De Lima wants special assistance program for PWDs during protracted calamities


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged local government units (LGUs) to prepare a special program that would provide needed assistance needed specifically for persons with disabilities (PWDs), especially during emergencies or calamities.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, underscored the need for LGUs’ disaster and risk mitigation measures to include the specific requirements of PWDs who are 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,” she said.

“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,” she added.

PWDs, according to the United Nations, 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 calamity 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, especially during protracted calamities where they do not have access to clean water and food, and are suffering from psycho-social stress.

In preparing for a special assistance program for children with disabilities, De Lima noted that LGU officials should also keep in mind the extra care and assistance that children with disabilities may need even before calamity strikes on 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. De Lima, who has a son and grandson with autism, also urged the 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.

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.

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