COVID-19 & Disability Inclusion: WASH

Many people with disability face multiple barriers that prevent them from accessing basic hygiene that would help protect them from exposure to COVID-19. The reasons for this include:

  • Many people with disability face pre-existing barriers to accessing WASH, which continue or are exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include WASH facilities that are physically difficult to reach or use; inaccessible or inapplicable hygiene information; and stigma or discrimination that prevents people with disability from accessing and participating in WASH.
  • Some people experience greater difficulties with WASH activities or have specific hygiene needs, particularly if they have difficulty with their movement and/or if they use their hands to move, navigate or communicate. The need to touch things to obtain information from the environment or to physically support mobility increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • People who use the support of other people to assist with daily tasks or who are living in residential institutions may have difficulty applying social distancing.
  • Some people with disability may have underlying health conditions which place them at risk of developing more severe cases of COVID-19.
  • Some people with disability use adapted equipment and strategies and/or the support of another person to assist with daily WASH activities.

It is crucial that COVID-19 policy and programming response measures fully address disability-inclusive WASH issues and create opportunities for people with disability to take active roles in designing and delivering COVID-19 and WASH responses. Failing to do this risks further entrenching exclusion and exposing people with disability to health and hygiene risks.

CBM Australia and Water for Women (2020) Disability inclusion and COVID-19: Guidance for WASH delivery

This guidance note sets out key principles, considerations and actions that water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) policymakers and programmers can apply to ensure that people with disabilities are included in WASH sector responses to COVID-19. It recommends key disability inclusion actions relevant to all WASH and COVID-19 interventions, as well as specific actions to be applied in relation to temporary/rapid WASH responses; behaviour change communications; community-level interventions; WASH in institutional settings; and WASH sector coordination.

Wilbur, J (2020) Summary report on considering disability in COVID-19 hygiene programmes

This summary report highlights key considerations relating to the inclusion of people with disabilities within COVID-19 hygiene responses, and provides links to other relevant resources and evidence. It outlines the rationale for including people with disabilities in hygiene programs; evidence pointing to their increased risks relating to COVID-19; barriers that people with disabilities face to accessing hygiene; and recommended strategies to ensure inclusion.

WaterAid (2020) Guidance for creating empowering and inclusive WASH and COVID-19 responses

This short note provides practical guidance to ensure water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) responses to COVID-19 are inclusive, empowering and do no harm in relation to marginalised population groups. The guidance sets out a process for assessing risks of harm or exclusion and designing inclusive interventions, with a focus on engaging rights-holder groups and developing inclusive hygiene messaging. It was designed to guide WaterAid country programs, but should be relevant to a broad range of WASH implementing agencies.

World Health Organisation (2020) Disability considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak

This publication from WHO highlights the actions that stakeholders can take to reduce the barriers experienced by people with disability during the COVID-19 outbreak. It includes actions on hygiene for people with disabilities and their households, governments, health care, disability service providers, institutional settings and communities.

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.

Coultas, M. and Iyer, R. with Myers, J. (2020) Handwashing Compendium for Low Resource Settings: A Living Document

This compendium from the Sanitation Learning Hub at the Institute of Development Studies aims to inform the design of handwashing facilities and hygiene promotion activities, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides guidance on and local examples of low-cost handwashing facilities, environmental cues and physically distanced hygiene promotion, with a focus on ensuring accessibility for people with disability and other user groups. It should be read in conjunction with other guidance and standards relating to accessible water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

UNICEF (2020) COVID-19: Engaging with Children and Adults with Disabilities

This document provides tips on communicating and engaging with children and adults with disabilities for COVID-19 response, which can be applied in relation to WASH actions. These tips include providing life-saving information in appropriate multiple and accessible formats; utilising the communication channels that are used by young people with disabilities; engaging people with disabilities as agents of change; and ensuring that messages are disability inclusive. This resource is available in accessible formats.

HelpAge (March 2020) Inclusion of older people and people with disabilities

This one page resource outlines some of the risks faced by older people and people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides some key messages to ensure the inclusion of older people and people with disabilities in WASH and health activities.

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