Disability in Conflict and Emergency Situations IDDC 2005

Disability in Conflict and Emergency Situations  
Focus on Tsunami-affected Areas

IDDC Research Report

June 2005

The aim of the research was to promote the inclusion of disability in emergency, conflict and refugee programmes. The particular objectives are to assess the extent of inclusion, networking and resources in post-tsunami contexts. The geographical focus was mainly Sri Lanka, with contributions from India and Indonesia

The methodology was based on a broad framework of principles and approaches, with particular tools being developed by field workers. Principles from emancipatory research were used, such as ensuring that the research fully involved and promoted the rights of disabled persons, together with flexibility and sensitivity required in emergency and conflict situations. The research was underpinned by a social model approach. The core team spent 10 days in Sri Lanka and a day in India conducting the research and also preparing field based researchers to continue.

Although there is extensive literature on the different topics of disasters, disability, development, there has been very little previous research combining these issues. From existing literature however, it is evident that disabled persons, particularly in the South, are not fully included, and are amongst the most negatively affected in all aspects of their lives.

Background: In relation to the tsunami, because of the inverse morbidity and mortality rates , there is no evidence of a major increase in the numbers of disabled persons. Statistical evidence on numbers of disabled persons affected is vague and unreliable, in keeping with the usual disability and statistics dilemmas. There is however, plenty of recorded testimonies of disabled persons’ experience of ‘losing everything’, which for a disabled person, may mean vital mobility aids, medicines and support structures.

In Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the pre-existing conflict situations exacerbated the impact of the tsunami. In Sri Lanka, the Tamil area of the north were also badly hit and had been waiting years for financial support for basic housing and infrastructure, only to see the post-tsunami aid providing more than was needed for the tsunami affected areas of the Sinhalese south. Aid agencies and government were blatantly favouring non-conflict areas and populations in their support.