On International Day of People with Disabilities, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) reflects on 2020, a year which has put indescribable pressure on people with disabilities internationally. HI has continued to work with communities around the world to face these challenges and make sure people with disabilities remain at the center of everything we do.
Three main events of 2020 have demonstrated that, despite hard-work and determination from individuals and organizations, people with disabilities continue to be left behind:
1. UK Aid cuts
HI and nearly 200 other charities signed a joint letter coordinated by Bond, to urge the Prime Minister to keep his commitment to the world’s poorest people following the announcement that the government will cut the UK aid budget in the middle of a global pandemic.
Despite these efforts, on Wednesday 25th November 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed the UK aid budget will be cut from 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) down to 0.5% from 2021. This 0.2% decrease is likely to see a £5 billion fall in 2021 to the existing £15 billion aid budget in 2020. The cut is being described as a temporary measure, yet no commitments have been made as to when this will return to the 0.7% target.
The impact of these cuts on people with disabilities around the world is not yet known, but many organizations like HI are waiting to hear whether projects funded by the UK government will be affected. Huge progress has been made in the last few years on disability inclusion and it is now more important than ever that the UK government’s commitment to people with disabilities and leaving no one behind is honored.
2. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities
Covid-19 and consequential restrictions have negatively affected the livelihoods of vulnerable populations around the world. A survey by HI in Nepal showed 76% of surveyed beneficiaries reported a decrease in family income, 49% in personal income and 27% report an interruption of medical and assistive device services. In addition, Covid-19 has impacted the number of women with disabilities who have faced domestic and sexual violence. We know that women are more likely to face physical, sexual or psychological violence than men and women with disabilities are twice as likely to experience domestic violence and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence as non- women. In fact, 83% of them will be sexually abused in their lifetime; and when women with disabilities experience abuse, they often suffer more severe injuries as a result of that violence causing long-term implications.
Due to Covid-19, HI had to adapt its project acitivities. Being able to adapt meant that over 95% of HI's projects continued to run throughout the pandemic. Activities varied from providing Covid-19 awareness information and a hygiene kits including soap, masks, treated water to 4,000 people in Mozambique to providing rehabilitation support and prostheses to people such as Ismail who lives in Lebanon;
"I want to earn enough money for my family to live with dignity," Ismail told HI’s team.
3. The invisibility of people with disabilities in the media
In May 2020, HI wrote a blog in conjunction with International Broadcasting Trust (IBT) to highlight the lack of media covering stories including people with disabilities internationally. How can it be that any media organization can simply decide to ignore the stories of 1 billion people? In a survey by HI of 700 people with disabilities in Nepal, almost a third report a mental health impact, like anxiety and hopelessness and three quarters are experiencing a drop in their basic household income. We are hearing stories of isolation, exclusion and hopelessness from the people with disabilities we support around the world, yet people with disabilities continue to be ignored and forgotten in the media.
We must ensure no one is left behind!
2020 has been tough for everyone and vulnerable populations and people with disabilities have been disproportionality affected. But Humanity & Inclusion is looking to 2021 with hope. For example, HI will continue to advocate for inclusive education and when children are able to return to school safely, we can use this as an opportunity to increase inclusion in educational settings. No matter what, HI will continue to put people with disabilities at the forefront of its work to ensure no one is left behind.
Head of Individual Giving and Communications, Humanity & Inclusion UK