COVID-19 & Disability Inclusion: Humanitarian Settings

In emergency and humanitarian settings, people with disabilities face heightened risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to:

  • Inaccessible communication: Risk communication is essential to promote health and prevent the spread of infection and reduce stigma and stress, however in humanitarian settings information channels can be disrupted or limited. Often humanitarian actors provide information at assistance distribution points, but this is not accessible to all people with disabilities.
  • New barriers created: Displacement and changes in living conditions due to emergencies can result physical barriers to health and WASH facilities, and lack of support like transportation. COVID-19 mitigation and prevention measures such as quarantining, physical distancing and isolation also create new challenges for people with disabilities.
  • Services disrupted and rationed: Disability-specific services such as rehabilitation and assistive device provision is often disrupted in a humanitarian setting, or a person with disability may be separated from their regular support network, which in turn undermines the ability of people with disabilities to independently access humanitarian assistance, health care, and WASH facilities, potentially leading to reliance on others and risk of exploitation and abuse, or abandonment, isolation and institutionalisation.
  • Increased risk of violence: Within the context of a COVID-19 ‘lock-down’, people with disabilities, particularly women and girls with disabilities, are at risk of experiencing violence due to disruption of pre-existing protection mechanisms and crucial services.
  • Lack of knowledge amongst response actors, resulting in risk of being left behind in response and recovery: People with disabilities are less likely to access COVID-19 response and recovery programs, for example, they may be less likely to have been in formal employment prior to the outbreak, and may not be eligible for cash assistance for those who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19.

Thematic Group on Disaster Risk Reduction of the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities Open Letter to the UN Secretary General

This Open Letter calls on States Parties to uphold Article 25 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is related to Health, and requests all governments and health service providers to guarantee and enhance access to health services for persons with disabilities and their carers, including access to personal protective equipment and hygiene products.

IFRC, OCHA and WHO (March 2020) How to Include Marginalised and Vulnerable People in Risk Communication and Community Engagement

This guidance includes a specific section setting out actions to include people with disabilities within risk communication and community engagement for COVID-19. The recommended actions include: undertake active outreach to collect feedback from persons with disabilities; disseminate information that uses clear and simple language; provide information in accessible formats, like braille, large print; offer multiple forms of communication, such as text captioning or signed videos, text captioning for deaf people, online materials for people who use assistive technology; involve organizations of persons with disabilities in consultation and decision making; and provide tailored information to meet individual needs.

International Federation of the Red Cross (March 2020) Technical Guidance Note on How To Consider Protection, Gender and Inclusion in the COVID-19 Response

This document points out that, like all crises, the COVID-19 outbreak will affect people differently based on their sex, gender and other factors, including age, disability, sexual orientation, health status, legal status, ethnicity, and other aspects of the person. Emergencies exacerbate existing gender inequalities, and the incidence of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), violence against children can be expected to increase. Actions to address these protection risks are provided along the overarching principles of dignity, access, participation and safety.

IASC Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (March 2020) Briefing Note on Addressing Mental Health and Psychosocial Aspects of COVID-19 Outbreak, Version 1.5

This document sets out overarching principles for a mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) response to COVID-19, including integrating MHPSS approaches as a core component of any public health response; positioning MHPSS as a cross-cutting issue among all emergency pillars; and building on existing MHPSS services but adapting these to new conditions and for people with physical and psychosocial disabilities. A list of 14 globally recommended activities is provided, and a specific intervention to support the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 outbreak is outlined.

Global Gender-Based Violence Area of Responsibility Helpdesk (April 2020) Disability Considerations in GBV Programming During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This document includes recommendations for strengthening disability inclusion in gender-based violence programming during the COVID-19 pandemic, including: (1) Strengthen capacity for disability inclusion; (2) Provide case management for survivors with disabilities and carers; and (3) Ensure disability inclusion in GBV risk mitigation and prevention.

Syrian Protection Cluster (April 2020) Brief Guidance Note: A disability-inclusive COVID-19 response

This guidance highlights the high prevalence of people with disabilities living amongst the Syrian internally displaced population, and highlights the specific risks that are faced by people with disabilities in a protracted humanitarian context. Specific recommendations are provided for ensuring the COVID-19 response in Syria is disability inclusive.

Humanity and Inclusion (April 2020) Guidance Brief: A Disability Inclusive COVID-19 Response in Somalia

This guidance highlights that Somalis with disabilities have expressed concern about the deterioration of their psychosocial and socio-economic wellbeing due to the impact of COVID-19, and sets out recommendations for disability inclusion in COVID-19 planning and preparedness including: consulting with people with disabilities and considering their specific risks; ensuring all communication and awareness-raising messaging are accessible; collecting disaggregated data on disability, gender, age and other relevant criteria to monitor and address the gaps in the response; ensuring MHPSS, child protection and other protection services are accessible, including during quarantine and/or hospitalisation; and providing reasonable accommodation and modified modalities of humanitarian response such as additional amounts of protective gear for support persons/ care giver, adapted amounts of hygiene items, cash assistance, provision of transportation to reach testing or treatment etc.

Humanity & Inclusion (April 2020) Tip sheet – Including Persons with disabilities in your COVID-19 Health Response

This resource provides an overview of the factors that may put people with disabilities at heightened risk in the COVID-19 pandemic and response in humanitarian settings; and recommends actions to address these risks within COVID-19 health response. It draws on actionable and evidenced recommendations from the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, health chapter applying these to the COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO guidance for Disability inclusion in COVID-19 response, SODEN Statement on how COVID-19 is affecting persons with disabilities in Somalia and the practical field experience of HI and collaborating partners in Somalia. The document shares practical tips on how to identify and reduce the risk faced by these groups by designing and delivering a more inclusive response in particular in poor displacement and urban settings.

Humanity & Inclusion (April 2020) Tip sheet: How to make your COVID-19 WASH response more inclusive of persons with disabilities in Somalia

This tip sheet provides an overview of the factors that may put people with disabilities at heightened risk in the COVID-19 pandemic and response in humanitarian settings; and proposes actions to address these risks within the COVID WASH response. This note draws on the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, SODEN Statement on how COVID-19 is affecting persons with disabilities in Somalia and the practical field experience of HI and collaborating partners in Somalia. This document shares practical tips on how to identify and reduce the risk faced by these groups by designing and delivering a more inclusive WASH response in poor urban and internally displaced settings.

Humanity & Inclusion (April 2020) Tip sheet – Including Persons with disabilities in your COVID-19 CCM Response in Somalia

This tip sheet provides an overview of the factors that may put persons with disabilities at heightened risk in the COVID-19 pandemic and response in humanitarian settings; and proposes actions to address these risks within the COVID Camp Coordination & Management response. This note draws on the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action’ Chapter 11 on Camp Coordination & Management, SODEN Statement on how COVID-19 is affecting persons with disabilities in Somalia and the practical field experience of HI and collaborating partners in Somalia. This document shares practical tips on how to identify and reduce the risk faced by these groups by designing and delivering a more inclusive response in the Somalia displacement setting.

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