#StopTheWar: Nearly 2 Million People With Disability Face Resettlement Challenges Due To War

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#StopTheWar: Nearly 2 Million People With Disability Face Resettlement Challenges Due To War

In 2019, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted resolution 2475 that acknowledged the devastating impact of an armed conflict on people with disabilities.

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The ongoing Russia Ukraine crisis has put forward the biggest refugee crisis in the European continent after the second world war. As the Ukrainian government has banned men aged 18 to 60 to leave the war-torn country, hundreds and thousands of women, young children and senior citizens leave the borders to flee to safety. At such a vulnerable time, when people have to stand to wait for long hours at the borders of other countries to be taken in as refugees, the plight of people with disabilities goes unnoticed and unattended.

16% Of Disabilities Attributed To War

Living with a disability is a challenge in itself; however, living with a disability in a warzone amounts to a far more significant challenge that is neither seen nor much reported about. People with disabilities face several challenges while accessing public transport, equal education and equal rights during peacetime. Therefore, one can infer how difficult it must be to survive in refugee and resettlement camps where resources are already scarce, and the needs are abundant. More than 1 billion people in the world live with disabilities, and over 16 per cent of those disabilities are attributable to war.

For people with disabilities, the daunting challenges of surviving and protecting their loved ones act as additional barriers when looking for any governmental support or reaching out to good Samaritans for help. Some people, particularly women and girls with disabilities, are physically unable to flee violence, and many are vulnerable to human rights violations, violence and abuse, including sexual abuse.

On the contrary, international laws and organizations and several human rights require the States to provide increased assistance to people with disabilities during all stages of the war. In 2019, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted resolution 2475 that acknowledged the devastating impact of an armed conflict on people with disabilities. Moreover, the international organization reinforces the resolution's obligations to all its member states.

Disabled People: The Sufferers During Wars

Since 2015, an international organization named Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been investigating the impact of war or an armed conflict on persons with disabilities. HRW's research in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Israel or Palestine, Syria, and South Sudan found that persons with disabilities faced several difficulties fleeing armed attacks on their communities. Moreover, persons with disabilities also struggle to flee and seek shelter without assistance and access to their assistive devices. For instance, the international human rights watchdog mentioned, in Israel's military intervention in Gaza in 2014, a 26-year-old woman could not flee with her family when a missile struck their house. Therefore, she had to wait until one of her relatives returned to rescue her.

Blind people also require constant help to be rescued and taken to safety. Similarly, deaf people cannot hear and understand the cause and the escalation of the war. Thus, making it all the more difficult to understand the imperative need to flee their well-equipped homes and live in refugee camps that often lack basic facilities and sanitation. For instance, a 43-year-old man was killed in the conflict of Cameroon when he did not respond to the questions of the soldiers. An eyewitness had mentioned that he was shot in the head and the chest.

In a report titled 'Disabilities Amongst Refugees and Conflict-Affected Populations', the United Nation's High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) mentioned, "In all wars and disasters, it is persons with disabilities that are first to die; persons with disabilities that are the first to get disease and infection; and it is persons with disabilities who are the last to get resources and medicines when they are handed out. They are treated as the bottom of the pile".

In 1980 during the Iraq-Iran conflict, both sides estimated deaths of more than a million people. However, they did not have any data on the number of deaths of people with disabilities. The Iraqi health ministry mentioned that though it has no specific number, the number of physically and mentally disabled people in the country stands between 2 million to 3 million. The World Health Organization (WHO) mentioned that there were more than 600 million people with disabilities globally, and it formed between 7 to 10 per cent of the world's population. A massive majority of 80 per cent of people with disability are living in developing and under-developed countries. Therefore, one could safely assume that nearly 2.5 million to 3.5 million of the 35 million displaced persons are living with disabilities.

Health care and social support systems may be disrupted during civil conflicts and after a natural disaster, depriving the local population, especially children, of essential preventive or curative medical care and maternal and child health programs. This can mean that people with existing impairments do not receive the treatment they require, and their conditions can worsen. In contrast, people with wounds and injuries resulting from the conflict or disaster may lack essential treatment, leading to permanent disabilities.

Key Recommendations By International Organizations

The key recommendations to all humanitarian actors and activists include making camp infrastructure and allied facilities, services, organizations and information available to people with disabilities. The needs of persons with disabilities should be identified at the beginning of an emergency or crisis and not at its end. Moreover, setting up a standard, centralized data collection system to collect disaggregated data on the number, age, gender and profile of displaced persons with disabilities to enhance their protection and assistance.

Creating community-based awareness programs to promote greater tolerance, respect and understanding towards people with disabilities. Promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in camp management structures and community decision-making, thus ensuring age and gender diversity. Moreover, providing complete and equal access to mainstream services like healthcare, education, and upliftment to people with disabilities can be a game-changer for the marginalized population at the deep end of all crises. Lastly, ensure that displaced persons with disabilities have full access to all durable solution options and objective information regarding durable solutions in an accessible and easy to understand format.

Also Read: Amritsar: BSF Jawan Opens Fire At Colleagues, 5 Killed

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