Leaving no child behind: how UNDP is promoting equality and resilience through its inclusive tsunami preparedness programme

UNDP Thailand is working to reduce inequalities among schoolchildren with and without disabilities through the Inclusive Tsunami Preparedness programme and fostering resilience in every child in the face of disasters.

July 24, 2023

Schoolchildren participating in an evacuation drill, guided by their teachers in an orderly line. The inclusive drill ensures accessibility for students with physical disabilities, with wheelchair-accessible evacuation routes.

Photo: Pakin Media\ UNDP Thailand

“Twenty years ago, people had inappropriate attitudes towards persons with disabilities,” Dr. Arunee Limmanee explains, “when my parents decided to send me to school, people would say it was a waste of time and money”. Dr. Limmanee is a woman with a disability and works as an assistant professor and advisor on Education and Employment for the Association of the Physically Handicapped of Thailand. “But now, people change, now many persons with disabilities have good education” she continued. While progress has been made in promoting equality and providing educational opportunities for children with and without disabilities, new and concerning inequalities have arisen, particularly during disasters.

In the Asia-Pacific, there are around 700 million persons with disabilities. Surprisingly, risk reduction and preparedness initiatives for tsunamis or early warning systems often overlook the needs and rights of persons with disabilities. The Lowy institute found that persons with disabilities are up to four times more likely to be injured or die during a disaster

School children with and without disabilities receiving training in first aid.

Photo:UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

Stay home: Exclusion from tsunami preparedness

UNDP, in partnership with the Government of Japan, prepares inclusive risk reduction training in tsunami-prone schools in Thailand through its Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunami initiative throughout the Asia-Pacific, also known as the “Tsunami Project.” The training has been provided in 24 countries since 2017 and includes students with disabilities. As part of its efforts, UNDP has visited schools in high-risk areas to assist them in developing evacuation plans and conducting drills. However, during these visits, the project team discovered that students with disabilities were often being overlooked, as children with disabilities were not actively encouraged to participate in disaster preparedness activities and were often told to “Stay Home”. 

To address this issue, UNDP partnered with the Office of the Basic Education Commission under the Ministry of Education, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation under the Ministry of Interior, the Thai Red Cross Society, and other relevant stakeholders. Together, they developed and launched the first-ever National Guidelines for Tsunami Evacuation Plans and Drills. These guidelines incorporate disability-inclusive measures for evacuation plans and drills. Dr. Limmanee, a facilitator involved in the process, emphasized the importance of inclusion, stating, “We, [persons with disabilities], advocate for ourselves and actively contribute to these guidelines, ensuring that the government works with us on an equal basis.”

“Nothing without us – that is the moto we base our work on” Dr. Limmanee

As part of the project, a comprehensive approach was taken to ensure the inclusion of students with disabilities. Teachers in tsunami-prone schools underwent training to develop emergency plans, conduct drills, and improve their disaster preparedness skills. This training was part of the Training of the Trainers program, with a focus on supporting students, including those with disabilities. Teachers participated in orientation drills to gain a better understanding of the barriers faced by students with disabilities, including students with visual or mobility impairments. This enabled them to design evacuation routes that are inclusive and cater to the specific needs of these students. To prepare for a quick and effective evacuation, a buddy system was set up to enable classmates to assist students with disabilities. Schools have also installed additional ramps for children using wheelchairs and pathways have been cleared for ease of evacuation. Additionally, the National Guidelines introduced inclusive early warning systems and information handouts, featuring diagrams, pictures, and clear signage for easy accessibility for children with intellectual, visual, and hearing disabilities.


The National Guidelines include various measures to promote inclusive disaster preparedness. These measures encompass orientation and mobility training for children with visual impairments, ensuring they are acquainted with evacuation routes. Children with hearing difficulties are provided with vibrating wrist straps to serve as warning signals during disasters. Smoke detectors are designed to incorporate both light and sound signals, accommodating individuals with sensory disabilities. Furthermore, the Guidelines introduce disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction, aiming to educate others in the field about effective practices. 

A young boy is reading a brochure about early warning systems. The brochure includes diagrams, pictures, and clear signs designed to be easily understood and accessible for children with intellectual, visual, and hearing disabilities.

Photo:UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub

It starts with a societal shift to see beyond the stigma

As a result of UNDP Thailand’s Tsunami Project, the capacities of approximately 3,000 students and teachers in tsunami-prone schools have been strengthened in collaboration with organizations such as the Association of the Physically Handicapped of Thailand. Moreover, the guidelines introduced by the project have been adopted by 27,000 schools across Thailand under the supervision of the Office of the Basic Education Commission under the Ministry of Education. According to Dr. Limmanee, further efforts should prioritize disaster risk reduction and promote the guidelines on a wider scale, particularly by engaging with small Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in rural areas. Ultimately, Dr. Limmanee says, “the participation of persons with disabilities should be given the highest priority, to make sure that everybody is safe during the disasters.”

To establish truly resilient communities, national and international disaster risk reduction initiatives must be grounded in principles of inclusivity and take a rights-based approach, like the Tsunami Project, or Chile's efforts in enacting new laws to enhance the protection and inclusion of persons with disabilities in disaster management policies. Only when these measures are based on values of equality will we have truly resilient communities.



This blog is part of a series highlighting practices showcasing how UNDP and its partners are promoting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in initiatives for building the resilience of communities and nations to the risks and impacts of disasters and climate change. The Disaster Reduction Team (DRT) in Geneva is coordinating with UNDP Country Offices the development of this blog series.

For more information about this initiative please contact: Aticha Chaivichian, Partnership and Engagement Analyst, UNDP Thailand, email: aticha.chaivichian@undp.org