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Accompanying humanitarian aid workers to better include persons with disabilities


A set of professional strategies and practical guidance published today aims to improve the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian aid delivery and ensure their participation.

A Rohingya refugee camp in Cox Bazaar, Bangladesh. A refugee camp can be a challenging environment for a person with disability.

A Rohingya refugee camp in Cox Bazaar, Bangladesh. A refugee camp can be a challenging environment for a person with disability. | © S. Ahmed / HI

Published today, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines will assist actors from the humanitarian, development and disability sector to design and deliver essential actions for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian aid.

The guidelines were developed during a three-year multi-stakeholder consultation process. The project was led by persons with disabilities and their respective organizations in partnership with humanitarian stakeholders and over 600 experts. A Task Team, established in July 2016 was led by HI, the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and UNICEF, coordinated the work.

Attending the launch event of the Guidelines at the UN headquarters in New-York, HI Deputy Director General Florence Daunis took the floor: “Equal access to humanitarian assistance for persons with disabilities must become the norm and not the exception. We know that humanitarian actors are eager to change their practices to include women, men, girls, and boys with disabilities, but practical steps and coordination is needed to translate this ambition into practice.”

Barriers to access humanitarian aid

When persons with disabilities are caught in a crisis, they are often disproportionately at risk and exposed to exploitation, violence and criminal acts. During displacement, for example they are at risk of losing assets, are not having fair access to the emergency infrastructure put in place or access to information on security and protection.

During natural disasters, conflict, mass displacement, etc., persons with disabilities are often ’left aside’ when assessing needs or planning aid provision. They face many obstacles to access humanitarian aid: long distances to services, environmental obstacles to access a food distribution point, for example...

Barriers can also be due to negative attitudes, such as misperceptions, and stigma, lack of use of different ways of communicating information (absence of sign language interpreter, for example), lack of adaptation or exclusion from taking decisions regarding the life in a refugee camp….  

Growing interest for inclusion

Humanitarian organizations show growing interest but need to further develop practical tools and build on the skills of front-line staff to identify and include persons with disabilities in emergency preparedness and response services. Very often, staff need additional training or support to identify and accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities and not only remove barriers but also make use of their abilities.

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