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Vietnam looks to include disabled people in climate change action plan

Eldery couple pushes wheelchair in Hanoi Vietnam. Elderly, aging, disabled, handicap
(Wi Bing Tan/Flickr)

With its long coastline and large deltas, Vietnam is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the growing hazards of climate change, including rising sea levels, typhoons and cyclones.

To help residents in disaster-prone areas face increasingly frequent and more intense climate hazards, NGOs started implementing community-based disaster risk management (CBDRM) projects and programmes in Vietnam from early 2000, and the government is working on a national CBDRM action plan to cover 6,000 of the country’s more than 9,000 communes.

However, up until now, the needs of some of the most vulnerable people - people with disabilities - have not been included, say activists.

A group of NGOs is hoping to change that by developing disability-inclusive tools and guidelines for the National CBDRM plan under development and ensuring their implementation at the village level.

“There are many steps in the CBDRM: assessing the vulnerability of the community, planning, mitigation, communication. We try to engage people with disabilities in all these themes,” said Tran Thai Binh, project manager for the Joint Advocacy Network Initiative (JANI), a group of 18 local and international NGOs working with the government to develop community-based responses to climate change hazards in Vietnam.

The first step in conducting a vulnerability assessment has been problematic given the difficulty of gaining the trust and participation of people with disabilities.

“Some people with disabilities are not open and are not willing to work with us,” Binh said. “Somehow they are scared, so it’s a challenge for the people to recognize their need and how to involve them into the activity and their work.”

To help gain access, JANI is working with the Hanoi Association for the Deaf, a member of the Hanoi Association of People with Disabilities.

People with hearing impairments - who may not hear early warnings and instructions for temporary evacuations during disasters - are among the most vulnerable and most lack any evacuation plan, said vice-chairman of Hanoi Association for the Deaf Le Van Anh.

This problem is compounded by the fact that many people with hearing impairments in poor, rural communities have no opportunity to learn sign language.

“They have to point or draw pictures. They rely on their parents and family to communicate,” Anh added.

Reliance on third parties to communicate has been a big obstacle to conducting vulnerability assessments, Anh said, because family members may not understand what kind of information surveyors want.

Action in Quang Nam Province

NGO Malteser International, is working in 47 villages in Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam to involve people with disabilities in developing community actions plans against climate change hazards.

“Firstly we try to build capacity from people with disabilities so they know the early warning and the early evacuation [plans]. Then we help them stick together,” said Sae Kani, the NGO’s adviser for inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

“They select a representative to be a member of the Disaster Management Committee at village level [who] will raise their needs [to other] members,” Kani added. Malteser has established these committees in 19 of the 47 villages where they are working on DRR inclusiveness, with the plan being to have them in all 47 villages by year end.

“Vietnamese law has a training model for people in the village in case of disaster, but that training model doesn’t include people with disabilities,” said Phan Thi Bich Diep, vice-chairwoman of the Hanoi Association of People with Disabilities, which counts more than 6,000 members.

“We are working to include people with disabilities into that plan. When we do, it will be better for the whole community.”

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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