07 Oct Disability and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting societies at their very core, deepening pre-existing inequalities. The World Bank estimates COVID-19 could push 71 million people into extreme poverty in 2020. A large share of the new extreme poor will be concentrated in countries that are already struggling with high poverty rates. Almost half of the projected new poor will be in South Asia. Around 4.5 million people in Cambodia remain near-poor, vulnerable to falling back into poverty when exposed to economic and other external shocks such as COVID-19.
If we take a moment to remember life before the pandemic, one billion persons with disabilities worldwide were less likely to access education, healthcare and livelihoods or to participate and be included in the community. This situation has been further exacerbated by the pandemic and many more are lively to live in extreme poverty and experience high rates of violence, neglect and abuse.
The pandemic is intensifying these inequalities and producing new threats. In a recent UN briefing outlined by the Secretary-General in his policy brief stated persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected by health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
Addressing the current challenges and barriers faced by persons with disabilities requires commitment and creativity. The UN has stated it presents a unique opportunity to design and implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery, and build more inclusive and accessible societies, in consultation with persons with disabilities.
What does a disability-inclusive COVID-19 socio-economic response and recovery look like?
Realising the rights of persons with disabilities is central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – to leave no one behind. Achieving transformative and lasting change on disability inclusion through the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy is a priority for the UN, including in times of crisis.
At the heart of the EmbraceAbility’s response to COVID-19 considers the intersections of multiple inequalities impacting the community on Koh Dach Island. The response has considered disability at an individual, household and community level.
At the individual level, the EmbraceAbility team since March has distributed disability-inclusive COVID-19 information to the local community, provided therapy packages to families and most recently ensuring children with disabilities have educational resources whilst schools are closed.
At the household level, we recognise care work in the time of COVID-19 is essential to societies and economies. The EmbraceAbility team have provided over 600 psychosocial support phone calls to carers during the pandemic. Our response has also been gender-inclusive and we have ensured every female in the household has access to dignity packs containing menstrual and hygiene items.
We also recognise the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on disabled households. Even in normal circumstances poverty rates amongst households with a disabled member increases from 18% to 34% in Cambodia. Currently, all the families we work with on Koh Dach island have lost over 60% of their household income. As part of the response, EmbraceAbility has been providing families with basic assistance to purchase basic household items.
At the community level, we have provided local community leaders with information about Gender-Based Violence. We are working with community leaders to ensure persons with disabilities are included in government-run social protection programmes. We want to work together to find solutions to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on Koh Dach Island.
The response and recovery to COVID-19 have to consider the multiple inequalities that intersect and impact disabled households at the individual level, household and community level. The recovery has to be gender inclusive and we need to work towards building accessible societies, in consultation with persons with disabilities.