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Disabled in Haiti, Where Everyone is Now Vulnerable

Disabled in Haiti, Where Everyone is Now Vulnerable

JDAM logo_small.jpgFebruary
is Jewish Disability Awareness Month, and all month, we'll be featuring blog posts
about disability inclusion. Read our posts here and visit our Jewish Disability Awareness Month page.

Estimates
of the financial damage caused by January's earthquake in Haiti have
climbed
with the death toll estimates The New York Times cites a report
that "estimates that the cost could be between $7.2 billion to $13.2 billion,
based on a death toll from 200,000 to 250,000; earlier estimates had hovered
around $5 billion." Haitian citizens are slowly
coming to grips
with the destruction that upended so many lives in such
little time, but U.S.
forces are beginning to
wind down
despite increasing need. Amid all of this, the needs of one group
of Haitians in particular are in peril: those
with disabilities
.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stated
that Haitians with disabilities - or those who became disabled in the wake of
the earthquake - must not become "the forgotten ones during the emergency
response and the reconstruction of the country." As Dale Buscher points out in his
excellent op-ed
in the Huffington Post, "
People with disabilities
are often overlooked, neglected and forgotten in disaster relief and
humanitarian response. Yet they are among the most vulnerable of the affected,
particularly if they have lost their traditional caregivers-extended families
and neighbors."

Indeed, in a country in which every citizen has become vulnerable,
those with disabilities become even more vulnerable: when hundreds of people
clamor for food aid, Buscher notes, the "likelihood of people with disabilities
getting anything is remote." Likewise, temporary shelters, schools and other
services must be made accessible to those with disabilities. Buscher observes
that though "those living with disabilities were underserved in Haiti prior to
the earthquake and were often shunned and stigmatized," efforts to rebuild the
country offer "an opportunity to amend past neglect and discrimination and
assist persons with disabilities to live richer, more dignified lives." My hope
is that they harness the potential of the disabled community and realize that,
just as everyone is vulnerable to a natural disaster, everyone deserves the
opportunity to contribute to society.

Published: 2/18/2010

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