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Haiti: “The disabled risk becoming the forgotten ones,” warns UN expert’s committee

GENEVA (9 February 2010) – The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities urged Tuesday the Haitian Government, the international community, UN agencies and all humanitarian organisations in Haiti not to allow persons with disabilities to become “the forgotten ones during the emergency response and the reconstruction of the country.”

“While relief workers are struggling to provide aid to the people of Haiti and while the situation remains difficult for everyone, persons with disabilities are particularly affected by the crisis,” said the current Committee’s chairperson, Mohammed Al-Tarawneh. “The disabled risk being left out unless a disabilities perspective is built in the recovery process from the start.”

“The trauma caused by this disaster cannot be underestimated. Many disabled people in Haiti have been thrown by the post-earthquake crisis amongst the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” warned Mr. Al-Tarawneh, “especially if their main carers have been killed or injured.”

The Committee, which will hold its 3rd session in two weeks in Geneva, called in a recent statement* for a disability perspective to be included in all humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti to meet the needs of the disabled.

“As the social and economic reconstruction of Haiti is about to begin, the Committee urges Haiti to ensure that persons with disabilities fully participate in the decision-making process and that sustained efforts be centred on the long-term development needs of disabled persons in Haiti.”

The UN expert’s body noted that according to “the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities**, states are to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, and natural disaster like the occurrence of this earthquake.”

The 12-member Committee is the body of independent experts monitoring the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which so far has been endorsed by 140 countries. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities was adopted on 13 December 2006 by the UN General Assembly, and entered into force on 3 May 2008.

(*) Statement by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=9809&LangID=e

(**) The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRPD/Pages/Convention.aspx