ALERT – IDPD 2020 : HI is working with persons with disabilities to mitigate disproportionate impact of COVID-19 | December 2, 2020
December 3 marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. While 15% of world population lives with a disability, persons with disabilities still face multiple barriers and discrimination to enjoy equal opportunities, quality of lives and participation in their communities. The long-term impacts of COVID-19 threaten to exacerbate this exclusion even further. HI supports persons […]
December 3 marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. While 15% of world population lives with a disability, persons with disabilities still face multiple barriers and discrimination to enjoy equal opportunities, quality of lives and participation in their communities. The long-term impacts of COVID-19 threaten to exacerbate this exclusion even further.
HI supports persons with disabilities who are often left behind during a crisis response. These are the main challenges that they continue to face due to the pandemic:
Access to health services
Essential health care is still in some countries inaccessible to persons with disabilities, who tend to have more healthcare needs even in ‘normal’ times’. Now, health services – that are very insufficient in poor countries – have become even harder to access due to COVID-19 restriction measures or because medical staff are more focused on responding to the pandemic…
Furthermore, discrimination and stigma has intensified during the pandemic: medical staff may deny health care to a person with disabilities, considering they should be taken by a specialised centre. Persons with disabilities can see their health status worsening, risking complications and additional permanent impairments or reduced functional ability
Inadequate awareness raising to COVID-19
Persons with disabilities are often left out in campaign awareness against COVID-19:
- For instance, leaflets are not adapted for persons who are blind.
- In some areas, awareness raising leaflets are only distributed in hospitals which limits the number of people who are able to access these resources (if the hospital is not adapted with ramps, wheelchair users may not be able to access to the building).
- These lack of information put persons with disabilities more at risk of catching the virus.
HI conducted a study in Ethiopia which found that 40% of adults and 45% of children with disabilities declared that they did not have access to public information on COVID-19 that they could understand.
Marginalization and seclusion
Persons with disabilities face isolation and exclusion, as social support services and networks, including personal assistance like caregivers, are disrupted. They may have difficulties to carry out simple day to day activities such as showering and going to the toilet without assistance.
In some countries lockdown has led to dramatic implications where persons with disabilities are unable to access food and basic supplies. The risk of violence to children and adults with disabilities is routinely three to four times higher than for those without disabilities. In the current circumstances, public restrictions, self-isolation of households and disruption of community life may lead to increased violence towards persons with disabilities.
For example in Kenya, HI received reports of authorities exerting violent acts towards persons with disabilities who were on their way home after the curfew because police considered that they did not want to abide by the law.
COVID-19 measures and restrictions bring the global economy to a standstill. Persons with disabilities – who are more likely to be poor and unemployed and to have low education in normal time – are disproportionately affected by this economic shock because they were already excluded from the formal and informal economy.
Furthermore, the majority of persons with disabilities do not benefit from any form of social protection:
- For example, in Nepal and in Madagascar, HI meets many persons with disabilities who have lost their income and have even had to reduce their nutritional intake.
- In Haiti, 65% of respondents to an HI survey said that the economic support they normally receive has been greatly disrupted since the declaration of the state of health emergency.
COVID-19 in humanitarian contexts
In June 2020, HI launched a report “COVID-19 in humanitarian contexts: no excuses to leave persons with disabilities behind!” based on evidence and testimonies collected in HI countries of intervention, outlining the need for an inclusive humanitarian response to COVID-19. This report compiles evidence from HI countries of operation (all included in the Global Humanitarian Response Plan on COVID-19) to illustrate the recommendations for an inclusive humanitarian response to COVID-19. It encompasses:
- Quantitative data based on assessments on COVID-19 impacts on HI beneficiaries in 9 countries ;
- Testimonies of beneficiaries and staff to illustrate these impacts from 11 countries.
These data cover different humanitarian contexts in Asia, North Africa, Middle East and Africa, and focus on exacerbated barriers and growing needs for persons with disabilities in various areas (livelihoods, food security, access to WASH, health, protection and COVID-19-related preventive measures).