The barriers persons with disabilities face are greatly amplified during conflict and disaster. Persons with disabilities are among the most vulnerable populations in war, but humanitarian response often fails to include them in crisis management planning and rescue missions. Research shows that persons with disabilities are:
• More likely to be left behind or abandoned during evacuations
• Often denied refugee status and turned away from shelters and refugee camps
• More likely to be denied access to basic needs services such as food distribution and medical care
The Atlas Alliance and its organisations strongly encourage Norway and Norwegian humanitarian actors to include persons with disabilities in their relief efforts in Ukraine and neighbouring countries receiving Ukrainian refugees. Several of the Atlas organisations have issued statements (in Norwegian) to this effect:
• Atlas/SAFO/FFO/Unge Funksjonshemmede: Opprop om beskyttelse av funksjonshemmede i Ukraina
• NHF: Hjelpen til Ukraina må også nå funksjonshemmede
Reports are already showing examples of how persons with disabilities do not have access to the same protection as others. For instance, underground subways, designed to double as bomb shelters, are not accessible to many persons with disabilities, who are left without safe shelter.
What can humanitarian actors do short-term?
• Actively use the IASC Guidelines; even in the middle of a war, modifications to plans and rescue efforts can be made.
• Collaborate with Ukrainian DPOs to get a better picture of the needs of the community and to reach persons with disabilities (see contact details below).
• Make sure that information is accessible to all, including deaf and hard-of-hearing persons, blind and visually impaired persons, and persons with intellectual disabilities
• Specifically include persons with disabilities in rescue efforts and use local contacts to identify persons with disabilities that might be left behind.
• Pay particular attention to the most marginalised, such as persons with intellectual disabilities, psychosocial disabilities, and deafblindess.
The Atlas Alliance also adheres to the statement of the European Disability Forum:
The European Disability Forum urges all parties to respect their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in particular, Article 11 on situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies, the UN Security Council Resolution 2475 (2019) on Protection of Persons with Disabilities in Conflict, and to adhere to international humanitarian law and the humanitarian principles.
Moreover, in line with CRPD article 4.3, EDF calls for duty bearers to ensure the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities, including their representative organisations, in all levels and at all stages of the conflict and ongoing humanitarian actions.
It is primarily the responsibility of governments, but also the international community and humanitarian actors, to ensure that such discrimination does not happen. (Full statement here: The protection and safety of persons with disabilities in Ukraine)
In addition, the National Assembly of People with Disabilities of Ukraine has issued the following appeal: Appeal from the National Assembly of People with Disabilities of Ukraine
The Atlas Alliance: firstname.lastname@example.org; +47 22 17 46 47
The Atlas Alliance is the umbrella organisation of Norwegian Disabled Persons’ Organisations that are involved in international solidarity work. The organisations work with their sister organisations and other partners in the global South to ensure that the human rights of persons with disabilities are fulfilled. Please visit our website for more information: www.atlas-alliansen.no