Include persons with disability in climate action plans

Nominated MP Denita Ghati (on the wheelchair) in a dance with Uriri MP Mark Nyamita during the event to curtain-raise the International Day of PWDS whose theme is: "Empowering Persons with Disabilities and ensuring Inclusiveness at Uriri DCC Ground on December 2, 2018. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

Imagine an emergency situation such as a fire in a building, landslide or flooding when evacuation is a must, yet you are or have a person living with a disability. It is not humanely comfortable to run for life and leave behind a visually or hearing impaired, physically or mentally challenged person, especially where one has to be assisted to move. 

The chances of a person living with a disability dying because they are incapacitated or were not able to move fast enough, or lacked the necessary assistance to, are higher like it would be for an infant.

Even after the disaster, how does a person who uses crutches or the visually impaired, for instance, walk comfortably on a muddy surface? The same People With Disability (PWD) are also more likely to miss out on aid post-disaster, especially if they do not get timely access to information on help sources, or their caregivers are unable to delegate the duty to reach aid.

Climate change is real and at everyone’s doorstep. Because of global warming, weather is no longer predictable, and has changed the way we plan, and work, but more so disproportionately affected PWD. 

According to the 2019 census, PLWD were 2.2 per cent (about 900,000 then) of Kenya’s population. Globally, according to World Report on Disability, PWD makes up to 15 per cent of the more than 7 billion population. This is not a negligible number in terms of power to elect, but also on vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Besides they are humans whose enjoyment of constitutional rights and privileges are more often than not either directly or indirectly denied when they are not well represented in relevant decision making organs, committees in Parliament and in Cabinet. 

The PWD need to be fully involved in planning for disaster response and post-disaster care, including food and non-food aid, as well as healthcare, considering diseases that come with different manifestations of the climate crisis.  

In Kenya, the Persons with Disabilities Act, 2003, elaborates the rights and privileges of the PWD. Awareness and achievement of these rights can be enhanced by making their issues more prominent in the media, by deliberately involving as many of their representatives or champions of their issues as possible in debates on the economy, health, politics and other issues of national importance, to increase their presentation in policymaking that will benefit all, including those in the grassroots.

While climate action is well mainstreamed in the government ministries and the counties, with increased awareness, there is a need to approach climate action at the county and national assemblies with persons living with disability in mind. This will work better if they are adequately represented in those assemblies and ministries courtesy of election and nominations, for only they know best how climate change affects them, and how this can be dealt with better.

The writer is an editor at The Standard Group.