Debate: Aid has difficulty reaching those most in need

After seven years at MyRight, I have realized that knowledge of the vulnerability of people with disabilities, even within established aid actors, is frighteningly low. This is written by Mia Munkhammar, communications manager at the aid organization MyRight.

Aid and Foreign Trade Minister Johan Forssell (M) wants to see "more food packages and fewer conferences" and therefore cuts aid's so-called information allocation by 87 percent. That may sound reasonable. Who loves conferences? And who doesn't want to see more food packages? Forssell's slogan may sound good, but the reality is more complicated.

The information grant is money that Swedish aid organizations can apply for information work in Sweden and in 2022 constituted 0.43 percent of Sida's total aid budget. Contrary to what many may think, it actually does concrete good for those around the world who are having the hardest time.

Irina was in her apartment in a suburb of Kiev when the missiles approached. She didn't know they were on their way. Irina is deaf and does not hear the warning alarm. Sergei was on his way home from school. He uses a white cane because he is blind. When he heard the alarm, he could not find his way to a shelter and simply lay down on the ground and waited until everything was quiet. Nadia sits alone in a bare room in an institution. She has an intellectual disability and does not even know that food packages, medicines and blankets are being distributed nearby.

Irina, Sergei and Nadia are fictional, but there are many like them. For most aid organizations, they are invisible. People with disabilities are almost never included in aid actors' goals, plans or strategies.

The government has been clear that it wants to see aid made more efficient and aid that reaches the particularly vulnerable to a large extent. It wants to "pay particular attention to persons with disabilities' full enjoyment of human rights".

According to the UN, one billion live with a disability and the majority live in poverty. Most do not go to school and do not get a chance to support themselves. They are exposed to violence, abuse, starvation and death to a much greater extent than others. Many live locked up in institutions their whole lives. In short, working with the rights of people with disabilities is an effective way to reduce poverty and suffering.

MyRight is one non-partisan and religious aid organization. We work exclusively to empower poor people with disabilities and get more people in the aid industry to do the same. After seven years at MyRight, I have realized that knowledge of the vulnerability of people with disabilities, even within established aid actors, is frighteningly low. A common comment when we train is "I had no idea about that". Another signal that this particular group needs to be lifted is that only 0.25 percent of Sida's aid efforts in 2022 had disability as the main purpose.

Our information work means that we increase the knowledge of organizations and authorities and show what needs to be done and how it can be done effectively. And our efforts contribute to change. The information grant ensures that more food packages reach those most in need. The money Johan Forssell thinks went to conferences has in fact gone to the work of MyRights and other organizations in reviewing aid, increasing knowledge about human rights and, in short, making aid more efficient.

MyRights grants for information work is now zero kroner. Whether the new priorities in Swedish aid will lead to more food packages is highly unclear. But I know they probably won't reach some of those who need it most – children and adults with disabilities.

Mia Munkhammar, communications manager MyRight

The debate article can be read, among other things Hallandsposten.

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