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Protecting the needs of disabled in conflict

Jan 15, 2009

Women's Refugee Commission publication: Disabilities among Refugees and Conflict-affected Populations: Resource Kit for Fieldworkers provides practical ideas on protecting displaced people with disabilities. It emphasises on making services in refugee camps more accessible to the disabled, particularly women, children and youth, and ensuring their participation in community affairs.

Disabilities among Refugees and Conflict-affected Populations: Resource Kit for Fieldworkers

Publisher: Women’s Refugee Commission, June 2008

Among displaced persons who have fled civil conflict, war or natural disasters, there is a high number of those with disabilities. Yet they remain among the most hidden, neglected and socially excluded of all displaced people today.

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People with disabilities are often not identified or counted in refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) assistance programs. As a result of attitudinal, physical and social barriers; they are forgotten in the establishment of specialised and targeted services.

Disabled persons’ potential to contribute and participate is seldom recognised - they are more often seen as a problem than a resource. The loss of caregivers can leave persons with disabilities extremely vulnerable and exposed to protection risks.

This resource kit is the culmination of a six-month project commissioned by the Women’s Refugee Commission and co-funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to address the rights and needs of displaced persons with disabilities, with a particular focus on women (including older women), children and youth.

The objective was to map existing services for displaced persons with disabilities, identify gaps and good practices and make recommendations on how to improve services for these people.

The study showed that urban refugee communities are more dispersed, undocumented and lack any legal status. Also, less information and fewer services were available for people with mental disabilities than those with physical and sensory disabilities.

This resource kit is intended for United Nation, NGOs, community-based organisation (CBO) and disabled persons’ organisation (DPO) field staff working with refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs with disabilities.

The following principles should guide all actions on behalf of refugees and IDPs with disabilities:

  • Rights-based approach - All humanitarian action targeting persons with disabilities should be informed by the human rights principles and standards codified in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
  • Inclusive approach - Humanitarian actors should promote the full and effective participation and inclusion of displaced persons with disabilities in all community activities
  • Accessibility - Humanitarian actors should ensure that the physical environment, all facilities, services, shelters, schools, health services, organisations and information are accessible to displaced persons with disabilities
  • Independent living - Action should be taken to ensure that displaced persons with disabilities can live as independently as possible and participate as fully as possible in all aspects of life.
  • Age, gender and diversity awareness - Special attention should be paid to the rights of displaced women, children and older persons with disabilities and their particular situation.
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