What happens to persons with disabilities in emergencies, war and conflict situations? The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – article 11
“Persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected in disaster, emergency, and conflict situations due to inaccessible evacuation, response (including shelters, camps, and food distribution), and recovery efforts”.
– United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2013
Around 15% of the world’s population has a disability. According to the UNHCR, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people who were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013 was 51.2 million. This means that at least 4.5 million of the refugees have a disability. The numbers are probably higher since wars and disasters are continuously increasing the amount of persons with disabilities. This is why it is important to highlight the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, and especially article 11, regarding situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies that claims: “States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters”.
Among the most vulnerable are children with disabilities , whose right to assistance – ranging from health to education – is often overlooked in humanitarian response. As a result, they are left more vulnerable to a life of poverty and abuse, and denied their rightful place in helping strengthen and rebuild their communities and countries. UNICEF’s publication “Including children with disabilities in humanitarian action – General guidance”, available in English and Arabic, can be a good starting point for this work. Women and girls with disabilities are at large at higher risk to being exposed to gender based violence. How can we address violence against women and girls with disabilities, and emphasis the need for a holistic approach aimed at eliminating discrimination against women and girls with disabilities? Is it possible to promote their autonomy and addressing specific risk factors that expose them to violence? In war and conflict situations, who will be the ones to make sure that the rights of people with disabilities are fulfilled? Who is responsible when the State fails to fulfill its duties? What happens with human rights in conflict situations, and how do such situations affect the most vulnerable groups in society? The Conclusion on refugees with disabilities and other persons with disabilities protected and assisted by United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR) migh give us some answers. The Conclution Recognice that host States, which are often developing countries, have limited resources and face various challenges in providing such services and facilities; reaffirming, therefore, the international community and UNHCR’s role to assist States in fulfilling these responsibilities, in the spirit of international cooperation and burden sharing.
Articles, publications and websites that highlight different aspects of human rights and disabilities