Call for evacuation centres to be accessible for disabled people

The Vanuatu Society for People with Disability has called on the Government to step-up its efforts to build evacuation centres that are easily accessible for people with disabilities in remote areas.

The Vanuatu Society for People with Disability’s Community Base Inclusion Development Officer, Sheila Anga, made the call.

Ms Anga, who is currently leading a team of officers from the society visiting South Pentecost Cyclone Harold affected areas, says not having accessible evacuation buildings has been one of the biggest challenges for people with disability in that area.

“I am sad to hear that in some places during the cyclone, houses fell on top of some people with disabilities. And some people with disabilities sat outside in the open air throughout the Category Five cyclone,” she said.

Philemon Tamtam, Chief of Ramputor village in South Pentecost, a man with special needs, has called on the Government to build an accessible evacuation centre near his village.

“I am appealing to the Government to build an accessible evacuation centre here that will help us in times of disasters,” Chief Tamtam said.

He says during Cyclone Harold, his family found it very difficult to move to an evacuation centre because the wind was too strong and the centre was located far from where they live.

Ms Anga says evacuation centres should be located in places that people with disability can easily get to during disasters like cyclones.

She says many villages that the society visited in South Pentecost have no evacuation centres.

Ms Anga says, “We have said that we are an inclusive country but it is sad to hear that more than five people with disabilities had to stand outside until dawn during what was a very strong cyclone and some had to stay inside their houses and have roofs fall on them.”

She says these are not stories to be proud of as Vanuatu has been declared an inclusive country for people with disabilities.

“This means when you have a person with disability in a community, the community must be inclusive to ensure that the person with disability feels that he or she is part of the community.”

The team from the Vanuatu Society for People with Disability are currently in Pentecost collecting information for people with disabilities in areas that have been affected by Cyclone Harold.

The information the society collects in South Pentecost will be given to a group within their organisation who is looking at the needs of people with disabilities after the cyclone and they will take action.

The Vanuatu National Disability Inclusive Development Policy 2018 – 2025 spells out how the Government will implement its ratification of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Vanuatu 2030: The People’s Plan (National Sustainable Development Plan 2016 to 2030) is guiding the Government’s work to improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities in Vanuatu.

Vanuatu signed the UN treaty for Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities in 2008. It was the first Pacific country to sign and ratify the convention.

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