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Kazol is now a leader in her community.

From: Living with disability – Footsteps 108

How to make our churches and communities more inclusive of people living with disabilities

Disasters – such as floods, cyclones, tsunamis and earthquakes – frequently cause loss of life, infrastructure and property. They also cause injury and trauma. However, not everyone is affected by disasters in the same way: it depends on how vulnerable they are. 

Vulnerability is affected by many things including gender, age, health, poverty and levels of government support. People with disabilities are often particularly vulnerable when disaster strikes. 

There are many reasons for this. 

Any efforts to reduce the risk and impact of disasters must include everyone, including people with disabilities. 

Gaibandha Model 

The Gaibandha model is based on the experiences of CBM and its partners in flood-affected communities in the Gaibandha area of Bangladesh. It puts people with disabilities at the centre of disaster risk reduction. They are the agents for change, working with their communities to ensure that everyone’s needs are considered and no one is left behind. 

The Gaibandha model suggests five important steps. 

Step 1 – Develop strong self-help groups 

There are many benefits to bringing people with disabilities together in self‑help groups. These include: 

In the Gaibandha area of Bangladesh the self-help groups are involved in all disaster risk reduction activities including mock drills and early warning systems. When disaster strikes, they help identify people in need of rescue and look after those in shelters. 

As a result, people with disabilities are increasingly respected as valuable members of society and many are now community leaders. By working together towards a common goal, and taking the needs of a diverse range of people into account, better strategies and plans are developed, and stigma and discrimination are reduced.

In many countries, including Bangladesh, people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to floods and other disasters. Photo: CBM/Patwary

In many countries, including Bangladesh, people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to floods and other disasters. Photo: CBM/Patwary

Step 2 – Advocate with the local government 

Self-help groups are part of the community in which they live. They need to find their voice, not only for themselves but for the whole community. 

After receiving relevant training, the self-help groups in Gaibandha are extremely active in awareness-raising and campaigning for change. They regularly invite government officials and journalists to see their disaster management activities and have built up strong relationships with them. They have successfully campaigned for road and embankment improvements, fair distribution of aid during floods, disability payments, school admission for children with disabilities and wheelchair access to government buildings. 

By promoting community causes and not just disability rights, the groups have gained the respect of both community and government. As well as paying increasing attention to the self-help groups and their requests, the government is also beginning to ask for support from self-help group members when training their own staff. 

Step 3 – Leave no one behind 

Accessible early warning systems and effective evacuation procedures are essential for keeping all community members safe. A system introduced in the Gaibandha area has already saved lives. 

Step 4 – Work with schools 

Schools often close for many weeks following a disaster, which has a big impact on the education of the pupils. 

In Gaibandha the situation has been greatly improved by involving schools in different awareness-raising activities. 

Step 5 – Promote and support livelihoods

Many of the members of the Gaibandha self-help groups now have strong and productive livelihoods. This is because they support each other to try new things, and because people have gained the confidence they need to run their own small businesses. Some of the activities are group based (eg maize production), which means tasks can be shared between the members according to their different abilities. 

Having a regular income means people can improve their homes, animal shelters and water supplies so they are less likely to be damaged during a disaster. They are also able to recover more quickly afterwards if they have some money in reserve and can pick their businesses up again quickly.


Disaster risk The combination of how likely it is for a hazardous event (eg a flood) to happen, and the negative way it affects human life and property. 

Disaster risk reduction The use of strategies and practices to reduce the occurrence of hazards, decrease the vulnerability of people and property to them, and increase the ability of people to cope with their impact.

Adapted from Saving lives and leaving no one behind: the Gaibandha model for disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction, published by CBM in 2018.  

CBM is an international Christian disability and development organisation.
To download information about CBMs Gaibandha model for disaster risk reduction (discussed in Disability and disasters), visit the website above and search for ‘Gaibandha’. 

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