By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Leila de Lima on Wednesday called on local government units to put in place a mechanism assisting persons with disabilities (PWDs) during emergencies or calamities.
De Lima, who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame, said it is imperative that LGUs have a disaster and risk mitigation measures that include the specific requirements of PWDs, considered the most vulnerable during disasters.
“Our local government units should beef up their disaster response program to include special assistance measures that would meet the specific and special needs and requirements of persons with disabilities, especially among children,” said de Lima, who chairs the Senate committee on social justice, welfare and rural development.
The senator, who has a son and grandson with autism, also urged local officials to train enough emergency service providers who can assist family members of the PWD community in times of man-made or natural disasters.
De Lima also said local executives should also provide a special assistance program for children with disabilities, keeping in mind the extra care and assistance they need even before calamity strikes in their communities.
“The program should be able to help children with disabilities properly comprehend the idea of disasters and help them develop practical skills that they can use in an emergency,” she said.
Citing a United Nations (UN) study, de Lima said PWDs are four times more likely to die when a disaster strikes than those without disabilities.
In the Philippines, there are about 16 out of 1,000 Filipinos who have a disability – or about 1.57 percent of the total population.
Lotta Sylwander, country representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), estimated that about 5.1 million Filipino children with disabilities are most vulnerable during calamities that may strike the Philippines.
Sylwander claimed that 50 to 60 percent of those most affected in every emergency are children due to their limitations. She said this especially happens during protracted calamities where they do not have access to clean water and food, and are suffering from psycho-social stress.
De Lima noted that since 2008, the Philippines is a state party to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and has enacted laws, notably the Batas Pambansa 344 and Republic Act 7277, which protect and promote the rights and welfare of PWDs so that they can enjoy same opportunities available to all.
“It is important that our PWDs and their families are likewise adequately equipped not only with practical know-hows and other basic techniques to survive emergencies and calamities, but also with needed tools to mitigate their impact to them,” de Lima stressed.