A group of United Nations experts today stressed that the needs of Haitians with disabilities must be included in the relief, recovery and reconstruction processes following the earthquake that battered the small Caribbean nation last month.
Persons with disabilities must not become “the forgotten ones during the emergency response and the reconstruction of the country,” the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stated in a news release.
“While relief workers are struggling to provide aid to the people of Haiti and while the situation remains difficult for everyone, persons with disabilities are particularly affected by the crisis,” said the Committee’s current chairperson, Mohammed Al-Tarawneh.
“The disabled risk being left out unless a disabilities perspective is built in the recovery process from the start.”
The January 12 quake killed up to 200,000 people, injured many others and left one third of the country’s nine million people in need of aid.
“The trauma caused by this disaster cannot be underestimated,” said Mr. Al-Tarawneh, adding that many disabled people in Haiti have been made even more vulnerable, especially if their caregivers have been killed or injured.
The 12-member Committee urged Haiti to ensure that persons with disabilities fully participate in the decision-making process regarding social and economic reconstruction and that their long-term development needs be taken into account.
The experts serving on the Committee, which will hold its third session in two weeks in Geneva, are tasked with monitoring the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which so far has been endorsed by 144 countries.
The Convention, which entered into force in May 2008, is the culmination of years of global efforts to ensure that the rights of the world’s estimated 650 million persons with disabilities are guaranteed and protected.
It asserts the rights to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law for persons with disabilities.