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Bringing communities together to prepare for emergencies – Nepal

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BY LILY JACOBI, ADVISOR, SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND RESEARCH

We know that crises are particularly devastating for the most vulnerable and isolated members of communities, including the elderly and people with disabilities. These people have specific needs and vulnerabilities that only worsen amid the breakdown of services during natural disasters and conflicts. This includes protection and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs. To ensure that vital SRH services are included in the humanitarian response, the Refugee Women’s Commission (WRC) partners with communities to prepare for emergencies. We have found that people with disabilities and older people are routinely excluded from emergency preparedness planning, so their unique needs and priorities are not taken into account.

The experiences of people with disabilities vary with age, and people without disabilities can acquire disabilities as they age. Capacity and age intersect with other identities to shape people’s needs and affect their access to essential health services. Emergency preparedness and humanitarian response should be designed and delivered in partnership with community members to ensure that services are accessible and inclusive. We believe that seniors and people with disabilities have unique expertise, wisdom and perspectives on their communities. Their participation improves emergency preparedness and response.

Humanitarian agencies have developed many tools to assess risks and prepare for crises. While countless assessments have been conducted before and after emergencies, these assessments often fail to involve community members, who are best placed to identify their own strengths, capacities and resources. Community participation ensures that preparedness and response activities strengthen existing systems, as well as the resilience of individuals and families.

In response to this shortcoming, the WRC has developed community capacity and needs assessment tools and piloted the Community preparedness program for SRH and gender help communities identify their SRH needs and resources. The WRC helps communities develop action plans to prepare for emergencies, protect vulnerable members and ensure that SRH services are included in crisis response.

Participatory research with older people and people with disabilities in Nepal

Nepal is highly vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters, including floods, landslides, earthquakes, drought and forest fires. In 2015, massive earthquakes hit Nepal, causing catastrophic damage and thousands of deaths. This disaster was followed by massive flooding and landslides in 2019. In recent months, Nepal has suffered further flooding and landslides, amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. The country is also at extremely high risk of climate-related disasters – which will only increase as climate change continues to disproportionately impact developing countries.

With the generous support of Elrha, WRC, the Family Planning Association of Nepal, the Association of Disabled Women of Nepal and the Senior Citizen Care Society are partnering with people with disabilities and the elderly to conduct participatory research and learn more about their disaster preparedness priorities and SRH Services. In view of the increased risks that COVID-19 poses to these people, we have developed workbooks to distribute to participants for them to complete at home. Workbooks include a range of drawing, mapping, filing, and journaling activities. In addition to COVID-19 safety, the workbooks have the added benefit of allowing people with various disabilities to participate and share their experiences in a comfortable environment.

Our research will strengthen the inclusion of older people and people with disabilities in emergency preparedness planning. We will develop recommendations to share with partners in other communities and countries to support local emergency preparedness activities accessible to people with disabilities and older people, including their priorities and needs, and to leverage their expertise. and their leadership.