Fragile states and conflict affected areas

People living in fragile states and conflict affected areas face direct and indirect impacts that can increase the incidence of disability, including psychosocial disabilities as a result of trauma. Persons with disabilities living in these countries, particularly women and children, also face increased vulnerability.

Article 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) requires states parties to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk including situations of armed conflict. Article 32 of UNCRPD requires that international cooperation, including emergency responses and assistance toward peace building and rebuilding efforts, be accessible to and inclusive of persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities are often forgotten or excluded from accessing mainstream humanitarian aid and protection due to physical and attitudinal barriers and a lack of access to mobility and assistive devices, health services and rehabilitation. Both direct and indirect discrimination occurs when persons with disabilities are not included in response efforts and rebuilding following conflict.

Women with disabilities experience increased exposure to gender based violence in displaced communities, but experience it in ways that are different from their peers without disabilities (See Gender). This requires specific actions when addressing protection.

Humanitarian aid and protection agencies must take specific actions to include persons with disabilities in their planning and response. Persons with disabilities are often excluded from planning and response processes because they are mistakenly considered to be unable to contribute to the planning or rebuilding process, and are often viewed only as victims. Inclusion of persons with disabilities, especially women, in the planning of response, reconstruction and peace building can ensure both their unique abilities are realised, as well as ensuring that their needs and rights are considered.

Resources below include papers providing a general overview of the situation of persons with disabilities in fragile states and conflict affected areas, articles, and tools and strategies for inclusion.

See also: Humanitarian and Disaster Risk Reduction, Gender and Mental health and disability.

Ortoleva S (2011) Right Now! – Women with disabilities build peace post-conflict (PDF 201 KB)

This report provides evidence on the situation of women and girls with disabilities internationally and in conflict settings. It draws on international legal frameworks to advocate for inclusion of women in peace-building processes to ensure an inclusive post-conflict society. It provides a list of recommended strategies for United Nations agencies to use to ensure inclusion of women with disabilities.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2011) Working with persons with disabilities in forced displacement (PDF 373 KB)

This guidance document outlines key actions to program implementers and organisations planning responses for inclusion of persons with disabilities in refugee settings. It advocates for inclusion in policy formulation and consultation processes through all phases of crises. This guidance would need to be supplemented with practical resources to guide program implementers with strategies to make the recommendations a reality.

Humanity & Inclusion Source: Key list resources on disability and displacement (updated regularly)

This key list includes a number of resources regarding persons with disabilities who are displaced or at risk of displacement, including practical guides, manuals, and websites.

CBM Australia (2011) Disability inclusion in drought and food crisis emergency response (PDF 173 KB)

This fact sheet provides information about the factors contributing to vulnerability of persons with disabilities in drought and food crisis emergency responses. It is useful for organisations providing technical advice to programs, and program officers working with implementing partners and provides recommendations on how to make action plans disability inclusive.

Assen N, Euwema M and Cornielje H (2010) Including disabled children in psychosocial programmes in areas affected by armed conflict (PDF 150 KB)

This journal article provides a useful review of existing resources regarding children with disabilities as a vulnerable group in conflict affected settings. The authors provide evidence that children with disabilities may face exclusion from psychosocial support programs. They make recommendations to international and national agencies implementing or planning response programs on inclusive actions to include children with disabilities in psychosocial support programs in these environments.

Women’s Refugee Commission (2008) Disabilities among refugees and conflict-affected populations (PDF 2 MB)

This guidance document provides summary of key actions that all humanitarian actors should take in working with displaced and conflict-affected populations. It presents examples of inclusive field practice, including both mainstreaming and disability-specific activities. This resource is useful for donors seeking to provide practical examples to implementing partner program officers and managers working in the field.

The Atlas Alliance (2011) Disability in conflict and emergencies (PDF 3 MB)

This fact sheet provides an overview of the main issues affecting persons with disabilities in conflict and emergency settings. It advocates to agencies involved in planning or implementing responses to include persons with disabilities at all levels of planning to ensure their needs are addressed.

Forced Migration Review (2010) Disability and displacement (PDF 2.3 MB)

This publication contains a number of papers dedicated to disability and displacement. It provides articles, reports and useful case studies from different international contexts regarding issues faced by persons with disabilities in displacement. A number of examples of strategies and actions for inclusion are provided, including mainstreaming, disability-specific programs, and to influence policy and practice.

There are no case studies available

Washington Group on Disability Statistics technical presentation

Jennifer H. Madans Ph.D., Associate Director for Science, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and Mitchell Loeb,
Health Scientist, NCHS from the secretariat of the Washington Group on Disability Statistics delivered a technical session
on how to use the Washington Group questions in monitoring data systems and how to disaggregate data by disability
followed by a question and answer session at the University of Melbourne on Thursday, 30 April 2015. The presentation
was organised by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Presentation from the Washington Group on Disability Statistics
Picture of a group of field workers meeting a man who has a mobility impairment from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The man is using a hand propelled tricycle. There are many tents in the background.

Photo: Keith McAllister, 2009

A group of field workers chat with a man with mobility impairment at an internally displaced people’s camp in Bulengo, Democratic Republic of Congo. Copyright: CBM