Quake survivor promotes inclusion in HFA2

Source(s)
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
Today's International Day of People with Disability was marked by the testimony of 911 responder and earthquake survivor, Nelli Charchyan, at a DRR conference in Yerevan, Armenia.
Today's International Day of People with Disability was marked by the testimony of 911 responder and earthquake survivor, Nelli Charchyan, at a DRR conference in Yerevan, Armenia.
Photo copyright UNISDR

YEREVAN, 3 December 2014 – The global effort to forge a 2015 framework for disaster risk reduction – an updated Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) - has championed inclusiveness as a key strength for the future resilience of communities and nations.

Persons living with disabilities, who comprise an estimated 15% of the global population, are one such group who have positively influenced negotiations ahead of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015 - www.wcdrr.org – which will adopt the new framework often referred to as the HFA2.

Today, on the International Day of People with Disability, the story of Nelli Charchyan, who works as part of Armenia’s 911 emergency response service, illustrates why the perspective, experience and capacity of this group is such a valuable resource for DRR policymakers as negotiations continue on the updated HFA.

Ms. Charchyan was just 15 when the 7 December 1988 Spitak earthquake devastated much of northern Armenia. She was crushed in the collapse of her classroom and has been a wheelchair user since.

“It was like being on a ship in a big storm. I got up from my seat and shouted. After that I can’t remember. When I woke up I couldn’t move my legs and did not know why,” Ms Charchyan remembers.

“It has caused me great stress, of course. There was no psychosocial support. Looking back we were just not prepared and did not know what to do at all.”

As a member of Armenia’s 911 team, Ms. Charchyan is determined to play her part to ensure today’s population are not as exposed and as vulnerable as people were 26 years ago.

“It is so important that people are more aware on how to be safe from disasters and I feel that my direct experience in such situations helps me to better help others. The Ministry gave me a chance and I am now part of a family that is working to protect others.”

Ms. Charchyan is one of 30 wheelchair users employed by Armenia’s Ministry of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situations. Originally conceived as an inclusion initiative, the employment of persons living with disabilities now stands as a policy on its own merit.

The 911 responder was speaking at the opening of the second “Public Awareness as a Cornerstone for Effective Disaster Risk Reduction International Conference” hosted in Yerevan by her Ministry.

Armenia’s HFA Focal Point, Mr. Nikolay Grigoryan, said persons living with disabilities invariably brought an experience of “personal resilience” that greatly added to the capacity of the Ministry’s wider team.

The 1988 earthquake killed more than 25,000 people. A majority of the casualties were children or adolescents who were at school when the earthquake occurred at 11.41am. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless.

The Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which will take place in Sendai, Japan, in March 2015, is set to adopt the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction, the so-called HFA2 which will update the current Hyogo Framework for Action.

The 2013 International Day of Disaster Reduction focused on persons living with disabilities and disasters. To mark the day, a first-ever UN global survey on the issue revealed that persons living with disabilities display had tremendous resilience and capacity. However, they reported that they are rarely consulted about their needs. Only 20% could evacuate immediately without difficulty in the event of a sudden disaster event.

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