Article. We are not all equal in the face of natural disasters

In the shadow of war and international conflicts, Nepal is once again hit by an earthquake. In Nepal, as in all other humanitarian situations, emergency aid must be inclusive and provided in collaboration with local organizations for and by marginalized groups themselves.

17.11 2023

We are not all equal in the face of natural disasters.

The original version of this article is published in Norwegian on Panorama nyheter.

On November 3, a severe earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 struck the western parts of Nepal. At least 153 people are reported dead, including 82 children, and many more are missing or injured, according to figures from the Nepalese authorities

This is the most powerful earthquake Nepal has experienced since the earthquakes in 2015, which claimed almost 9,000 lives.

The earthquakes in Nepal have not only led to significant human losses and destroyed infrastructure, but such natural disasters also exacerbate already vulnerable conditions.

Although various UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations have taken immediate actions after the recent earthquake, we know that access to psychosocial support, tailored support for people with disabilities, and knowledge about sexual and reproductive health are often limited in such situations.

This affects children, women, sexual minorities, and persons with disabilities, often long after humanitarian aid has ended.

Sexual Violence

Gender-based violence, especially sexual gender-based violence (SGBV), is often a problem in crisis and disaster situations.

In such situations, norms and regular societal structures are weakened, while it takes time for alternative safety nets to be put in place. This contributes to children, women, persons with disabilities, and sexual minorities becoming targets of abuse, exploitation, and violence, and experiencing traumatic events.

Persons with Disabilities are disproportionately affected in disaster

One of the groups disproportionately affected in emergency and disaster situations is people with disabilities. They often have limited opportunities for evacuation and restricted access to information, emergency aid, and post-disaster reconstruction aid, according to the UN Development Program.

Collaboration with local organizations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) can make a significant difference in ensuring that humanitarian aid truly includes them.

DPOs can guide humanitarian actors so that temporary settlements are accessible, and ensure that persons with disabilities receive tailored support in challenging times. They should also be involved in the planning phase where evacuation plans are made, to contribute to ensuring that persons with disabilities have evacuation options and accessible information.

Read also: Negative attitudes hinder the integration of people with disabilities (in Norwegian)

Inclusive Assistance

We live in a world of many crises and conflicts, where a large number of people depend on humanitarian aid.

In Western Nepal, as in other humanitarian contexts, aid must be inclusive with a focus on marginalized groups and include knowledge of mental health and accommodation.

To achieve this, major humanitarian organizations must collaborate with local experts and DPOs.

Nepal’s civil society works around the clock to help those affected by the natural disaster. They are now calling for more financial support to effectively work with those who have survived the earthquake, especially the most marginalized.

The wounds that often follow natural disasters are not always visible, but they can be severe and last long. It is therefore vital that humanitarian resources are distributed to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities, focus on preventing SGBV and provide psychosocial support to those exposed. This is crucial to ensure effective and inclusive humanitarian aid and reduce long-term trauma.

(Photo credit Save the children Nepal)


Laure Isaac

Communication team at Mental Health and Human Rights Info

Elisabeth Ng Langdal

Executive Director at Mental Health and Human Rights Info

Per-Inge Bjerknes

General Secretary of The Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted

Tor-Hugne Olsen

General manager of Sex og Politikk

Bjørn-Richard Monsen

Regional Director for Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean for Save the Children