Fragile states and conflict affected areas

People living in fragile states and conflict affected areas face direct and indirect impacts that can increase the incidence of disability, including psychosocial disabilities as a result of trauma. Persons with disabilities living in these countries, particularly women and children, also face increased vulnerability.

Article 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) requires states parties to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk including situations of armed conflict. Article 32 of UNCRPD requires that international cooperation, including emergency responses and assistance toward peace building and rebuilding efforts, be accessible to and inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities are often forgotten or excluded from accessing mainstream humanitarian aid and protection due to physical and attitudinal barriers and a lack of access to mobility and assistive devices, health services and rehabilitation. Both direct and indirect discrimination occurs when persons with disabilities are not included in response efforts and rebuilding following conflict.

Women with disabilities experience increased exposure to gender based violence in displaced communities, but experience it in ways that are different from their peers without disabilities (See Gender). This requires specific actions when addressing protection.

Humanitarian aid and protection agencies must take specific actions to include persons with disabilities in their planning and response. Persons with disabilities are often excluded from planning and response processes because they are mistakenly considered to be unable to contribute to the planning or rebuilding process, and are often viewed only as victims. Inclusion of persons with disabilities, especially women, in the planning of response, reconstruction and peace building can ensure both their unique abilities are realised, as well as ensuring that their needs and rights are considered.

Resources below include papers providing a general overview of the situation of persons with disabilities in fragile states and conflict affected areas, articles, and tools and strategies for inclusion.

See also: Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction, Gender and Mental health and disability.

IOM (2023) Barriers to Durable Solutions Experienced by Persons with Disabilities: A Rapid Consultation

IOM Iraq conducted a rapid consultation with internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees with disabilities in Iraq, aiming to understand the challenges they face in areas of displacement and return. The consultation involved 39 persons with disabilities living in various locations and 15 key informants. The report outlines five main findings covering barriers in housing, livelihoods, basic services, social cohesion, and movement intentions. Barriers include difficulties accessing shelter, lack of sustainable livelihoods, challenges accessing services and information, social exclusion, and security concerns. The report presents recommendations to involve and support persons with disabilities in decision-making, ensure accessible information and services, offer vocational training and livelihood opportunities, address barriers to accessing services, and promote inclusive community engagement.

Martin, Rebecca & Buchanan, Jane 2022 Impacts of the Ukraine invasion for persons with disabilities and priority entry points in humanitarian response

This document provides key facts on the situation of the Ukraine invasion for people with disabilities. It seeks to answer the following questions: 1. What are the risks and impacts of the current Ukrainian invasion for persons with disabilities in Ukraine? 2. What are the risks and impacts of the current Ukrainian invasion for Ukrainian refugees with disabilities moving in the region? 3. How can the humanitarian response be disability-inclusive?

IPPF (2020) Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action: Promoting Disability Inclusion in Crisis Situations

This resource outlines how the inclusion of people with disabilities can be considered during an emergency response.

Ortoleva S (2011) Right Now! – Women with disabilities build peace post-conflict

This report provides evidence on the situation of women and girls with disabilities internationally and in conflict settings. It draws on international legal frameworks to advocate for inclusion of women in peace-building processes to ensure an inclusive post-conflict society. It provides a list of recommended strategies for United Nations agencies to use to ensure inclusion of women with disabilities.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2011) Working with persons with disabilities in forced displacement

This guidance document outlines key actions to program implementers and organisations planning responses for inclusion of persons with disabilities in refugee settings. It advocates for inclusion in policy formulation and consultation processes through all phases of crises. This guidance would need to be supplemented with practical resources to guide program implementers with strategies to make the recommendations a reality.

Humanity & Inclusion Source: Key list resources on disability and displacement

This key list includes a number of resources regarding persons with disabilities who are displaced or at risk of displacement, including practical guides, manuals, and websites.

CBM Australia (2011) Disability inclusion in drought and food crisis emergency response

This fact sheet provides information about the factors contributing to vulnerability of persons with disabilities in drought and food crisis emergency responses. It is useful for organisations providing technical advice to programs, and program officers working with implementing partners and provides recommendations on how to make action plans disability inclusive.

Assen N, Euwema M and Cornielje H (2010) Including disabled children in psychosocial programmes in areas affected by armed conflict

This journal article provides a useful review of existing resources regarding children with disabilities as a vulnerable group in conflict affected settings. The authors provide evidence that children with disabilities may face exclusion from psychosocial support programs. They make recommendations to international and national agencies implementing or planning response programs on inclusive actions to include children with disabilities in psychosocial support programs in these environments.

Women’s Refugee Commission (2008) Disabilities among refugees and conflict-affected populations

This guidance document provides summary of key actions that all humanitarian actors should take in working with displaced and conflict-affected populations. It presents examples of inclusive field practice, including both mainstreaming and disability-specific activities. This resource is useful for donors seeking to provide practical examples to implementing partner program officers and managers working in the field.

The Atlas Alliance (2011) Fact Sheet on Disability in conflict and emergencies

This fact sheet provides an overview of the main issues affecting persons with disabilities in conflict and emergency settings. It advocates to agencies involved in planning or implementing responses to include persons with disabilities at all levels of planning to ensure their needs are addressed.

Forced Migration Review (2010) Disability and displacement

This publication contains a number of papers dedicated to disability and displacement. It provides articles, reports and useful case studies from different international contexts regarding issues faced by persons with disabilities in displacement. A number of examples of strategies and actions for inclusion are provided, including mainstreaming, disability-specific programs, and to influence policy and practice.

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