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On the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis

Samoans with Disabilities Push for an Inclusive Response to Flooding and Other Extreme Weather Events

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On June 8, 2023, flash floods of nearly one meter in height swept across the Fa’asaleleaga district on the eastern coast of Savai’i, Samoa. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report, severe floods and other extreme weather events will become more frequent in the Pacific as the effects of climate change continue to intensify. The report also found that persons with disabilities will be disproportionately impacted by these natural disasters. To help prepare for future extreme weather events, the National Advocacy Organisation of Persons with Disabilities, Nuanua O Le Alofa (NOLA), hosted a series of trainings throughout the Fa’aseleaga district on inclusive community disaster response plans. Tapusoa Sarasopa Siliako, a NOLA member and resident of Fa’asaleleaga who attended the training, says accessibility must be accounted for in all future planning: “District committees and village councils should take appropriate measures and take the lead in ensuring early warning systems and evacuation shelters are fully accessible for all persons with disabilities.”

Editing assistance by Desmond LaFave

Photo of Sa Utailesolo.

Filmmaker: Sa Utailesolo

Sa Utailesolo, a 40-year-old man with vision impairment, grew up in the villages of Lepea and Lalomanu in Samoa. His various qualifications include certifications in early childhood teaching, orientation and mobility facilitation, and accounting and auditing which enables him to draft audit recommendations and verify documentation. Utailesolo has been working at the National Advocacy Organisation of Persons with Disabilities, Nuanua O Le Alofa, as a finance and administration coordinator for nearly 15 years. In the past, he has also worked as a Braille translator. Passionate about disability rights advocacy, Utailesolo has a training of trainers certificate for raising awareness on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Father to a son, he is committed to his family and the church and supports his wife, who has a disability, on her work-related travels.

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