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Breaking Barriers and Opening Doors

For immediate release

cbm New Zealand

03 December 2013

World Disability Day 2013

Breaking Barriers and Opening Doors – Making Humanitarian Action Inclusive

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cbm team at work in Tacloban City (photographic rights attributed to cbm international)

Today, 3rd December 2013, World Disability Day, cbm calls on world leaders and UN agencies to include persons with disabilities in global disaster preparedness and humanitarian action. 

In particular we remind our partners worldwide to include persons with disabilities in the emergency response and reconstruction in the Philippines. The recent typhoon which has devastated the Philippines shows us once again how important it is to include all members of society in disaster risk reduction, humanitarian response, and post-disaster reconstruction.

cbm is celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (World Disability Day) with like-minded organisations from around the world.

Persons with disabilities are often the first to be left behind when disaster strikes. For example, research indicates that during the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami the mortality rate among persons with disabilities was twice that of the rest of the population[i]. 

The vulnerability of persons with disabilities due to the impact of disasters was reconfirmed in our first evaluation mission in the Philippines. Services for persons with disabilities were damaged; persons with disabilities and their families had lost their homes and were in immediate need of food and survival supplies.

cbm’s Director for Emergency Response, Valerie Scherrer, observes, based on her extensive experience in inclusive humanitarian action and disaster risk reduction: “Central to ensuring that communities can deal with crisis and emergencies, is the inclusion of all community members in disaster preparedness.”

Today we would also like to emphasis the role of persons with disabilities themselves, individually or as part of their organisations, in ‘breaking barriers and opening doors’.

During our emergency response to Typhoon Haiyan, persons with disabilities were instrumental in early relief efforts to support their communities through our partners, the local Disabled People Organisations (DPOs).

The disability movement has campaigned for years for equal rights, and these rights are enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This international human rights instrument calls for the protection of persons with disabilities in situations of emergency and risk. It also calls on all international development to be accessible to and inclusive of persons with disabilities.

cbm’s experience in humanitarian response, including large scale disasters like the 2013 Philippines typhoon or the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, is that persons with disabilities themselves and their representative organisations – DPOs – are key partners in preparedness, relief and in reconstruction. They know where persons with disabilities are located and can most easily find out their immediate needs. Given adequate resources and support, they can also advise on the best way to rebuild inclusive public services, inclusive infrastructure, and inclusive housing.

‘Breaking Barriers and Opening Doors’ should be part of preparation for disaster, so it will be part of the humanitarian response and recovery, towards and inclusive society for all.

Follow our December 3rd celebrations on our blog at, follow us on Twitter @cbmnz, @CBMworldwide or join our Facebook community at 

Who we are
cbm is an international Christian development organisation, committed to improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities in the poorest communities of the world.

If you would like to learn more about World Disability Day and the project work cbm New Zealand undertake around the world and currently in the Philippines, please contact the cbm New Zealand National Director:
Darren Ward
National Director
cbm New Zealand

[1] UN. (2013). Panel Discussion on Disaster resilience and disability: ensuring equality and inclusion. United Nations Headquarters on October 10, 2013


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