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Disability and climate resilience: a literature review


Written by John Twigg

This literature review was published as part of a larger project, 'Disability and Climate Resilience Research' hosted by Leonard Cheshire at University College London. The literature review is intended to ground the rest of the research which looks at the relationship between disability and climate resilience, focusing on two case studies in Kenya and Bangladesh.

The review retrieved and screened 1,011 articles and 546 grey literature sources. A total of 107 relevant sources were selected from the published and grey literature, of which 53 were included in the final review.

An emerging theme were the links between climate change adaptation (CCA), disaster risk reduction (DRR) and disability. Disability has been a pivotal point in a number of projects in relation to CCA and DRR. There is limited evidence of how the resilience of persons with disabilities has been enhanced by those interventions. This is required in order to produce more evidence-based recommendations and guidelines.

The data available demonstrates heightened vulnerability for at-risk people. The evidence pointing directly to climate change and its consequences for persons with disabilities demonstrates impacts that are more severe than those for the general population, while their resilience capacity is lower. The knock-on effects reach sectors such as health, food security, water, drought, migration, urbanisation and access to resources.

Evidence from disability-inclusive DRR and humanitarian practice is included to draw applicable lessons for building climate resilience. DRR programmes have increasingly included persons with disabilities. Good practice examples include targeted cash transfers, inclusive hospital preparedness plans and targeted trainings for children with disabilities.

Finally, the review also identifies gaps in the current literature and makes some suggestions for best practice in programme design. The review highlights the importance of people with disabilities’ agency to enhance their resilience: their perspectives, knowledge and experience are essential for understanding risk and building resilience.

John Twigg, Ellie Cole, Dr Maria Kett, Mathieu Simard and Fred Smith