Sapana Basnet Bista, Shaurabh Sharma, Rose Khatri, and Padam Simkhada
Following the earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015, the government of Nepal decided taking the ‘blanket approach’ to aid distribution mechanism without conducting needs assessment of its vulnerable population with the concept that the extent of devastation was such that everyone needed assistance. Disasters affect vulnerable populations including people with disabilities disproportionately. Earthquakes maybe indiscriminate in nature for causing distress and destruction for all those exposed, but have detrimental effect on health, social and economic welfare of people with disabilities in comparison to their non-disabled peers. The mechanism how aid is distributed and the role of humanitarian assistance providers is crucial to ensure that suffering is minimised and recovery is smooth for people with disabilities during and post disaster. The earthquake received worldwide attention for the devastation it caused as well as for the international humanitarian agencies coming together in Nepal’s aid. However, the effectiveness of aid distribution through ‘blanket approach’ to Nepal’s most vulnerable population remain under-researched. In this study, we aim to explore the effectiveness of the ‘blanket approach’ of aid distribution to people with disabilities during recovery and reconstruction.
We undertook thematic analysis of qualitative data collected through focus groups discussion with total of 30 people with all kinds, including psycho-social disabilities in Gorkha district during November 2018. All participants were recruited through snowballing sampling technique. Three focus group discussions each with 8-12 (n=12 in Khaireni, n= 10 in Mirkot and n= 8 in Barpak) participants lasted between one and half hour to two hours. Additional time was allocated to accommodate the special needs of people with all kinds of disabilities. This research received ethical approval from Liverpool John Moores University and Nepal Health Research Council.
People with disabilities, as population with a predetermined high vulnerability and minimal resilience, reported utter lack of understanding of their needs and almost nonexistence concerns towards their issues by the government agencies. Though the blanket approach may have worked well for the government during the early stages of the relief distribution; our findings highlight people with mostly physical disabilities experienced double discrimination, one induced by the ‘blanket approach’ and the other by the existing geographical challenges during relief and reconstruction phases. For person with physical disabilities, having limited social and political connection to aid distributes, having no say about where, how and when aid is distributed, having restricted mobility to reach to distribution sites and receiving unsuitable aid created further stress. People with psycho social disabilities reported less struggle caused by physical barriers however reported additional mental health issues and suicidal thoughts caused by severe lack of their regular medication as emergency workers only supplied emergency treatments to physical injuries. We recommend that government conducts regular need assessments of the needs of its vulnerable population as part of disaster preparedness programmes and stocks need specific lifesaving supplies in each locality in anticipation to disaster. Government, national and International humanitarian agencies should take disability inclusive emergency response trainings to mitigate discriminatory relief and that no one in left behind.