Prof Surujlal shares his experiences of the 5th Shafallah Forum in Doha, Qatar
There are an estimated 1 billion persons with disability living throughout the world today and many of those live in extreme poverty, experience hunger, lack of basic healthcare education. These issues are compounded by discrimination and stigma, as well as harsh physical environments and poor infrastructure which hinder persons with disabilities in gaining access to fundamental services. At-risk women, children and minorities with disabilities, whether displaced by natural disaster, war or conflict, compete with other victims for goods and services and as a consequence, suffer two-fold.
The 5th Shafallah Forum provided the opportunity for delegates from around the world to experience firsthand experiences of war victims and victims of natural disasters. Many of these victims were either people with disabilities or became disabled as a result of their experience. It is difficult to imagine what these victims go through unless one interacts directly with them. In Uganda in particular, decades of civil war have created many individuals with disabilities. One such victim shared her heart-rending experience with delegates (see Youtube insert).
Finding ways to manage and alleviate the plight of those with disabilities around the world was an important matter of discussion at the 5th Shafallah Forum. Cherie Blair, co-chair of the Shafallah Center and wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, acknowledged the growth and expansion of the forum since its inception in 2006.
Ali Bin Ali, chairperson of the Shafallah summarized the forum’s three main recommendations on ways to address disability in crisis and conflict scenarios:
• First, disability must be an integral part of all emergency and humanitarian response before and after a crisis hits, through sustainable development programs.
• Second, there is an urgent need for disability to be taken into consideration throughout all phases of humanitarian assistance. All humanitarian actors should ensure that emergency preparedness, response and recovery programs are inclusive, rights-based and respond to the needs of persons with disabilities.
• Third and lastly, the principles in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities should underpin all humanitarian efforts and international protection frameworks, particularly Article 11 - calling on governments to develop National Action Plans or Policies, which identify strategic actions, priorities and resources, and determine responsibilities and timeframes at the national level.
Prof. Babs Surujlal
Faculty: Management Sciences
Tel: (016) 950 9620