Let’s make global action on the climate crisis disability-inclusive

World Environment Day is an opportunity to spotlight people with disabilities who are amongst the worst affected by climate change.
Armando and his wife (c) Light for the World


Even as COVID-19 has claimed virtually every news headline around the world, climate change remains one of the most urgent concerns of our time. 
Climate impacts, already experienced by the world’s poorest, are today palpable across the globe. Among those who can speak with experience about both are people with disabilities living in cyclone-ravaged Sofala province, central Mozambique. 

Armando, from Buzi town in Sofala, is 90. He’s blind and needs daily assistance to get around. Luckily, he has a family who cares for him but many others don’t. 

(c) Light for the world

“Caregivers are afraid of being contaminated,” he says, “and when at home if there is no one to help, who will support you? There are so many people with disabilities living alone.” 

Cyclone Idai 

Armando has already lived through flooding and damage caused by Cyclone Idai, a violent tropical storm that struck Mozambique on 15 March 2019. A combination of highly concentrated rainfall, low-lying land and poor-quality housing made Cyclone Idai one of the Southern Hemisphere’s worst-ever storms. Because of rising sea-levels due to climate change, the resulting floods were extreme. Thousands died, or were injured, and millions were displaced. The aftermath was all the more frightening for people with disabilities like Armando, whose mobility was an issue as was access to aid. 

“After the storm, we thought we were safe, but then came the floods, not only once, but two times. Because I cannot see, it was very difficult to move to the highest place of the village. But with a lot of support we managed to survive”.

The added crisis of COVID-19 has only increased the risks faced by people with disabilities in Mozambique. 

(c) Light for the world

Support from Light for the World

Economically, institutionally and socially marginalised people are less resilient in the face of the adverse effects of climate change. They often have the least capacity to adapt, while being virtually ignored in preparation and response measures. Light for the World supports people with disabilities hit by disasters. We advocate for disability inclusive disaster response by governments and other NGOs. 

In Mozambique, we have acted to supply those affected by Cyclone Idai with extra food supplies, housing materials to help rebuild their homes, assistive devices such as wheelchairs and crutches, physical rehabilitation from specially trained community workers, and even psychosocial support – a kind of counselling therapy to help those recovering from the traumatic experience of the Cyclone. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve also added hygiene products and other essential supplies to our response. 

Call to Action

Climate change is one of the defining topics of our time and addressing it will only become ever more pressing. Light for the World specialises in disability inclusion and we see extending that dialogue to the climate crisis as an urgent issue. We are releasing a report, Rights-Based Climate Action: Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, to that effect today.

“People with disabilities are deeply affected by climate change and its impact. Yet, they are largely forgotten in climate debates,” said Johanna Mang, Head of Rights & Advocacy, Light for the World. “This World Environment Day, Light for the World is calling on governments, NGOs and civil society to include people with disabilities in in all climate action and climate financing. To take the global climate fight to the next level, no-one should be left behind.”

Sources: 

Greenpeace International https://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaign/climate-emergency/

UNHCR (2020): Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Context of Climate Change. A/HRC/44/30. §§4-5. https://undocs.org/A/HRC/44/30.

Light for the World & UNICEF (2019): Access to Humanitarian Aid:
www.light-for-the-world.org/sites/lfdw_org/files/download_files/policy_paper_lftw_unicef_-_def_digital_accessible_0.pdf.

Fighting climate change inclusivley: https://www.light-for-the-world.uk/fighting-climate-change-inclusively