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UN Special Rapporteur’s Report on the Struggles of Internally Displaced Persons with Disabilities

“It is difficult for people who are internally displaced to receive the services and enjoy the rights that are inherent to all, but when the lens of disability is added, it can lead to neglect and exclusion.”


Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, recently presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council. In her report, she highlights the struggles of Persons with disabilities in the context of internal displacement.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 15 per cent of the world’s population have a disability. Applying this estimate to the 45.7 million persons internally displaced worldwide by conflict and violence at the end of 2019 means that about 6.8 million of them could have a disability. Millions more are displaced by disasters and the adverse effects of climate change every year, so this figure could be much higher”, the report mentions.

The report also adds, “It is difficult for people who are internally displaced to receive the services and enjoy the rights that are inherent to all, but when the lens of disability is added, it can lead to neglect and exclusion. Internally displaced persons with disabilities encounter physical, environmental and societal barriers to accessing specific displacement-related information, humanitarian assistance and services, including education, employment, health care and social protection, and barriers more generally to the full enjoyment of their human rights, including the right to participate in society on an equal basis with others and without discrimination”.

Talking about the higher risk of obstacles for the internally displaced person with disabilities, the report says, “Certain groups or categories of internally displaced persons with disabilities are especially at risk of violence, isolation or neglect, especially those with high support needs, such as persons with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities, unaccompanied, separated and orphaned children with disabilities or survivors of severe traumatic events. Women and older persons with disabilities also face additional stigmatization and discrimination and protection challenges.”

In her report, she has stressed the need to consider internally displaced persons with disabilities, before developing any laws or policies related to displacement. “Their voice and views matter for shaping policy to make it responsive to their experience. Furthermore, their participation will reduce stigma showing that persons with disabilities are rights holders capable of participating and engaging meaningfully at all levels of society”, she added.

Throwing light on the situation of internally displaced women, children and older persons with disabilities, the report states, “Internally displaced children, women and older persons with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, are reportedly at risk of greater levels of abuse, violence and neglect than their peers without disabilities. These individuals may face extreme isolation and marginalization in displacement situations and may be unable to access the basic health care, food, shelter and support they need to survive”

Among many recommendations mentioned in the report, she pointed out the need of their visibility, saying, “The best way to include IDPs with disabilities (in projects and policies) is to ensure that they are visible and that there are very specific programs that will really be implemented with them or with organizations that serve them, that will lead to their protection and to their inclusion in assistance.”

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