According to estimates by UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, at least 12 million people with disabilities are forcibly displaced around the world, and their already precarious situation is becoming increasingly difficult as the COVID-pandemic- 19 is extended.
âForced displacement disproportionately affects people with disabilities. They are often at higher risk of violence, discrimination, neglect, gender-based violence, exploitation and abuse, face barriers to accessing basic services and are often excluded from educational opportunities and livelihoods, âsaid Gillian Triggs, UNHCR’s Deputy High Commissioner for Protection. .
âAs many refugees face these unacceptable and pre-existing risks of exclusion and discrimination, we fear that the protracted COVID-19 pandemic will only exacerbate inequalities and hardships,â she added.
While estimates indicate that more than 12 million people with disabilities have been forcibly displaced by persecution, violence and human rights abuses around the world, surveys and assessments suggest the actual number may be much higher.
The challenges and risks begin with the flight. In sudden disasters, brutal violence and active hostilities, people with disabilities are often left behind by family members due to the sudden nature of armed attacks; in the extreme cases reported, people have been left in chains.
Upon reaching security, services and facilities, including support and protection programs, may be inaccessible. People with disabilities may face physical barriers and obstacles in reaching, accessing or using basic services, or key information may be provided in formats that are not accessible to them.
Refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless persons with disabilities were already less likely to access health care, education and employment opportunities, and the global crisis has further compounded this situation.
On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, UNHCR urges national authorities to do more to ensure the rights of forcibly displaced and stateless persons with disabilities and to combat all forms of discrimination.
Governments and humanitarian actors should promote the meaningful participation of refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless persons with disabilities and ensure that their needs are taken into account in national disability inclusion plans as well as in plans for prevention, COVID-19 response and recovery.
Donors must commit to increased funding to ensure people with disabilities have access to protection, assistance and solutions worldwide.
To pursue its own commitments and strengthen inclusion and participation, UNHCR has developed a five-year action plan for the inclusion of people with disabilities in all of its operations around the world and has partnered with the International Disability Alliance to involve organizations of people with disabilities in finding solutions to the challenges that affect their lives.
More information on UNHCR’s approach to displaced persons with disabilities can be found here.
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