ALERT – Making Inclusion Real: Humanitarian Action for Persons with Disabilities

Posted by: on May 26, 2016 | No Comments

The World Humanitarian Summit presents a critical opportunity to ensure that humanitarian action recognises and addresses the needs and rights of persons with disabilities.

© C. Fohlen/Handicap International

© C. Fohlen/Handicap International

Bayan is 12 years old. At home in Syria she used a walking frame to move around. But when she and her family fled the country, she was forced to leave everything behind apart from her wheelchair. She now struggles to leave her apartment, which does not have a lift, and as a result she is no longer going to school.

Approximately 1 in 7 people affected by a crisis is a person with a disability. Often invisible to humanitarian actors, persons with disabilities are frequently overlooked in the planning of relief operations. A study on persons with disabilities in humanitarian contexts[1] showed that 75% of this population affected by humanitarian crisis do not have equal access to basic assistance, including water, food, shelter, and medical care, while 50% lack access to specific services, such as provision of assistive devices. Studies have further demonstrated that gaps in service provision and the breakdown of protective peer networks add to isolation and the risk of violence, abuse and exploitation against persons with disabilities, particularly women and girls.[2]

Persons with disabilities and their representative organizations possess unique knowledge that is essential if relief efforts are to reach everyone. Manish, from an organisation of persons with disabilities in Nepal, reported that following a presentation to local authorities in Kathmandu on accessible reconstruction, his organisation was asked to be involved in future implementation work, improving inclusion throughout the response.

The World Humanitarian Summit presents a critical opportunity to ensure that humanitarian action recognises and addresses the needs and rights of persons with disabilities, in partnership with persons with disabilities and their representative organisations. Shelters and relief camps must be accessible, information must reach and be understood by everyone, and emergency response must be informed by the skills, capacities and experiences of persons with disabilities. We are witnessing the greatest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime, and the responsibility to leave no one person behind lies with every individual humanitarian worker.

Moved by this spirit and for the first time in history, more than 70 individuals representing States, UN agencies, the international NGO community, and global, regional and national organisations of persons with disabilities have developed a Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action that was presented at the World Humanitarian Summit. The Charter sets out an agenda to make humanitarian action inclusive of persons with disabilities and stakeholders at all levels are invited to endorse it.

The signatories of the Charter reaffirm their commitment to make humanitarian action inclusive of persons with disabilities based on five core principles: non-discrimination and recognition of the diversity of persons with disabilities; involvement of persons with disabilities in developing humanitarian programmes; ensuring services and humanitarian assistance are equally available for and accessible to all persons with disabilities; implementation of inclusive global policies; and cooperation and coordination between humanitarian actors to improve inclusion of persons with disabilities.

This is our opportunity to act. Greater inclusion in the planning and delivery of humanitarian action for persons with disabilities and their representative organisations will lead to an effective response for all. Endorse the Charter and commit to making inclusion real for persons with disabilities in humanitarian action.

This op-ed was approved by :

Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities

Sarah Costa, Executive Director, Women’s Refugee Commission

Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director, International Disability Alliance

Manuel Patrouillard, Executive Director, Handicap International

Frank Wendt, Acting President and COO, CBM International

[1] “Disability in humanitarian context: views from affected people and field organisations”, Handicap International, June 2015, available at : https://consultations.worldhumanitariansummit.org/node/504293

[2] Building Capacity for Disability Inclusion in Gender-based Violence (GBV) Programming in Humanitarian Settings, Women’s Refugee Commission, June 2015: https://www.womensrefugeecommission.org/disabilities/resources/945-building-capacity-for-disability-inclusion-in-gender-based-violence-gbv-programming-in-humanitarian-settings-overview