Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction in Nepal (Situation, gaps, challenges and way forward)


This article is about disability inclusive disaster risk reduction. It analyzes the current situation, explores gaps between policy and practices, and builds resilient capacity. Inadequate information and reflection on disability are the key drawbacks and challenges while planning, knowledge management and dissemination of issues related to risks and vulnerabilities. This study is based on qualitative and quantitative data. Despite of its importance, very few many agencies are working on DiDRR. Many agencies undertake DRR as standalone without considering the risks and vulnerabilities of person with disabilities. They have been treated as recipients. The participation of person with disabilities in different phases of the disaster management cycle is still minimal. Not all agencies working in DRR sector address the specific needs of persons with disabilities.

Keywords: Disability risk reduction, disability perspective, Inclusion, CBM,DiDRR.

1. Context

Disability is a complex phenomenon, one reflecting an interaction between the features of a person’s body and the features of the society in which he or she lives. The Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR, 2016-2030) firmly establishes that persons with disabilities and their advocacy organizations are legitimate stakeholders and actors in the design and implementation of DRR policies and practices. Often, government, NGOs, and relief organizations lack information and knowledge about the issues, concerns, needs, and aspiration of persons with disabilities. The government and other service-providing stakeholders are not well-versed in the benefits of adopting a disability-inclusive DRR (DiDRR). Nepal has recently adopted a DiDRR but its full implementation has yet to be realized and the relatively weak information systems related to DRR and disability have resulted in ignorance about the inclusion issues related to persons with disabilities.

2. Objective

The main objective of this situation assessment is to analyze the situation of DiDRR in Nepal, in particular exploring the current status of DiDRR in Nepal and identifying the roles that CBM and other stakeholders should play to promote DiDRR.

3. Study methods and approach

The study team was mobilized to collect and take stock of relevant data and reports and to prepare a study programme. The team reviewed relevant reports and documents related to DiDRR and relevant international, national, and sectoral policies. The team thoroughly reviewed international policies and strategies. Primary information was collected from comprehensive checklist and guide questions. To discuss the results, a workshop was organized on 16th April 2017 for CBM’s partner NGOs and organizations.

This workshop was instrumental in identifying issues related to DiDRR, exploring emerging gaps, and paving the way forward. In addition to that government level stakeholders from MoHA and MoFALD and representatives of DPNet and AINTGDM were consulted. These discussions shed light on DiDRR issues and also identified challenges and constraints, both structural and non-structural, as well as their underlying causes and possible solutions. In order to make the issues clearer, the study team called and emailed partner NGOs. All the information collected from different sources was then tabulated, synthesized and analysed using the content analysis tool. Preliminary observations and findings were then shared with CBM and its partners at an internal validation workshop.

4. Key study findings

The scale of presence of the many agencies involved in the DiDRR sector varies considerably. Very few actually focus on the DiDRR sector; the majority have only one or two components of DiDRR. Planning, implementation and monitoring of disability-inclusive DRR is still inadequate. Many agencies undertake different activities in the name of DRR and have been treating person with disabilities as recipients. The participation of person with disabilities in different phases of the disaster management cycle is still minimal. Not all agencies working in the DRR sector support the specific needs of person with disabilities or focus on reducing their multiple forms of vulnerability. Instead, their response is largely ad hoc.

Persons with disabilities are not adequately involved in disaster relief, emergency response, and DRR initiatives through capacity-building initiatives, awareness and sensitization programmes, provision of and practice using tools and equipment that are beneficial for risk reduction through drills and simulation, dissemination of the right information at the right time using the right approach, and, most importantly, involvement in the design and decision-making processes of programmes. The majority of persons with disabilities are highly impacted during disasters because of (i) limited mobility due to the lack of accessible infrastructure and assistive devices, (ii) limited inclusion in CSOs and self-help groups, (iii) limited capacity due to the lack of training and orientation, and (iv) the widespread belief that persons with disabilities cannot contribute to DRR initiatives because of their physical and mental impairments. Impacts of disaster events on person with disabilities are high.

Even though many studies of disability inclusion in DRR have been carried out and many policies, strategies, guidelines, and plans have been prepared to promote the well-being of persons with disabilities, very few agencies are aware of this policy provision. As a result, advocacy and campaigning for persons with disabilities are weak. There is a lack of disaggregated data on disability, gender, and age, which also hinder effective advocacy. Many agencies like ASB, Handicap International, and CBM have developed tools, but they are not put to optimal use because there is no information-sharing culture. Very few inputs like induction, training, orientation, drills, and simulations have been provided to persons with disabilities or their representative organizations to explain the proper use of these tools.

The participation of persons with disabilities in community risk assessment and DRR planning exercises is very limited. Such programmes are almost always led by persons without disabilities and it is they who decide what the concerns and issues of persons with disabilities are and they who include them in planning but do no ensure their genuine participation. As a result, disability and inclusion issues are often diluted and not sincerely included in DRR planning. The involvement of persons with disabilities in community groups and local government bodies is minimal and their political representation, minimal.

5. Challenges and gaps

a. Policy formulation and implementation

Many organizations work in the disability and DRR sectors but these two sectors are not adequately integrated in terms of programme planning, design or implementation. DRR policies do mention accessibility, protection, and prioritization of persons with disabilities, but the involvement of persons with disabilities in policy reform and amendment is minimal and they are not involved in the implementation of such policies. Instead, persons with disabilities are silent observers. Most agencies which undertake DRR activities treat persons with disabilities as no more than ‘recipients of benefits’. Thus, the concerns and issues of persons with disabilities are not adequately mainstreamed in policy. This is a major gap at both the national and the sub-national levels.

b. Inclusion

The inclusion of persons with disabilities in different phases of the project cycle is minimal, even non-existent. Not all agencies that provide support and services for vulnerability and risk reduction even have a specific focus on persons with disabilities, and even fewer focus solely on the issues of persons with disabilities in disaster preparedness and DRR. In some areas, persons with disabilities did participate in the PDNA in that they were present at different meetings organized by governmental and civil society organizations. However, very few initiatives were taken to include persons with disabilities during disaster preparedness, DRR and humanitarian response programmes even after the earthquake of 2015.

That said, their representatives in CSOs and DPOs did increase after the earthquake, although it was usually the result of filling quotas. Programmes prioritizing inclusion and reducing the disaster risks of persons with disabilities are few, so the real issues and concerns of persons with disabilities are not adequately reflected in planning and programmes. Persons without disabilities are unable to take forward the issues of persons with disabilities but they continue to dominate planning and programmes. This is another gap in programme design, planning and implementation. Theoretically, agencies working in disability and DRR are guided by DiDRR, but this policy is not being implemented by either governmental or non-governmental and organizations working in disability and DRR.

c. Information and communication

One notable initiative undertaken by both state and non-state actors was the preparation of IEC materials formats accessible to people with different types of disabilities, including limited vision and limited hearing. However, not all IEC materials are available in such formats. As a result, not all persons with disabilities have access to IEC materials for knowledge building.

d. Recognition of values, experiences, and ideas

Even though the participation of children and women with disabilities during emergency response and DRR activities is good, these groups are rarely involved in programme planning, designing, and implementation. They are treated largely just as passive recipients. Their experiences and ideas are almost never taken into consideration during programme formulation.

e. Dissemination of knowledge products

A handful of organizations and agencies focused on persons with disabilities have developed different knowledge products like training toolkits, manuals, guidelines, and reading materials which promote DiDRR. However, there is no culture of sharing of such knowledge products among agencies for cross-fertilization of knowledge. Because materials are not shared, time, resources and effort are wasted. Knowledge products produced solely for a particular project intervention are rarely used in the future, thereby leading to the need to “reinvent the wheel.” The duplication of knowledge products and the confusion of issues are two negative results of such inefficiency.

f. Database

One of the guiding principles of SFDRR is that DRR requires robust disaggregated data to use in program planning and designing. Collecting accurate disaggregated data at the national and sub-national levels in collaboration with state authorities can only support concrete planning in favour of persons with disabilities. The disaggregated data currently available in terms of sex, age and disability are not available in useful formats. In fact, not all available data, whether disaggregated or not, is accessible, and much of what is accessible is not in a ready-to-use form. The lack of comprehensive data and information on persons with disabilities has rendered advocacy and campaigning targeting persons with disabilities ineffective and prevented persons with disabilities from claiming their fundamental rights to their fullest degree.

There is no proper local-level system to collect administrative data that captures the details of persons with disabilities. What data there is not generated or updated regularly either. Due to these data gaps, persons with disabilities are systematically excluded from development and DRR initiatives. Their exclusion undermines their access to and control over community resources. Because the database system is badly flawed, plans and programmes can do no better than provide blanket solutions. They do not address the issues and concerns of persons with disabilities, who, as a result, fall further and further behind in a vicious cycle of exclusion.

g. Assistive devices and technologies

Some effort was made to provide assistive devices and technologies to persons with disabilities before the earthquake but that effort intensified afterward. During the recovery and reconstruction phase, there was a dramatic increase in the construction of infrastructures with ramps, railings, and other disabled-friendly features. Ease of access was reported to be highest in infrastructures built by humanitarian agencies. Since a holistic approach to accessibility was not adopted, simply having assistive technology will not, however, fully guarantee the needs of persons with disabilities. In many cases, even humanitarian agencies did not fully incorporate minimal conditions of accessibility in their infrastructures. Some had only a single ramp but nonetheless declared themselves “disability–friendly.” There is also an information gap regarding the availability of assistive devices and the minimal conditions (documentation) for accessing them.

h. Access to information on DRR

Much DRR information is not available in accessible formats. Only a few organizations, like NFDN, ASB, and CBM, have produced informative materials in accessible formats for persons with disabilities. However, even this information is not available to persons with disabilities living in rural areas as it is found only on their websites or in their central offices in Kathmandu Valley.

I. Barriers and challenges

Some factors that make it hard to integrate disability with DRR include socialfactors(caste-, ethnicity-, and gender-based exclusion), attitudinalfactors (low self-esteem of persons with disabilities, disability inclusiveness is not prioritized, serving persons with disabilities is seen as charity not rights fulfilment, and disability is seen as inability), culturalfactors (disability is seen as a result of sins, victimization of persons with disabilities by community and family members), physical factors (inaccessible infrastructures and information portals, lack of facilities and amenities), economic factors (struggle to earn a livelihood, inaccessibility of savings-and-credit facilities), and institutional factors (under representation of DPOs, lack of disaggregated data, insufficient planning and implementation).

6. Recommendations

6.1 For Government

Orient local government staff, newly elected political representatives, community-based organizations and other stakeholders to DRR policies so that they are familiar with their key provisions of policies. Mechanisms should be in place to ensure that new infrastructures and services are accessible to persons with disabilities. Government should ensure the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities and most-at-risk groups in DRR planning, design and implementation in order to mainstream DiDRR issues in development plans and programs. In collaboration with relevant agencies and following a thorough training needs assessment, the government must develop standard training curricula and session plans. Government must contribute and support on action research that promotes the CRPD and enable persons with disabilities to exercise their rights.

6.2 For Non-government agencies

To address including persons with disabilities in DRR, the capacity of DPOs and persons with disabilities should be enhanced through a process approach including training, orientation, and review-and-reflection sessions. Training toolkits, guidelines, training materials and handouts should be developed in accessible formats and templates. Print and electronic media should be mobilized on a regular basis to effectively take forward inclusion issues. To ensure the access to information resources and benefit, IEC materials should be made into accessible formats. To effectively address their issues, the government, CSOs, and DPOs should run debate and discussion platforms in the presence of public and private stakeholders. A holistic approach to making infrastructures accessible is needed if persons with disabilities are to be able to fully claim their fundamental rights. New designs should also include universal design and accessibility features. Agencies should expand their efforts and resources on developing barrier-free infrastructure. To accomplish this end, agencies should engage in advocacy, campaigning and lobbying to get government stakeholders to change their priorities.


6.3 For CBM Partners

Structural component

Reducing physical vulnerability through risk reduction, this refers to taking several measures such as:

  • Carry out structural and non-structural assessment of office buildings and initiate corrective measures
  • Build ramps, railings, and hand bars in appropriate places in organizational premises for persons with disabilities
  • Display directions and important notices in visible places for visitors with auditory disabilities (signage)
  • Trim tall trees in the premises of the offices to avoid risk of thunderstorms
  • Produce IEC materials in accessible formats
  • Put place signs and notices of open space, evacuation routes and exit routes
  • Stockpile necessary materials in case of emergency (food and non-food (medicine, first aid, appropriate assistive device), SAR materials, etc.) for neighbourhood
  • Revisit for other important issues under structural measures

Non-structural component

Capacity building

  • Organize disaster preparedness and humanitarian response orientation to board member, staffs and volunteer’s/outreach facilitators at partners’ level
  • Impart DiDRR Standard training incorporating contemporary issues, policy provisions, ADCAP, SFDRR, existing practices, gaps and the way forward (Managers and Facilitators)
  • Organize DiDRR facilitators training/ orientation (disaster management cycle) in the project area
  • Coaching session to mainstream DiDRR issues in the organizational internal system: Bidhan (Constitution), Policies (HR, GESI, etc.), strategy plan (3-5 years) and business plan

Research and Knowledge management

  • Commission studies and research on DiDRR issues and share in the Media/Stakeholders/Networks
  • Develop an information platform to manage sex, age and disability (SAAD) aggregated data
  • Develop and design DiDRR related training curricula, resource manual, toolkits incl. IEC
  • Document good practices and lesson learned for wider dissemination
  • Produce policy brief, knowledge products (thematic learning and change stories)

Policy Advocacy


Policy advocacy for promoting DiDRR initiatives in all DRM phases Support to advocate for:

  • Mainstream DiDRR issues in local government (urban/rural municipality) periodic plan
  • Emphasis on accessible infrastructures (local transport, public WASH, public office buildings, etc.) to address the specific needs to persons with disabilities
  • Allocate budgets to execute DiDRR focused (and pilot) program
  • Support to prepare disaster-related citizen charter and information are accessible to persons with disabilities


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    Gvetadze, N. (2016). Towards greater inclusion in disaster risk reduction in Nepal: Realizing all-of-society commitment through meaningful participation of persons with disabilities. Retrieved June 2017, from https://nfdn.org.np/papers/inclusion-in-drr.html.
  • Handicap International. (2015). “Disability in Humanitarian Contexts: Views from affected people and field organizations”. Handicap International Publication.
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Authors Bio

Dhruba Gautam did his PhD in Disaster Governance. He is a DRR, CCA, emergency response, Health and livelihood specialist. He started his development career with USAID in 1990, followed by Plan International (1995-1998), Ford Foundation and European Union in different capacities. In the last 14 years (2002-2016), he has contributed as a technical advisor in different sectors viz. humanitarian issues, DRR, CCA, vulnerability analysis, disability inclusive DRR and contemporary socio-economic issues through evaluations and research with the World Bank, UN agencies (UNDP, UNICEF and WHO), International NGOs, academic institutions and civil society organizations. Between 2004 and 2016, he has evaluated 38 projects related to emergency, CCA and DRR and 23 projects in contemporary socio-economic sectors in the Asia Region. He has contributed to evaluation, capacity building and knowledge management related consultancies in some of the countries viz. Nepal, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Thailand. He has been one of the active team members for policy formulation related to DRR and emergency response on behalf of the Government of Nepal. He led many evaluations independently and submitted to international donors. He has published many reports, research articles and study reports in nationals and international journals.

Shaurabh Sharma is a development enthusiast with hands-on knowledge on disability inclusive- development and disaster risk reduction. Having worked in DRR initiatives of ActionAid (2006-10), gender and micro-finance initiatives of Italian Foundation (2011-13), disability inclusive- health, livelihood and education programs of CBM. Currently, responsible to manage CBM’s Post-emergency response (2016-18) focusing on health system strengthening, physical rehabilitation and community mental health, livelihood support, accessibility modeling and disability inclusive disaster risk reduction that is being implementing in ten most earthquake-affected districts of Nepal. Apart from regular work, have an experience of evaluating development projects for Social Welfare Council and INGOs in Nepal, developing NGO’s strategy/ procedurals, and involving on personal social initiatives. Led Association of International NGOs in Nepal (AIN)-Disability Working Group for two years (2015-16), successful to bring INGOs together for common disability-inclusive initiatives to sensitize and promote disability inclusion. Shaurabh has masters’ degree in Business and Social Development Studies.