Empowering Persons with Disabilities on Inclusive WASH in Fiji
East Asia and the Pacific is the most disaster-prone region in the world1 and is the most impacted region by multiple and overlapping climate shocks and hazards. In emergencies, children with disabilities are most likely to be left behind and abandoned2 with this risk being amplified by the inaccessibility of evacuation centres. As part of the COVID-19 response to improve hand hygiene and access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), UNICEF partnered with Pacific Disability Forum and Fiji Disabled Persons Federation to assess and improve the accessibility of WASH services in schools, community and public buildings in Fiji. The project focused on buildings used as evacuation centres in emergencies and as isolation centres during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with organizations of persons with disabilities, the project empowered persons with disabilities at every stage, from decision making to data collection. The leadership and participation of persons with disabilities led to the identification of WASH barriers and the creation of targeted materials and guidance that continue to be used in the Pacific to improve the accessibility of WASH facilities in schools, community, village and government buildings.