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Lucky to be alive, living for others.

Lucky to be alive, living for others.
Here at cbm New Zealand, we believe that no one should be left behind when a disaster strikes. Sadly, that is not the case for one in seven people - people who are living with a disability. 

Manny has shared his experience. Born with a heart condition and bone disease affecting his legs, Manny has been using a wheelchair most of his life.  Eight years ago he was caught in severe flooding from Typhoon Ketsana in Manila that almost cost him his life three times! 

Too sick to leave his home and with flooding quickly rising in his house he told his wife and daughter to get themselves to safety. Little did he know that the water would rise so high: “I almost drowned on my bed!  I was so happy when my brother suddenly appeared”.  But whilst his brother pushed his wheelchair through the street, with water right up to his chin Manny thought he would surely drown this time.  Thankfully they were welcomed up stairs in a nearby house where he stayed overnight. “Again, I thought I would die because my weak heart was pumping so hard with the stress.  I didn’t have my medication with me.”

This experience motivated Manny to become part of a cbm Disaster Risk Reduction programme in Manila.  With weekly meetings to plan for disasters Manny is now prepared. He always travels with extra heart medication, he is linked with an early warning of danger and he has volunteers who will help him evacuate.

Manny is now President of the organisation for persons with disabilities (DPO) that run this training.  The DPO promote active participation of persons with disabilities in preparing individual evacuation plans and advocating for inclusion within community plans. His dream is that people with disabilities will join emergency planning with community and local governments.  “We want an accessible evacuation centre and our own accessible evacuation vehicle. There should be expert rescuers for people with disabilities - at the moment they don’t know how to handle us.”  

Manny’s message for other persons with disability is clear: “Whatever needs to be done, must be done based on the rights of persons with disability and primarily considering that all efforts must benefit EVERYONE”. People with disabilities have first-hand experience on what they need to prepare for disasters and can take a key role with planning and carrying out emergency response. 

cbm New Zealand is empowering DPOs in the Philippines and the Pacific where the frequency and severity of tropical cyclones is increasing dramatically. On 13th October, we join celebrations for International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. This year’s theme “Home safe home” reminds of the importance to keep people safe in their own homes and reduce the number of people affected by disasters.  

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