March 17, 2022

Persons with disabilities left behind in Ukraine response

The Atlas Alliance is deeply concerned about the information that many persons with disabilities are excluded from relief efforts in Ukraine and in the neighbouring countries. The plea from the international DPO community is clear: Make use of our knowledge and consult us for advice when planning your response!

The Atlas Alliance is part of a network of organisations sharing regular updates about the situation for persons with disabilities in Ukraine and the neighbouring countries. Reports show that disabled persons do not have access to the same protection as others.  

For instance, underground subway stations – designed to double as bomb shelters – are inaccessible to many persons with disabilities, leaving them without safe shelter.

Many persons with disabilities in Ukraine are trapped in crossfire and abandoned. According to Disability Rights International the roads are very unsafe and transferring people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities into safety is especially difficult. This makes it a major challenge to ensure that bringing people out is not putting them more at risk than leaving them behind.

The situation in the country’s institutions, housing a quarter of a million people at the onset of the war, is chaotic. Save the Children International are especially concerned about disabled children who risk neglect, trafficking, and abandonment in unstaffed institutions. Children in institutions who do have families in Ukraine risk being evacuated rather than reunited with their families. If, after crossing the border, they are placed in new families this can constitute an additional risk if no control mechanisms are in place.

The World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) are working with various organizations in Ukraine. They find that many deaf and hard of hearing are fleeing to Poland, Romania and other neighbouring countries. The WFD urges humanitarian agencies and other relief workers to provide information in Ukrainian sign. According to the federation, as per now there is almost no information accessible to the deaf or hard of hearing in Ukraine. Consequently, the WFD are coordinating a support network to assist both those deaf and hard of hearing who are leaving the country and those who are remaining.

The Atlas Alliance will continue to produce updates from the situation of the disabled population from and in Ukraine, based on the information available to us. As a meager contribution Atlas has produced a short set of recommendations for humanitarians involved in the Ukraine response.