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‘Disabled people worst hit by natural disasters’

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Ngin Saorath, executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation. CDPO

‘Disabled people worst hit by natural disasters’

NATURAL disasters including drought, floods and storms are the chief priorities for a group of people with disabilities, said climate change expert Vasundhara Jolly.

Speaking at a workshop entitled Disability Inclusion into Climate Change in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Jolly, who is the climate change adaptation consultant at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), requested the government to consider the difficulties facing people with disabilities when drafting government policy in response to it.

“When there are natural disasters such as floods, drought and storms, it is disabled people who experience the most difficulty."

“It not only impacts their physical and mental health, but it also affects their day-to-day life because many of them cannot relocate to a secure location by themselves,” she said.

Ngin Saorath, the executive director of the Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation (CDPO), told The Post on Tuesday that according to CDPO research on the impact of drought and flooding in recent years, people with all forms of disabilities, and particularly disabled women, were likely to lack access to clean water, sanitation and health care.

“Following natural disasters, aid provided by the Cambodian Red Cross through village or commune chiefs is a challenge to gain access to and often inadequate."

“Some women with disabilities do not receive any aid at all after flooding or during droughts,” he said.

Because of this imbalance, Saorath requested all relevant ministries and organisations, in both the public and private sectors, to integrate disabled people into natural disaster rescue programmes.

Soy Sokhon, 49, a resident from Kampong Cham province’s Batheay district and one of some 50 attendees at the workshop – which largely comprised of people with disabilities – told The Post on Tuesday that disabled people already encountered many challenges in their daily lives.

He said when natural disasters occur, their problems are greatly exacerbated.

Sokhon, who has suffered from polio since he was eight years old, said after the workshop that relocating is not a simple task for him because his leg is partially paralysed.

“There were times when I decided not to move to a safe place during floods in the village. Sure, I can go somewhere safe but then it’s hard for me to find a toilet because there aren’t any facilities for disabled people,” he said.

Sokhon was optimistic that the workshop would garner positive results.

He hoped that when devising new policies in response to natural disasters, the authorities would take into account the difficulties facing people with disabilities – especially as climate change increases the likelihood of drought, floods and storms.

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