Disaster READY: People living with a disability represented on community disaster management committees - Timor-Leste

A revitalised Suco (village) Disaster Management Committee in Leohito, Timor-Leste, is ensuring people with disabilities are represented in disaster preparedness and planning.

In September 2018, Australian Humanitarian Partnership Disaster READY partner World Vision, along with the Bobonaro Municipal Disaster Management Committee (MDMC), introduced the Disaster READY program to the community and local authorities in Leohito suco.

Above: Adelina Boe Mali was appointed to the Leohito Suco Disaster Management Committee to represent people living with a disability.

Above: Adelina Boe Mali was appointed to the Leohito Suco Disaster Management Committee to represent people living with a disability.

As part of its work with Disaster READY, the Bobonaro MDMC has reactivated the Leohito SDMC after a period of inactivity. But it was more than a simple reactivation. The SDMC membership now includes is more diverse and inclusive membership, with government, local trades and farmers, women and church representatives and a community member living with a disability represented on the committee.

Thirty-five year old Adelina Boe Mali was appointed to the committee to represent people living with a disability.

“I wanted to be involved in the SDMC because I want to help my community increase their knowledge and understanding of disasters and the risks, especially for people with disabilities, because when disasters happen we are more likely to become victims of the disaster than people who do not have a disability,” Adelina said.

The role of the SDMC is to manage disaster risks at the suco level. This is done by facilitating disaster risk assessments, community action plans and a suco disaster risk reduction plan. The SDMC is also responsible for monitoring the suco disaster risk reduction plans to ensure they are implemented and sustainable. Information sharing with the community, including operating the early warning systems are also key responsibilities of the SDMC. During and following a disaster, the SDMCs will lead data collection to support response efforts and future planning activities. 

Having a person with a disability represented on the committee means information is more likely to get to other people living with disabilities. It also means people with disabilities can share relevant  information with the committee. 

Leohito SDMC members participate in training 

Above: Adelina participates in a community risk mapping exercise. Photo credit: World Vision Australia.

Above: Adelina participates in a community risk mapping exercise. Photo credit: World Vision Australia.

In October 2018 the Bobonaro MDMC and World Vision facilitated a two-day training for the 16 Leohito SDMC members. The training covered their committee roles and responsibilities, gender in disaster risk reduction, disability inclusion and child protection in emergencies. The training was also designed to build knowledge among SDMC members on how, and why, to include women, people with a disability and children in disaster risk assessments, community action planning and preparing, and preventing and responding to disasters.

“I learnt and understood well the objective of this training. This can help people with disabilities to know how to keep ourselves safe in any disasters that might happen in future. I know that people with disabilities are really vulnerable to any disasters that might happen, because we cannot make fast movements compared to people with no disabilities,” Adelina said.

Local police officer, Guilhermino Moniz, Leohito shared his thoughts on the value of the training.

“I am very pleased to participate in this training as the content of the training is relevant to my job. I need to know how to identify vulnerable people such as children, people with disabilities and women, especially pregnant and lactating women and widows, in a disaster response,” Guilhermino said.

SDMC members Facilitate Disaster Risk Assessment in Aldeia Faloai

In November 2018, the Leohito SDMC facilitated a disaster risk assessment in Faloai aldeia (sub-village). Adelina and other community members identified four disasters that had previously occurred in their aldeia – landslides, strong winds, house fires, and disease outbreak and death among livestock. 

Adelina led the community mapping group as they developed hazard, risk and vulnerability maps, and the community learnt how their attitude contributes to disaster risks. They also learnt disaster coping strategies. This activity helped the community identify disaster risks, hazards, vulnerabilities and also to understand their capacity to cope.

“The objective is to help our community members, especially people with disabilities, to know and protect ourselves from any disaster that might happen in the future. I know that people with disabilities are very vulnerable to become the victims when we don’t look after them properly during a disaster,” Adelina said.

The Leohito SDMC also developed an action plan for disasters that included reforestation, cultural ceremonies, and Tara Bandu(local law) for prevention and mitigation.

Clare PriceComment