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Ukraine requires inclusive humanitarian response

  • 28 March 2022
For many in Ukraine, their greatest fears were realised when the Russian military invaded their country. Narratives are continually emerging on the cost to human lives and whilst the UN has committed humanitarian support, the ICC are investigating probable Russian war crimes. Many citizens and governments commit necessary life-saving support as the conflict unfolds. While it is essential that all those suffering receive support, these measures may not reach all citizens and groups equitably. These include frail aged persons, children traveling without parents and those who live with an intellectual and developmental disability (IDD).

When analysing humanitarian strategies, intervention typically provides ‘common-denominator’ responses to the mainstream community. These fail to sufficiently and adequately mitigate the known barriers faced by persons with an IDD. This failure further marginalises people within their own community, leaving them without a voice to express their own unique needs.

A review of the literature on humanitarian relief also reveals shortfalls. There are no formal methods, tools or program guidelines for support initiatives in armed conflict situations. This presents significant risks to personal safety and well-being such as currently being experienced in Ukraine. Disability, Equality and Human Rights authors Harris and Enfield note that persons with disabilities are ‘made invisible by society, and invisibility can be lethal in situations of armed conflict’.

Russia made an assertion in 1980, there were no persons living with disabilities in their country; an assertion that was patently false. There appears to have been persons living with all forms of disability living in Russia and all the territories it occupied, both then and now. The number of persons living with a disability in Ukraine in 2020 was estimated as 6.7 per cent (2.7m people) of the population. The UN believes this number is underestimated and is more likely to be 15 per cent, consistent with the international prevalence rate of disability.

In 2010, Ukraine signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) and in 2022 developed Strategy for a Barrier Free Environment; a framework for enabling persons with disabilities to participate in society and claim their citizenship rights. Ukraine is trying to overcome its negative disability history with Russia whilst demonstrating their commitment to CPRD.

From L'Arche Ukraine, Bogdan Senyk’s narrative details concerns that may be even greater post-conflict, under a non-elected government. Bogdan, born in 1983, ‘wants peace’, and he does not want ‘to carry a stone [negativity] in his soul’. 

'How might global citizens