News / Press Releases

May 20, 2016

World Humanitarian Summit: people with disabilities need impartial and effective aid during emergencies

May 20, 2016

Silver Spring, MD—The World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey offers hope for an often forgotten population: the millions of people with disabilities affected by humanitarian crises. From May 23-24, the world has a unique opportunity to focus representatives of NGOs, States, and funding bodies on the needs of this population, which is made acutely vulnerable during natural disasters and conflicts. A new Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action[1], the drafting of which was coordinated by Handicap International, urges these actors to both attend the summit, and sign the Charter.

If it gains adequate support, the Charter will have a significant impact on the living conditions of people with disabilities during emergencies. “Implementing this Charter will mark a major step towards providing more impartial and effective aid,” explains Anne Héry, head of advocacy and institutional relations at Handicap International. “Many people with disabilities are left behind by emergency response, and this goes some way towards correcting that injustice.”

By signing, NGOs, States, and humanitarian aid funding bodies are reaffirming their commitment to upholding the rights and meeting the needs of people with disabilities during an emergency. Signatories promise that their future humanitarian actions will be inclusive of people with disabilities, based on five principals:

  • non-discrimination and recognition of the diversity of people with disabilities;
  • involvement of people with disabilities in developing humanitarian programs;
  • ensuring services and humanitarian assistance are equally available for and accessible to all people with disabilities;
  • implementation of inclusive global policies;
  • cooperation and coordination among humanitarian actors to improve inclusion of people with disabilities.

The charter will be accompanied by an action plan to help signatories put it into practice.

An estimated 20 million people with disabilities are currently affected by humanitarian crises. Often marginalized in their communities of origin, people with disabilities can also find it more difficult than people without disabilities to flee affected areas and to access humanitarian aid. Their rights and needs are often not taken into account. According to a survey,  Disability In Humanitarian Context, conducted by Handicap International in the first half of 2015: three quarters of people with disabilities affected by a humanitarian crisis and who responded to the survey reported that they did not have adequate access to basic assistance such as water, shelter, food, or health care services. Half of respondents reported that they did not have access to specific care such as rehabilitation and assistive devices.

“We invite all NGOs, States and humanitarian funding bodies to sign the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action,” Héry adds. “This charter calls on humanitarian actors to change both their practices and their attitudes with a view to taking into account the rights and needs of people with disabilities, which are largely ignored in crises.”

A core group of NGOs and States convinced of the absolute necessity of understanding and removing obstacles to accessing aid for people with disabilities will attend the Summit, and push for the Charter’s adoption. In the U.S., Handicap International submitted a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on May 19, urging the U.S. Administration to showcase its strong leadership role on the inclusion of persons with disabilities at the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit by signing the Charter.

The Summit was initiated by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.


Handicap International experts are available for comment in Turkey (from Monday), and the U.S.

Download a full press kit by following this link

States, NGOs and funding bodies can sign the Charter here.

About Handicap International

Handicap International is an independent international aid organization. It has been working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 34 years. Working alongside persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our actions and testimony are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions, and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since it was founded in 1982, Handicap International has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of eight national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, jointly manage projects and to increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Handicap International is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 and the winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Award in 2011. Handicap International takes action and campaigns in places where “standing tall” is no easy task.