.” She pointed out to the gross lack of knowledge of disability needs within coordinating bodies. “This meant that the disability community, one of the most vulnerable sections of society, was not taken into consideration at all in the response to the pandemic situation,” Nakhro stated. She also pointed out that the Social Welfare Department that deals with all vulnerable sections of society is currently not part of the Disaster Authority or the State Executive Committee.
Nakhro has urged that immediate steps must be taken to put in place Disability Inclusive Disaster Management Plans and Procedures as per Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR) Guidelines. She has also asked for disability representation in the composition of the State Disaster Management Authority and the various committees and implementing bodies within the authority. It must include the Disability Office, representation from the disability community, as well as the Social Welfare Department.
“Every disaster brings with it the opportunity to learn and to improve the systems of resilience among communities, service delivery or design of programmes and interventions,” Nakhro wrote. She urged that the experience and lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic be reviewed, and urgent corrective steps taken in Nagaland’s disaster management programmes to ensure that persons with disabilities are not neglected and left behind in future disaster situations.
(Page News Service)