The office in Panama of RET International is implementing the process of Institutionalisation of Sustainable Community Based Disaster Risk Management (CBDRM) through the project “Adolescents and young people with disabilities have access to inclusive and safe education in Panama”, followed by its second phase with the project “Adolescents and young people with disabilities promote inclusive and safe education environments against climate change.”

In both projects, activities are focused on strengthening the capacities of the Panamanian Institute for Special Authorisation (IPHE, in Spanish) and its student population, staff specialised in education or health and rehabilitation services, as well as parents and communities. At the same time, the project aimed to integrate external actors into the process, in order to establish a sustainable joint work throughout the time by implementing actions at the educational, community and local levels.

In the first phase, the development took place in the national headquarters of IPHE, in Camino Real Bethania. In the second phase, the training methodology was promoted to the eleven (11) extensions of the institution, located in 10 provinces and in the (1) Region of Güna Yala (indigenous peoples).

The entire project has been funded by OFDA and has been implemented by our organisation.

At the national level, emergency and security institutions were involved, such as: SINAPROC, Exclusive Emergency Management System (SUME 911, in Spanish), the Fire Department of Panamá, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Environment, SENADIS, MINGOB, the Ministry of Public Works, the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Economic and Financial Affairs, SENAFRONT, the National Police, the Police for Children and Adolescents, MIDES, AMUPA, the Police for Juveniles and SENNIAF.

The project begins its first phase of intervention in the year 2015-2016 and its second phase in 2016-2017.


This project has had the driving force of joining forces with the staff of the institution who has been empowered and committed in the local and human sphere, so that from their reality and living in each of the communities, they can encourage the continuity of the processes, through their day-to-day experiences with their patients and students. Local governments were involved in all provinces and regions, building a bridge that allowed them to demonstrate the constant need to get involved in the issues that lead to equal opportunities and universal accessibility for people with disabilities. The reality that each province and even each region are totally different from the geographical accessibility to the work dynamics was never ignored. Initially, the coordination of all the processes was carried out through the Project Officer in RET Panama and the IPHE responsible. In each province and region there was a focal point designated to work in each of the processes. The technical support and advice was permanent, guaranteeing that the transition of responsibilities was gradual and driven by the same working methodology designed for the implementation of sustainable actions. This was carried out by the project officer directly with the focal points, providing them with opportunities for training and strengthening their educational communities, so they were the leaders of the project.
The project was aimed at children, adolescents and young people with disabilities who make up the student population of IPHE, specialists, community. There were 4,200 individuals involved, broken down as: - 3,600 children, adolescents and youth (CAY) with disabilities - 300 teachers - 150 technicians - 150 public officials, caregivers and community leaders. In the second phase of the project, the work was carried out in the regional area under the structure of the Government of the Native People, which was integrated into the process.
In the intervention, the context was recognised and the reality was brought to the fore, allowing it to be more real. This required making constant changes and adjustments and organising flexible strategies for the approach, ranging from the workshop implementation methodology itself to the execution of the work. There are future plans to ensure the continuity of the process in order to support them in the development of a new stage, aimed at strengthening this issue.


At the institutional level, IPHE has strengthened its capacities and will continue the work by integrating DRR into its annual planning and requesting the necessary resources to continue its implementation. At the community and local actors’ level, integration and joint work are strengthened, providing the opportunity to move forward with inter-institutional responses and encouraging the exchange of knowledge; even today the platforms for joint work are still in place.
The project strengthened the capacities in Integral Disaster Risk Management (GIRD, in Spanish) and the first response of students with disabilities, their caregivers, teachers and technicians, community leaders, parents and public officials, enabling them to promote inclusive and safe educational and community environments to the impact of El Niño phenomenon in Panama. This progress was achieved through the intervention strategy covering the three areas of intervention (institutional, communitarian and academic) and complying with the design of tools that allowed the achievement of direct and indirect results. It is important to note that the integration of disabled NNAJs in the preparation for the response, considerably increases the level of capacity of the community and the educational community, since the NNAJs, being subjects of rights, are able to address direct actions in the response, as proposed in the planning and providing them with their space in their communities.


At the institutional level, through the project, RET: - Sensitised government officials at the national and provincial levels regarding the effects of ENSO, ensuring the implementation of targeted actions and the establishment of the necessary measures to reduce risks and build resilience. - Trained officials from government agencies at the provincial level and from the Güna Yala region in emergency response, inclusive education and disability for capacity building, as well as the collection of inputs, an indirect result of the training process, which was the strengthening of inter-institutional coordination. - Trained officials from IPHE's administrative structure and regional extensions in the "Basic Course on Incident Command System (CBSCI, in Spanish)" to acquire the knowledge and skills required to establish the “Incident Command System” as the first responders in the development and implementation of the "Comprehensive Risk Management Plan for Inclusive Education Centres". - Provided technical assistance at the national level to all the provincial extensions of the IPHE (10 provinces and 1 region) for the development, revision, implementation and validation (through drills), achieving for each extension an "Integrated Risk Management Plan for Inclusive Education Centres". - Achieved the development, validation and dissemination of the brochures by type of events organised by ENOS (flooding, forest fire and health effects) that include people with disabilities in the actions, information, preparation and mitigation of this type of impact. - Developed tools that provide technical support to IPHE: Recommendations for the Implementation of Signage and Safety Devices for Emergencies in Inclusive Education Settings; the e-learning course: "Disaster risk reduction and disability: basic fundamentals for inclusion" and the information and tool transfer website for inclusive education linked to risk reduction where the products and results were hosted. At the community level, the following actions were achieved through the project: - RET, in conjunction with IPHE, trained leaders, parents, caregivers and neighbours to carry out the participatory risk assessment, design the plan and carry out the simulation of IPHE extensions at the provincial level. - RET provided access to first aid and fire prevention courses (including the use of fire extinguishers), in order to build capacity in communities with difficult access, or with certain vulnerabilities that required immediate training. Parents of families and neighbours from the community participated in these meetings. At the school level: - Capacities were built and existing capacities were strengthened through the training of IPHE teachers to incorporate IDRM into the curriculum in different strategies. - “Inclusive playful and educational days to inform and empower children and young people in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation" (JLP) were implemented with students from IPHE extensions and inclusive schools of MEDUCA. - The participation of adolescents and young people with disabilities as strategic participants was encouraged in order to promote inclusive risk management, taking into account a legal perspective and giving them a leading role, by making them part of the process, as agents of change in their immediate environment and community in the short, medium and long term. - RET trained teachers, technicians, parents, caregivers, administrative staff, directors and students of the IPHE extensions to prepare the Comprehensive Risk Management Plan. - During the training process, risk assessments were carried out at the corresponding IPHE facilities. - Eleven Comprehensive Risk Management Plans (including mitigation and preparedness for ENSO impacts) were developed. - The 11 IPHE extensions (10 provinces and 1 region) conducted evacuation drills. - The evacuation routes were signage in the 11 IPHE extensions (10 provinces and 1 region) and some recommendations were suggested for the corresponding mitigation works. - The institutionalisation of the operational structure and the results of the project and its tools in the IPHE annual operational plan (POA 2018) were achieved, ensuring the continuity that aims at the sustainability of the project. In all the areas of intervention mentioned above, RET ensured that the process of training, intervention and joint work was carried out by socialising the systematisation of results, lessons learned and good practices. The development of an awareness and information campaign on how to mitigate and prepare for the impacts of ENSO, aimed at institutions, communities, grassroots associations, young people, family members, leaders, local authorities, traders and neighbours of the IPHE extensions at the provincial level, made it possible to reach everyone in the intervention process of the project.
All the progress made through the project is included through the MEDUCA - IPHE in the working panels for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. It is also included as a good practice that has been implemented even before the design of the Disability Roadmap was completed.