By Tina Ashiyo
“Humanitarian actions in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon can be more inclusive of all stakeholders play their role effectively and place persons with disabilities at the centre of all humanitarian actions,” observed Mr. Wango Julius, Consultant of the disability inclusion audit, of humanitarian organizations in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. Mr. Julius remarked while presenting findings of a disability in a workshop for the dissemination of the audit results on March 30, 2022, at Djeuga Palace Hotel, Yaounde.
The audit was conducted in February 2022, within the context of the Disability Inclusive Humanitarian Action (DIHA) Project, to assess the level of inclusion of people with disabilities and other vulnerable people in the ongoing humanitarian response programs of local and international humanitarian organizations in the Northwest and Southwest regions. Equally, it was aimed at identifying barriers; training needs, and actions needed to foster the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Protection and Health Sectors. The findings of the study revealed that the crisis has harmed persons with disabilities including loss of mobility and increased dependency, psychological disorders, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, and gender-based violence, and limited access to food and quality health care among others.
Deducing from the January 2022 fact sheet of humanitarian response statistics in the two crisis- hit regions by the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Consultant revealed that only 2.8% of the 266,800 beneficiaries were persons with disabilities which is very insignificant as in any given population at least 15% are persons with disabilities. Barriers to Disability inclusion According to the independent Consultant, findings showed that persons with disabilities are not fully included in the humanitarian response activities during the ongoing crisis because humanitarian organizations collect insufficient disability disaggregated data and their staff lack sufficient knowledge on disability inclusion.
In addition, staff of humanitarian organizations and some host community members view persons with disabilities as people who cannot make decisions for themselves. As a result, actions or donations are usually made to persons with disabilities that don’t meet their specific needs because they are not consulted. Long distances to distribution points and information in formats that are inaccessible to persons with disabilities were also highlighted as barriers that limit persons with disabilities from benefitting from humanitarian actions.
Disability Inclusion Strategies To remove barriers and enhance the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian response, the Consultant recommended the collection of disability disaggregated data, making offices, structures, and distribution and activity venues accessible to persons with disabilities. He further recommended messages and information in accessible formats, simple and disability- friendly language, development and implementation of policies on inclusion ensuring all staff are exposed to it, engage and collaborate with organizations of persons with disabilities in all stages of humanitarian actions.
Speaking during the event, the CBC Health Services Director Prof. Tih Pius Muffih, expressed his gratitude to CBM for supporting the CBC Health Services to influence disability inclusion by other development stakeholders in Cameroon. He noted that some years back, the focus was only on treatment and rehabilitation. For his part, the CBC Health Services, DIHA Project Manager, Mr. Awa Jacques Chirac among other things disclosed that after training on disability-inclusive humanitarian response, some humanitarian organizations have taken measures to ensure effective inclusion of persons with disabilities in their actions.
The event was attended by CBM and implementing partner (CBC Health Services and PCC) staff, representatives of humanitarian organizations for the Northwest and Southwest Regions, humanitarian actors, and members of the press. Meanwhile, still within the context of the DIHA Project, tablets have been provided to some field workers, data clerks, and Volunteers to ease data entry into the CBC Health Services DIHA Project DataBase. They were given the gadgets and taught how to use them on Saturday, March 21, 2022, at the NBH Hall. During the training, they were told to be meticulous in data collection and entry as it deals with the personal information of beneficiaries which needs to be properly protected.