For the first time ever, the United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution to protect people with disabilities in armed conflict and humanitarian crises. "This resolution is a great step forward for people with disabilities who are particularly at risk during conflict and can be inadvertently excluded by humanitarian organizations,” says Elena Bertozzi, Humanity & Inclusion’s Advocacy Officer.
“All civilians, including people with disabilities, must be protected during hostilities. We must reduce the difficulties they face when fleeing fighting, when seeking protection and when accessing humanitarian services.”
Responsibility to protect all civilians
The UN resolution affirms that the impact of conflict on persons with disabilities is particularly high. All parties to conflict have the responsibility to protect all civilians, including people with disabilities, from the effects of war. Humanitarian aid actors must include the views and needs of people with disabilities in their definition of assistance.
“Today we acted to protect some of those who need us most—people living with disabilities caught in the fog of war,” says Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion. “The protection of all civilians during armed conflict should be every nation’s goal, and the action today by the Security Council reinforces the idea, born out of some of humanity’s greatest wars, that innocent civilian lives must be spared during conflict, even in the heat of battle.”
Disability and conflict
In addition to the needs of people with disabilities, violence during conflict will cause injuries and further impairments. A study by Humanity & Inclusion and iMMAP shows that more than 60% of the Syrian refugee households include a person with disability, and 1/5 of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan have a disability.
At least 1.3 million people in need inside Syria are living with a disability. According to a recent assessment in Western Aleppo, Idlib, and Raqqa, 30% of adults in Northern Syria have disabilities, twice the global average of 15%. New conflict and non-conflict related trauma cases lead to thousands of disabilities that will require long-term physical rehabilitation care.
A December 2018 UN-NGOs study on access to health care in Northern Syria found that the prevalence of war-related injuries ranged from a high of 56% of respondents with disabilities in Idlib to 11% in Raqqa. Among those respondents, more than 95% reported that their injury had contributed to their disability.
In Jordan, 80% of Syrians injured by explosive weapons expressed signs of high psychological distress. 66% of them were unable to carry out essential daily activities because of their feelings of fear, anger, fatigue, disinterest, and hopelessness. And 65% of them were so upset that they tried to avoid places, people, conversations, or any activities that reminded them of the traumatic event.
Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action
"States and humanitarian organizations must listen to people with disabilities and take their needs into account, including issues of accessibility when launching post-conflict reconstruction plans.” Elena adds.
In May 2016, Humanity & Inclusion and several partner organizations launched a Charter for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action. It has been endorsed by more than 220 States, NGOs, and organizations of persons with disabilities, international institutions, UN agencies, member States, and donors. Humanity & Inclusion calls for continued mobilization to make inclusion a reality for all people with disabilities living in a crisis situation.