Statement on Disability Inclusion in the Response to the
February 6th Earthquakes Impacting Turkey and Syria
February 20th, 2023
The international emergency response to the February 6th earthquakes has failed to provide timely and lifesaving support to children with disabilities. Immediate action by humanitarian actors is essential to ensure children with disabilities are not left behind in the response.
Disasters acutely impact people with disabilities. For example, people with disabilities accounted for more than 70% of fatalities from Hurricane Katrina in the United States and 25% of disaster-related deaths in the 2011 earthquake in Fukushima, Japan.
The A Global Voice for Autism community tragically lost 22 community members, including 17 children in the February 6th earthquakes. Risks to people with disabilities will continue to grow as the secondary impacts of the disaster take hold. The care systems that provide critical services and protection have been devastated in impacted areas. The lack of protection services, limited health care access, and lack of adequate shelter pose unique risks to people with disabilities.
It is easy for organizations to say that #AllChildrenMatter, but policy and practice need to address this by accounting for and addressing the needs of children with disabilities.
We are calling on the international humanitarian community to:
1) Prioritize access to medication and safe food for individuals with medical needs.
For children with disabilities who rely on medications or have medical dietary restrictions, abruptly stopping certain medications or consuming foods with allergens can be life-threatening. There have been multiple reports of children struggling to access the medications they urgently need. There have also been reports of individuals with dietary restrictions being turned away from food distribution points when they communicate their medical needs.
2) Stop accepting "We don't 'do' [insert disability here]" as a response from implementing partners and funders involved in humanitarian responses.
If responses don't account for the needs of all individuals, then they are not inclusive. Instead of framing disability inclusion as an add-on feature, disability considerations must become core to the planning and execution of every humanitarian response. 16% of people worldwide experience a significant disability. If an initiative is not disability inclusive, then it does not respond to the needs of the population.
3) Address disability stigma through active messaging about how disability inclusion benefits entire societies.
Some families in communities where there is significant disability stigma hide their children with disabilities. In the aftermath of the February 6th earthquake, communities' lack of awareness of many children with disabilities has led to challenges identifying children who have been separated from their families, especially for those who are non-vocal. Stigma is reinforced every time people with disabilities are not actively included in humanitarian responses.
Mandates to protect all children cannot be fulfilled until the needs of children with disabilities are fully addressed. The support needs of this population must be understood to be equally important .
A Global Voice for Autism is working closely with partners in Turkey to address the urgent needs of children with developmental disabilities and their families, including medications, safe food, and basic survival needs, supplies to support those with sensory sensitivities in temporary shelter environments, and psychological support. Please donate to our Earthquake Emergency Response Fund to ensure children with disabilities are not left behind in the response. 100% of donations directly support the emergency needs of those impacted by the earthquake.