MACOHA Tips Humanitarian Actors on Disaster Response Targeting Persons with Disabilities
The Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA) has lamented that persons with disabilities in the country struggled to access humanitarian support during Cyclone Freddy.
MACOHA Public Relations Officer, Harriet Kachimanga, claims the interventions were not specifically targeting persons with disabilities.
“According to the government assessment report, over 200, 000 persons with disabilities were affected by Cyclone Freddy and in Nsanje district over 5000 persons with disabilities were affected.
“We are grateful for the support that was rendered by different humanitarian actors.
“But then, this support was not specifically targeting persons with disabilities; there were so many issues that needed to be addressed,” explained Kachimanga.
She said for instance, “persons with disabilities who were in camps were not reached out and also those in various communities you know those with various physical disabilities they need to move to strategic places put in place for them to access different humanitarian support,” said Kachimanga
She underscored the need to employ deliberate efforts which would enable persons with disabilities to access humanitarian support with ease, they were left out because these deliberate efforts were not there so it has been a great concern.
“Going forward it is a plea to all humanitarian actors whenever they are bringing different kinds of assistance in our communities.
“There are strategic places where they go and receive various assistance but then persons with disabilities cannot get to those places maybe because the terrain has been dismantled due to Cyclones.
“They cannot go there using wheelchairs or they cannot walk to those places so we need to go directly into those places to meet them and assist them.”
The MACOHA PRO further decried alleged failure by persons with disabilities to access messages on early warning signs.
She said they are facing challenges depending on their disabilities citing those with hearing impairments. There are some messages which are in audio format but then they cannot hear those messages put across to them.
“Similarly, those with visual impairments there are some messages which are written but then persons with visual impairments cannot access them because they are not in braille format or in large print for them to be accessible.
“So, these are the issues that are of concern for MACOHA and for all persons with disabilities.
“When delivering messages on disasters make sure that they are in accessible formats, probably in braille or in large prints, in sign languages in all those formats that persons with disabilities should be able to access.
MACOHA was in Nsanje district on Friday for an Open Day as part of its activities under a flag week.
The organization is currently mobilizing resources which according to Kachimanga would go towards assisting persons with disabilities who were affected by Cyclone Freddy, who require special care.
Gauti Rambiki, who is visually impaired, echoed Kachimanga’s sentiments.
“Access to humanitarian support has been an issue of concern. We are usually sidelined. May those responsible please act on these issues.” Lamented Rambiki.
He added, “We also need the early warning signs messages in accessible formats.”
MACOHA has been observing a flag week by creating awareness on its activities, services and programmes and raising funds which will be invested towards uplifting the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities in the country.