People with disabilities face increased risk of injuries, death, and sexual violence during humanitarian emergencies.

The mortality rate among people with disabilities is two to four times higher than those without disabilities in conflict and disasters, and for every person who dies, it is estimated that three people sustain an injury that can lead to long-term disabilities.

Despite living with heightened risks, people with disabilities are routinely left out of humanitarian responses. They regularly experience barriers to escaping climate-induced disasters or receiving support in armed conflict. Humanitarian emergencies also often produce temporary and permanent disabilities from trauma and injury. Evacuation centres are often inaccessible to people with disabilities, something which is compounded by the fact that people with disabilities can often lose assistive devices during a disaster or conflict. Disaster information and early warning messages are rarely available in formats that are accessible to all.

Disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction (DRR) is needed so that people with disabilities are not left behind. This means that the strategies and practices to reduce hazards, lessen the exposure of people to disasters, and strengthen the capacity of people to withstand their impact take into account the additional needs and vulnerabilities of people with disabilities in disaster settings. People with disabilities have reported being left out of disaster preparedness activities and have noted that in the event of an emergency they would have difficulty evacuating immediately and without assistance. The active inclusion of people with disabilities as key decision makers and stakeholders ensures that no one is left behind during disasters.

Watch this video by people with disabilities on the impact of disasters on their lives.


For all necessary measures to be taken, Australia’s humanitarian strategy should implement a twin-track approach to disability inclusion to ensure that mainstreaming disability inclusion is executed alongside disability-specific programming. People with disabilities and their representative organisations should be heavily involved in this process to ensure that all stages of humanitarian response are inclusive.

Further reading

For more on disability equity in Australia’s humanitarian response, see CBM Australia’s policy paper for guidance. More information on how to make DRR inclusive of people with disabilities is available via United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as searching for the topic on DID4All. AT Scale Partnership has a thematic brief on why assistive technology matters for humanitarian contexts.