People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable in armed conflicts - despite the fact that there is no clear disability perspective in Sweden's humanitarian work. Time for Sida to rethink, write Jesper Hansén and Mia Munkhammar from MyRight.
Today, December 3, is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The WHO estimates that one billion people live with disabilities around the world. 80 percent of these in low- and middle-income countries. We know that children and adults with disabilities are particularly vulnerable in armed conflicts and risk being excluded and forgotten when interventions are planned and implemented, despite the fact that they are often hit harder and in special ways by armed conflicts.
During armed conflicts, many situations arise when issues of accessibility become crucial. Information must be adapted and made available. When the alarm sounds, it takes time for a person using a wheelchair to get to safety and the person who is deaf only understands when they see other people's reactions that something has happened. Blind people and people with visual impairments have to rely on their surroundings.
Finding your relatives in a crisis situation is very difficult and often completely impossible if you are blind, deaf or have no spoken language.
Refugee camps are seldom adapted for people with disabilities and it can be difficult to find in the camp if you have a visual impairment or intellectual disability.
Sexual violence is common during armed conflict and children and adults with disabilities are affected to a greater extent than others. They often have a harder time defending themselves and are forced to become dependent on others. Those who have difficulty speaking the language also have a harder time telling as well as being believed once they manage to explain what happened to them.
Aid misses millions of people
In short, the situation of people with disabilities in armed conflict deserves more attention than it has received so far from Sida and other actors in international development cooperation.
Sweden's humanitarian work today lacks a clear disability perspective. The consequence is that the humanitarian efforts that are made miss millions of people.
Sweden, with Sida at the forefront, must begin to prioritize work against discrimination against people with disabilities higher and ensure that they are included in the work. Sida has many opportunities to contribute to a positive change and increased inclusion:
- Increase your knowledge. Sida needs to increase its general competence about people with disabilities and the factors that make it difficult for them to participate.
- Make inclusive bets mandatory. It is crucial that all actors in the humanitarian field work based on the awareness that there are people with disabilities in all populations. Sida needs to set clear requirements for inclusive efforts by all partner organizations in the humanitarian work.
- Collaborate with disability organizations. In order for Sida to become better at securing a disability perspective and include people with disabilities at work, Sida must cooperate with the disability movement. There is knowledge and experience that needs to be utilized to strengthen the work and ensure quality so that the humanitarian efforts actually reach those who today are often left out.
If Sida is serious about no one being left out, the work for people with disabilities in crises and disasters must be given higher priority and the work must have a clearer focus.
All the right to be equally protected in armed conflicts.
Secretary General MyRight
Communications Manager MyRight
MyRight is the disability movement's organization for international development cooperation.